x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Red Sox fans now have tainted love

By now, news about steroid use in baseball is, sadly, not news at all. So many big name players - from Roger Clemens to Alex Rodriguez to Barry Bonds to Mark McGwire - have been linked to banned substances that most fans are not shocked in the least.

By now, news about steroid use in baseball is, sadly, not news at all. So many big name players - from Roger Clemens to Alex Rodriguez to Barry Bonds to Mark McGwire - have been linked to banned substances that most fans are not shocked in the least. Instead, it is widely assumed that many, if not most, of the game's players used some form of performance enhancing drugs from the mid-1990s to the earlier part of this decade.

Until last week, the Boston Red Sox had been virtually untouched by the steroid scandal. Some Red Sox stars of the past were implicated after leaving Boston (Clemens and Manny Ramirez) and others were associated before arriving (Eric Gagne and Brendan Donnelly). But that changed last week when The New York Times reported that both Ramirez and David Ortiz, the charismatic slugging duo who carried the Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and again in 2007, had tested positive when Major League Baseball instituted survey testing in 2003.

MLB did the tests provisionally to determine how widespread the problem was, while guaranteeing confidentiality to the players, even those who tested positive. The results were supposed to be destroyed to assure privacy, but the US federal government subpoenaed the list before that could be done. And now, over the past six months, names from that list have been slowly and illegally leaked to the media.

Ramirez's appearance on the list could hardly have been shocking, since earlier this season he tested positive for a banned substance while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was hit with a 50-game suspension. The inclusion of Ortiz, however, caught many off guard, if only because the hulking slugger had avoided controversy in his career and had spoken at length about his disdain for steroid use, going so far as to advocate stiffer penalties for known users.

Ortiz said the report "blindsided" him and he vowed to get additional details which, he promised, he would share with the public. But while Ortiz searched for answers, others had questions. Does the news that Ortiz and Ramirez tested positive in 2003 at all taint the Red Sox championships the following season and four seasons after that? For fans of the New York Yankees, who have endured the taunts of Red Sox fans for the many Yankees linked to performance enhancing drugs, this was divine retribution.

Red Sox fans had been more than a little sanctimonious, proudly proclaiming that their team's players had been untouched by scandal. Cheaters? That was something that only players on other teams did. Today, that is no longer the case. To those who had waited for some dirt to connect to the Red Sox, it will not matter that neither Ramirez nor Ortiz tested positive again after 2003 - at least not while in a Boston uniform. Just because they tested positive in 2003 does not necessarily negate their accomplishments the following season, when tests were administered and both players passed.

What's more, every World Series winner from 1997 until 2003 had at least one player tied to or linked to performance enhancing drugs. After last week, the Red Sox have been added to that list, and it will not matter if Ortiz discovers that his positive was triggered by some over-the-counter supplement rather than an anabolic steroid. Anything that enhances a player's performance stains reputations - both teams and individual players - and it's not easy to wash away the damage.

The discovery last week will not make the Sox forfeit their titles or give back their rings. But it will, unquestionably, change the way fans, their own and others, view them. @Email:smcadam@thenational.ae