I have made a habit of posting primarily about politics but this issue falls into the realm of politics and social commentary. I have been watching the steroid issue in Major League Baseball with only passing interest. I’m not a particularly big baseball fan to begin with and baseball has generally shown nothing but contempt for its fans. So, who took what, to do what, and when, and how much, doesn’t really interest me. I will say that I became interested when the league hired former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to do an independent investigation. I know what happens when you hire a liberal to investigate something. You lose all your money and you don’t find out very much.
The investigation centered mainly around a San Francisco Bay Area Laboratory, BALCO, and a substance they were peddling called the Clear. It was alleged that the Clear was a steroid which had performance enhancing qualities. Soon, the roll call of names started surfacing in the press. Right at the top was home run hitter, Barry Bonds. He was playing for the San Francisco Giants at the time and so the connection was obvious. After 20 months and millions of dollars spent, the Mitchell report had very little new information in it. There were a total of 89 major league players named in connection with use of the Clear, most of whom we already knew from media reports. The 409 pages does, however, give the impression of a job. . . well . . . done.
Well, now comes information that Mitchell apparently didn’t know. Prior to Mitchell’s investigation, the State’s Attorney’s office in California followed up an investigation by journalists with the San Francisco Chronicle. According to a report by Yahoo Sports, the California state investigators knew early on that the Clear wasn’t illegal and may not have even been a steroid. So the grand jury investigation soon turned to who was lying about what they knew, not whether they had done anything illegal from the beginning. Maybe this is a bit confusing but I think it’s been made that way intentionally. Now we have a really hard time telling the good guys from the bad. This is just another fine mess from an out-of-control sports league who has lost its ability to police its teams and its players.
Now this scandal is very widespread and far more complicated than I can go into here. But this reminds me of another recent “scandal” which is why I’m interested in this story from Yahoo Sports. Does anyone remember the Valerie Plame scandal? There are a number of articles in Wikipedia which outline the whole affair but let me try to summarize. Valerie Plame worked at the CIA. Her husband, Joe Wilson, worked for the State Department and was a former Ambassador. His specialty was Africa. At some point, the CIA asked Wilson to go to Africa and investigate this claim by British intelligence that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy Uranium yellowcake in Niger. Wilson returned to write, not a report for the CIA, but an Op-Ed for the New York Times, “What I Didn’t Find In Africa.” This was important since it was one of the reasons George W. Bush gave for his invasion of Iraq. (Leave it to the CIA to close the barn door after all the horses are gone. Why not do the investigation BEFORE we go to war?!? But I digress. . .) Anyway, Wilson writes that he has no evidence that Hussein bought the Uranium from Niger. Soon after, Wilson’s wife’s name appears in a column by Robert Novak. This could be a big deal since it is illegal to publish the name of a covert CIA operative. The assumption by national media was that the President or members of his administration had outed Plame in retaliation for his undermining of the intelligence used to go to war. What we later found out (after a multimillion dollar investigation, sound familiar) was that not only didn’t anyone in the President’s administration do the outing (it was Richard Armitage, at the State Department) but that Plame didn’t even fit the legal description of a cover op so outing her wasn’t even illegal. Nonetheless, despite this knowledge, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald found someone to prosecute: Scooter Libby, the Vice-Presudent’s assistant. Not because he had anything to do with Plame’s outing, but because his testimony didn’t correspond to that of a reporter (who had taken notes). The prosecutor felt Libby was intentionally misleading and was able to convince a jury of the same, so Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush commuted his sentence but Libby’s political career is over.
So here we are again with the original charges being investigated (the illegal use of a performance-enhancing drug) being dismissed out of hand since it wasn’t illegal to use the Clear. But now they are trying to convict these guys for lying about using a legal substance! Now look, I understand that it’s very likely that these guys were trying to get an upper hand by using something that might give them an advantage on the playing field, but the point is, if it’s legal, everyone has access to it. If it is subsequently deemed illegal then we shouldn’t be looking backward and trying to hunt witches.