Should Dee Gordon really regret taking PEDs?
There have been calls for remorse, but … why?
Thursday night marks the return of Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon following an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Gordon, tests showed, used clostebol and testosterone, but he claimed he didn’t knowingly ingest said substances. As FanDuel’s Will Carroll pointed out in April though, by combining those specific drugs, it’s nearly impossible to believe he didn’t know what he was taking.
This had led to predictable calls for an apology. The Sun Sentinel’s Dave Hyde even wrote a speech that he hoped Gordon would replicate when he first faces the media Thursday. Part of Hyde’s proposed statement includes this:
“I know, I know. A lot of people want me to apologize. But for what? For getting caught? This was a risk vs. reward business decision by me. How many of you would take something that isn’t against the law and you rarely get caught for — I’d been tested 20 times previously — if a $50 million pot of gold was waiting for you? Was $50 million worth those 80 games? I’ll let you decide. But, no I’m not apologizing for taking PEDs … Finally, I want to say one more thing that will hopefully get people off my back. I’m off the PEDs now. I’ll play it by the rules. I’ll take tests whenever they want. You’ll never see me suspended for PEDs again.”
Hyde almost got it right. But that’s not the ideal answer from Gordon. This is what we’d most like him to say, if he was allowed to be as honest as possible, repercussions and judgment be damned:
“How many of you are millionaire sports writers? None? Thought so. Well, what if I told you I could give you a magical pill that made you write so well you won all the coveted awards in your profession? What if the pill made you so good your employer was willing to hand over a five-year, $50 million contract to you, all of sudden? You’d take the pill, I know. So stop judging me. This April, my manager Don Mattingly admitted I was 25 pounds heavier than when I played for him in 2014 — well, where do you think that weight came from? McDonald’s? Nah, man. I got ripped up. I was a monster. No one has won the National League batting title and had the most stolen bases in the same year since Jackie Robinson in 1949. Well, I did that last year (and I took home a Gold Glove) so the Marlins gave me a cool $50 million for it. Now, I’m not saying I’m going to take any PEDs again, but I’m not saying I won’t, either, you know what I mean?”
He won’t say that. Gordon has already released a video in which he apologizes to fans and says things like, “I didn’t hold myself accountable” and “it’s my fault and no one else’s.” The video reads like a prepared, careful message, filled with the kind of accountability old sports writers love but shouldn’t:
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) July 28, 2016
Gordon should still serve as an important example for how we police and judge PED use going forward. As ESPN’s Christina Kahrl pointed out when he was first suspended, Gordon does not fit the typical profile of someone suspended for trying to alter his performance. Gordon, even though he was heavier last year than he was prior, has never been considered a power hitter and he’s never had a jacked-up, swollen body type like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire once did. PEDs are used for all kinds of advantages by all kinds of players going all the way back to even Willie Mays’ era. Tiny outfielder Alex Sanchez was once even popped for PED use.
We don’t know who exactly is using or not and what they are or aren’t taking. While the testing has gotten much better over the last decade, for every Gordon there are still a number of players who presumably slip past the system, reaping all the benefits of being a little bigger, faster and stronger. We can shame and suspend players who get caught, but it’s irresponsible not to recognize that we’re fishing in an ocean full of beasts and only claiming the ones we catch are fish. There are still sharks on steroids lurking in this ocean, so to speak.
Gordon was just the one who got caught this time. Still, he had good reason to take PEDs and he’s not alone in doing so — the benefits are just too huge. He shouldn’t have apologized for anything, even if that makes some fans and sports writers uncomfortable.