By Dave Wischnowsky–
CHICAGO (CBS) Back in 1998, I was naïve.
But here in 2011? Well, I’m not.
At least that’s certainly true when it comes to the issue of athletes using performance enhancing drugs to give themselves an edge on the field.
Or, you know, the court.
Yes, since watching Mark McGwire’s and Sammy Sosa’s Great (Steroid-Fueled) Home Run Chase of ’98 with wide-eyed ignorance, I’ve wised up.
Enough so that, today, I still consider Roger Maris and Hank Aaron my home run kings. And while I’d really, really like to believe in Lance Armstrong, I don’t. Same goes for the notion of 270-pound men running 4.65-second 40-yard dashes on their own (thanks, Shawne Merriman).
Along those same lines, I’m also quite sure that PEDs have been used by NBA players.
After all, why in the name of BALCO wouldn’t they have been?
That dicey topic was initially broached last week when ESPN The Magazine reportedly asked Derrick Rose to rank the PED problem in the NBA on a scale of 1-10 and then quoted the Chicago Bulls star as responding: “Seven. It’s huge and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person.”
On Sunday, before the Bulls faced Miami in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Rose denied even making the quote, which, no doubt, had rattled many bigwigs throughout the league.
“I know I didn’t say anything like that,” Rose said. “I guess he [the reporter] misunderstood what I said. There’s definitely not a drug problem in the NBA. We get tested. It would definitely show up. That’s why I released the statement to clarify things, that that wasn’t true.”
In his statement, which was issued through the Bulls, Rose said: “Regarding the quote attributed to me in ESPN The Magazine, I do not recall making the statement nor do I recall the question being asked. If that was my response to any question, I clearly misunderstood what was asked of me. But, let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance enhancing drug problem in the NBA.”
Now, I don’t know whether Derrick Rose actually did make the comment about PEDs to ESPN The Magazine, if he didn’t or if he misunderstood the question. And I also have no reason to believe that the use of steroids, HGH or any other performance enhancer is a major issue in today’s NBA.
But I do think it’s foolish to just dismiss the notion of basketball players using PEDs, even if Rose did dismiss his alleged comment.
Because, like I said, here in 2011, we’re not that naïve.
Or, at least, we sure shouldn’t be.
Now, it’s something I’ve never written about before, but for years – really, ever since we realized the truth about McGwire, Sosa and Barry Bonds – I’ve wondered why it is that our nation has spent so many hours delving into and theorizing about the use of PEDs in baseball, football and less popular sports such as cycling, but we’ve never seemed to at all ponder the use PEDs in relation to basketball.
And why not?
Because, just think about it for a minute. With all the on-field success that MLB players, in particular, were enjoying during the 1990s and early 2000s, does anyone really believe that some NBA players didn’t take notice and decide to see how PEDs could give them an edge in their own sport?
In the hopes of jumping higher, recovering quicker and rebounding better, I’m guessing some players certainly did. Perhaps, a lot of them. And, perhaps, even some superstars.
Now, I’m not interested in pointing fingers at players from the past or accusing today’s NBA of having a current PED problem, but the question of why basketball has largely flown under the radar of PED suspicion for all these years while baseball, football and other sports have not does fascinate me.
And bewilder me.
But what do you think? Why has basketball been largely immune to the steroid suspicions that have plagued other sports? I’d love to hear your theories.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.