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STEVE DeSHAZO: Has the USADA gone too far?
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By STEVE DeSHAZO
ACROSS THE SPORTS world, that sound you hear is clocks ticking. The Iraq government deadline isn't the only date that's fast approaching.
Not surprisingly, baseball has pushed back its self-imposed All-Star break goal of picking a new home for the nomadic Montreal Expos. But there's another date that can't be postponed: the Summer Olympics, which begin Aug. 13.
Athens officials have to complete their facilities by then. And the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency obviously feels it must come up with a big-name scalp or two before the Games begin.
Why else would the USADA be pursuing Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones with such sloppy, rushed vengeance--and implicating Barry Bonds, as well?
Many people believe--without any tangible proof--that Bonds and other baseball stars have used steroids for years. He's never failed a drug test; nor have Montgomery or Jones. But we know that there are ways to beat them and that athletes have had the money and sophistication to stay ahead of the testers.
Still, if it's OK to suspect Bonds, Jones or Lance Armstrong, it's also acceptable to wonder if the USADA had a hand in illegally leaking Montgomery's sealed grand jury testimony to the San Francisco Chronicle. According to the newspaper, Montgomery testified that Victor Conte supplied him with steroids and told him he did the same to Bonds.
We may well have a bunch of cheaters in sports. Given the money and fame at stake, no one would be shocked.
But we also have several people trying to cover their rear ends. Conte, the owner of BALCO Laboratory, wants to stay out of jail and seems willing to name names to do so. The USADA is reacting to international pressure to find U.S. cheaters before the Olympics begin and appears to be taking the law into its own hands.
Free agency was the sports story of the 1970s. In the '80s, it was recreational drug use. In the '90s, it was the fallout from Magic Johnson's HIV diagnosis.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the headline is likely to be the epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs--or at least the suspicion of them.