Monday, May 11, 2009

'Manny Being Canny: The Myth of the Ramirez Drug Suspension' (full text)

[originally published at Beyond Chron on May 5,]

By Irvin Muchnick

Don’t buy that hill of beans from the Beantown-centric baseball media on the supposed flaky innocence of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez, who yesterday was suspended for 50 games for failing a drug test.

ESPN’s Peter Gammons, who must have practiced in front of a mirror to keep from bursting into laughter while delivering his lines, said this was “not steroids” but rather “a personal medical issue,” and “I thoroughly believe him.” Major league baseball, Gammons averred, “has a very tough drug policy.”

So after enabling a generation of cheating, the Lords of Baseball overnight decided to bust their most charismatic performer on a technicality? Not since the dregs of Camelot hustled up to Hyannis Port to prep Ted Kennedy for his Chappaquidick speech has a New England hero received such fawning instant analysis.

Gammons added that before the Ramirez story officially broke, he checked the rumor with someone in the front office of his former team, the Boston Red Sox, which “he does not have good relations with,” and the official said he didn’t believe “for a second” that Ramirez could have done anything wrong. As if the Red Sox, regardless of the tone of their divorce from Manny last summer, were eager to volunteer information that would taint their 2004 and 2007 World Series championships.

Two months ago, after the first leaks of Alex Rodriguez’s steroid history from Selena Roberts’ book, Gammons allowed A-Rod to wiggle in an exclusive interview with a Pinocchio account of how he fooled around with a performance enhancer, whose name he didn’t even know, only from “around” 2001 through 2003.

Hint: When you want the goods on a baseball scandal, don’t look to insiders like Gammons, a nice guy who built his career on his vaunted “access,” marinated with Boston and baseball and Boston-baseball sentimentality.

For the facts on Ramirez, try another ESPN source: Mark Fainaru-Wada, the former San Francisco Chronicle writer who, along with Lance Williams, authored the Barry Bonds book Game of Shadows. Fainaru-Wada also co-authored a report yesterday identifying Manny’s illegal drug as HCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, “a women’s fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body’s natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle.”

Like pitcher Paul Byrd, Ramirez appears to have been caught with his hands on his gonads. In the 1990s, the rationalization of choice was what was known as the “Brian Bosworth excuse,” named for the football linebacker who, when nabbed red-handed, spun it as use of “corto-steroids” – therapy for an athletic injury – rather than “anabolic steroids.” Hulk Hogan, that sterling character witness, tried the same lame defense after the federal trial of a Pennsylvania ring doctor uncovered FedEx records of his many shipments to Hogan.

Today we’re at a new stage of these lies. A generation of “former” steroid and human growth hormone abusers, who may have done it when it was “legal” and then stopped, now have diminished natural production of testosterone by their own endocrinological systems. They need help … in the bedroom. And as we all know, you have more confidence on the field if you scored the night before.

I discussed this piece of legerdemain in my October 24, 2007, Beyond Chron article, “Byrd Flies With Sports’ Newest Scam: Hormone Replacement Therapy.” Spontaneous male adult-onset hormone deficiency at the ages of professional athletes, I noted, “is about as rare in non-steroid users as the torn triceps and pectorals that are so widespread today because unnaturally massive muscle groups overload tendons and give out.”

I was writing four months after pro wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and their 7-year-old son before killing himself. Benoit had repeatedly passed drug tests under World Wrestling Entertainment Orwellian-labeled “wellness policy.” Later investigation showed that Benoit actually tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone (his post-mortem toxicology reports registered astronomical levels), but was given a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of a “therapeutic use exemption,” or TUE. The doctor issuing WWE’s TUE’s, Tracy Ray of Dr. James Andrews’ famous sports medicine clinic in Alabama, later would acknowledge to staffers of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that “there was shadiness in almost every case.”

But let’s not blame Manny Ramirez. He isn’t a fake wrestler who made $500,000 a year and couldn’t get it up any more. He’s a wacky real baseball player who makes $25 million a year and can’t get it up any more.

Follow Irvin Muchnick – author of the forthcoming Chris & Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death – at,, and

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