Before Congress creates yet another useless special investigation committee and subpoenas me, I wish to come clean and confess.
I took steroids. Strong steroids. The kind that bulk you up and make you look like Stone Mountain. In my case, they just fattened me up, gave me rosy-red cheeks, and destroyed about half of my systems.
The first time I took steroids was for a year when I was a high school freshman. My physician prescribed it. Its side effects were that I didn’t have to worry about acne or my voice changing. The last time I took steroids was about a decade ago. For the first four or five months of what would be almost two years, it was a heavy dose. My hematologist said the drugs helped save my life. They also saved my writing career.
It was in that summer that I slept only about three or four hours a night, wrote a critically-acclaimed book plus a few articles. I even did a lot of calisthenics and more to clean the house, something that startled my wife, but kept me from committing ’roid rage.
And that’s why I must confess now. While Stephen King, Aaron Sorkin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and thousands of other great writers used coke or pot to get high and produce great works, I used steroids. There’s no question that the steroids kept me alert, and opened my mind to new ways to organize my writing. I probably couldn’t have done that book is so short a time if I hadn’t been juiced.
This past year, I was honored by the Pennsylvania Press Club with its lifetime Communicator of Achievement award, the first time it awarded it in seven years. But, it may be tainted because part of reason I earned that honor was because of increased writing and public service while under the influence of performance enhancing drugs. I’m hoping the state association won’t make me return the honor.
There were three people in their chosen profession who didn’t have a chance to be honored. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa were not voted into the baseball Hall of Fame. To be inducted into the Hall, a player must be retired at least five years and receive at least 75 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Clemens received 37.6 percent. Bonds received 36.2 percent. Sosa received just 12.5 percent. All were steroid-stained by a scandal that was enhanced by a Congress that was impotent in so many areas except outrage at athletes. None were convicted of using steroids or any related charges. The percent of members of Congress and their staffs who used non-prescribed illegal drugs is probably the same, or even greater, than athletes who used them.
Clemens was a seven-time Cy Young winner in 24 seasons as a pitcher. He recorded 354 wins and 4,672 strikeouts, third highest among all pitchers. Before Congress, he testified he never used steroids; others claimed he used them. Congress referred the case to the Department of Justice, claiming Clemens lied under oath. The jury found Clemens not guilty on all six counts of perjury.
Barry Bonds is the all-time leader in career homeruns (762) and single season homeruns (73). He was a seven-time MVP. Although he tested positive one time for using a performance enhancing drug (PED), he was never convicted of that. Before Congress, he denied knowingly using drugs. Although he was never convicted of perjury, he was convicted in court of obstruction of justice.
Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs, 2,408 hits and ran up numerous records. He was stained by being on a list of players who used PEDs, but that list and the names of the drugs was never revealed, nor was he given an opportunity to challenge his inclusion on that list. Before Congress, he swore he never knowingly used PEDs. He was never convicted of drug usage.
The baseball writers who judged these all-time greats decided not to vote them into the Hall of Fame—at least this time. If the writers had dug deeper, they might have learned that most players, including many already enshrined in the Hall—and probably some baseball writers as well—were also tainted.
[Walter Brasch, who won most of his writing awards when not on steroids, is a syndicated columnist and author of 17 books. His current book is Before the First Snow: Tales from the Revolution. His book, Fracking Pennsylvania, is scheduled for release Feb. 14.]