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Steroids questions still relevant

After it was reported earlier this week that Sammy Sosa was alleged to be on a list of major league players who had failed steroid testing, commissioner Bud Selig had this to say in a radio interview:

"The fact of the matter is that this is a problem that has been addressed a long time ago. And I want to underscore the 'long time ago' because it is irritating to me that people keep wanting - these are old stories. These are stories that are no longer germane."

Au contrair, mon commish. It wasn't a "long time ago." Testing started in 2002. The punishment at the time for failing? Counseling. Treatment. It wasn't until 2005, a scant four years ago that the policy was given any teeth by adding suspensions.

And steroids test-flunking is still going on, and thus the topic is very germane. Or has Manny Ramirez slipped your mind?

It's certainly germane here in Gwinnett, where G-Braves pitcher Rafael Cruz just pinged the steroid meter to the tune of 50 games. Teammate Jordan Schafer did the same last year.

Kids watch these athletes, Bud. They want to be like them. Some want to be like them very badly.

Selig would apparently like to see the whole steroid problem - and by problem, I mean the fact that those pesky journalists keep reporting it - swept away like dirt off home plate. He likes to point out how tough MLB's policies are now, holding that up as some great proof that heralds the end of the whole mess.

Yes, MLB has a strict policy in place - now. But it didn't. It didn't for a long time, and that's why the fans and the writers want to know the whole truth behind the Steroids Era.

We still don't know the extent of the damage. Unlike looking at an empty shelf and knowing your stereo is gone after thieves break in, we have no idea which of our cherished memories are tarnished by cheaters.

I had a lot of stories I'd planned on sharing with the younger generation should I make it to be an old man. But a lot of those stories have died on the vine, the result of being tainted by chemicals.

I have a St. Louis Post-Dispatch with Mark McGwire on the cover and a giant 62. It's now a bird-cage liner.

I have a ticket stub from a Yankees game. I sat in the centerfield bleachers and watched a 300-game winner by the name of Clemens pitch a gem. The ticket serves only as a reminder of a trip to New York now.

I saw Barry Bonds play in the old Fulton County stadium, thinking at the time that one day I'd be able to tell people I saw one of the best players to ever to don a glove. Now? Who cares?

We don't know, Bud. We don't know who was on the juice and who wasn't, what's tainted and what isn't. A home run ball from a future Hall-of-Famer caught in the stands, a no-hitter witnessed by a father and son at their first game together, a stolen base here, a game-winning walkoff there - precious sports memories? Or just cheating?

The worst part is, so few are willing to come clean. So few have the courage to say, "Yes, I took them. Everyone was doing it, and I felt like if I didn't, too, then I'd be out of a job. I wish I hadn't, I made a mistake, and I'm sorry." We could live with that. Americans are a forgiving bunch of folks when they get sincerity in an apology.

But we don't get that. Most of them blame someone else or claim they didn't know what they were taking. "Uh, when my trainer comes around with a syringe, I just drop my pants and offer up a cheek. I don't question my trainer."

Pardon me if I cry foul.

Selig does have his supporters though. (And not just in his fellow owners, who I'm sure didn't mind all the extra money the home run chases brought.) There are those who say you can't ever know who was juicing and who wasn't, and you can't throw out the whole era of records, so just take them with a grain of salt and move on.

No. A home run should be a home run, no matter what year it was hit. There shouldn't be two sets of record books, one for those who follow the rules and one for the cheaters. Whether the accounting is of dollars or strikeouts, a cooked book is a sham, a lie, a fraud.

Our national pasttime and our memories were hijacked. Journalists should continue to irritate Selig until we know who all the hijackers are.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.