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A cheater's game

There was much criticism of President George W. Bush when he lobbied Major League Baseball to clean up its sport. Critics said he was wasting the country's time by talking about such a trivial issue. But Bush was right then -- this is not a trivial issue.

The latest revelation came this week when former Minnesota Twin David Ortiz was named as one who had tested positive in 2003 for steroids under a blind testing program to determine how many players were dirty. As it turned out, a lot of them were.

Ortiz did exactly what you'd expect an innocent person to do: he held a news conference and made exasperated denials. He indicated he's never used the stuff.

Here's the problem: that's exactly what you'd also expect a guilty person to do, since almost no one has owned up to taking performance-enhancing drugs until they're caught red-handed (with the notable exception of pitcher Andy Pettitte.)

There have been angry denials, there have been hurt denials, there have been "I-no-speak-ingles" denials -- such as Sammy Sosa. There has been very little truth.

And some of the sports biggest names are now inextricably linked to performance-enhancing drugs: Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Pettitte, Ortiz, Sosa and many others.

What's really sad is there are many current superstars (and conceivably at least one on that last list) that didn't take steroids. Are we witnessing one of the best players ever in Albert Pujols? Can we trust he's clean like he says he is, when we've been disappointed by Rodriguez, Ramirez and others before?

If they're clean, it's not fair to Pujolz, Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau to have to compete against players who are juicing. Even worse, any standout performance in baseball today brings immediate suspicion of cheating.

An entire era of a sport that relies so heavily on history is now lost. The Hall of Fame from this time could very well be populated with cheaters or those who are sneaky enough at cheating so as to never get caught.

Some apologists will argue, "well, who is really getting hurt?" Aside from the players who are clean, the truth is getting hurt.