Enough with WADA’s phony warnings to MLB

The white-knight crusaders at the World Anti-Doping Association set about on their high horse Thursday with another message for Major League Baseball. They do this once or twice a year, cobbling together a few paragraphs worth of phony moralistic preening with the intention of embarrassing their favorite whipping boy, then fading back to the land of obscurity where they belong.

In a press release disguised as a concerned letter, WADA president John Fahey chastised MLB and the players’ association for not using blood testing to detect human growth hormone. Nowhere did Fahey mention that the reliability of these tests remains in question six years after WADA first suggested their use. Nor did Fahey admit the organization’s real motivation: to leverage MLB into fattening WADA’s coffers with its multimillion-dollar-a-year testing program.

No, just more of the same scripted canards WADA employs to cling to whatever shred of relevance it has.

“We continue to read statements from the MLB Commissioner and MLBPA representatives questioning the appropriateness of implementing blood testing in their league,” Fahey wrote. “This is nonsense.”

Actually, it’s far from nonsense. Fahey lives in a fiefdom where an employer’s right to stick needles in its employees is a fait accompli. Such decisions take nuance and discussion, and they certainly shouldn’t be the domain of dogmatists who profit from the testing.

Proper drug detection in professional American sports is not done in a vacuum. Whereas most Olympic athletes lack unions and find themselves easy prey for WADA and its compadres-in-corruption at the IOC, American athletes are shielded from unilateral enforcement. It’s not all about snuffing out the cheaters, nor is it about protecting civil rights at all costs. There is a place in between, one that values a sport’s integrity as well as its athletes’.

WADA preys on the public’s ignorance. Last month, UK Anti-Doping announced that a test detected HGH in the blood of an English rugby player named Terry Newton. It was a targeted test, given in the offseason to Newton based on a tip to UKAD. He later admitted taking the drug.

Emboldened, WADA went on a self-congratulatory campaign about a new era in drug testing based on one positive. One. For years, WADA has gone public with pronouncement after pronouncement about how close it is to a reliable HGH test, only for it to bust deadline after deadline. It never caught anyone at the Olympics, nor in other competitions around the world where athletes use HGH, and yet this single positive gave it a new launching pad.

WADA blitzed the public with half-truths, knowing full well that if any sport dare argue, it would look like it was trying to hide something. An organization full of blowhards and self-important ninnies became the standard bearer in drug testing by using that scare tactic, and now, sadly, its hollow principles exist not for the good of sport but itself. No wonder WADA is so tight with the Olympic movement. They get off on the same self-serving values.

It’s no surprise WADA keeps attacking MLB while letting other professional leagues skate. The NBA and NHL pour tens of millions of dollars into the Olympics by allowing their athletes to participate, and the NFL plays enough pattycake with WADA to stave off public interference.

Now, this does not minimize the performance-enhancing drug problem baseball once had and still, to a lesser degree, probably has. Players use steroids, as is obvious from the number suspended in the minor leagues every year, and they use human growth hormone, too. Individual sports can only do so much to rid cheaters, something WADA will never admit, lest it impale its own existence.

MLB is considering implementing blood tests on minor league players this season, though it does so with reticence. Already baseball’s testing programs in the major and minor leagues include non-analytical positives. Atlanta prospect Jordan Schafer(notes) was suspended for 50 games despite never taking a test for HGH. The Newton positive seemed as tied to the intelligence about him as it was the blood test itself.

WADA hasn’t made public how its current test is any different than the one that drew blanks for six years, and questions sent to Fahey through a WADA spokesman went unanswered. The likely answer: it isn’t. Which means WADA wants baseball to overhaul its program for a test that seemingly necessitates an informational complement.

By using ambush techniques to grab headlines, WADA proves itself increasingly desperate. Baseball’s testing program is the strictest in American professional sports, and though flaws remain, they don’t merit such bullying. Until baseball kowtows to WADA’s desires, the letters, the didactic tone – the real nonsense – won’t stop.

Baseball knows better than to cave, of course, to give in to these performance-enhancing drug charlatans. It is up to owners and players and fans and media to keep the sport honest, to prevent it from slipping into the juiced-up freak show that unfolded over two decades.

Better them than the white knights with dark intentions.

Jeff Passan is a national writer for Yahoo! Sports. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jeff a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Mar 18, 2010