People keep asking what my reaction is now that the New York Times has reported Sammy Sosa tested positive for a Performance Enhancing Drug in 2003, the first, non-punishable year of baseball testing.
It was this: "You think?"
That's because in 2002, at Sports Illustrated, I asked Sosa (this is when he was still speaking English) if he'd volunteer to take a steroids test at a lab 30 minutes from Wrigley Field. Sosa was telling reporters he'd be "first in line" to be tested so he could prove himself clean. I was just dumb enough to believe him.
When I asked him, this vein on his neck started pulsing and his eyebrows formed a V, and he began screaming at me in English, Spanish and a form of cussing only ulcerous Brazilian sailors know. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to get the F out of his face. I took it as a no.
For seven years, I've heard all kinds of reactions to that story. I've had people tell me I was a) a defender of the game who ought to get the Congressional Medal of Honor or b) an ambush artist who ought to be thrown in a wood chipper.
To me, Sosa is a seminal figure in baseball -- the poster boy for What PEDs Can Do For You. A man who hit a home run once every 20 at bats -- and then suddenly started hitting them every nine. A man who never hit more than 40 home runs and then suddenly started hitting 60-plus. A man with the body of a sprinter for years who suddenly had the body of Mr. Olympia. And then, the moment real testing began, a man who shrunk like wet wool.
Now he officially goes on my long list with Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro and Bonds, athletes who can be lumped with Hulk Hogan and the Iron Shiek - entertaining, money-making and entirely fake.
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