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Sports | Double standard for dopers

Issue: "Berger can't keep a secret," July 31, 2004

Tracked down All six U.S. track athletes who tested positive in drug tests or are charged with doping violations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency failed to make the U.S. Olympic team. The team won't be star-powered, as it was during the 2000 Olympics, but it appears it won't be steroid-powered either. Unlike major-league baseball, which seems to have an in-denial approach to steroids, American track has gone after its dopers. Middle distance veteran Regina Jacobs retired just before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency handed down a four-year ban for testing positive for THG use. It was her first offense. Sprinter Tim Montgomery faces a lifetime ban if found guilty of doping charges. By comparison, the estimated 5 percent to 7 percent of major-league baseball players who tested positive for steroids last season would have to fail two more steroid tests to be suspended, and then only for a few games. A five-time offender would be suspended only for one year, and baseball won't test during off-seasons. Baseball sluggers like Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield - all linked to BALCO - may not face lifetime bans as Mr. Montgomery has, but they'll also likely never have the chance to fully clear their names. Even if the major leagues don't go after athletes accused of using steroids, baseball fans will. Texas turnabout In the weeks after baseball's all-star break, teams are what they are. For baseball fans in Texas, the feeling must be peculiar. Expectations couldn't have been higher in Houston this spring after the Astros pilfered Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens from the Yankees. But in July, the struggling Astros fired manager Jimy Williams as they sank lower and lower in the National League Central standings. And with St. Louis streaking to the best record in the major leagues as of mid-July, the Astros may now regret the trade they made to acquire free-agent-to-be Carlos Beltran. Conversely, the Texas Rangers have a chance to go from worst last season to first this season. When the Rangers traded the league's best player, Alex Rodriguez, to the Yankees, fans assumed the Rangers were building for the future around a young infield. Although they took a surprising American League West lead into the all-star break, team owner Tom Hicks has said the team won't divert from its youth movement and deal for veteran players at the trading deadline. Mr. Hicks once landed his team in trouble by trying to spend his way out of last place. After trading his $250-million player, the owner has found the Florida Marlins approach has worked as well for the bottom line as it has on the playing field. Around the Horn • True to his nickname, Shaquille "Diesel" O'Neal's transition from the Lakers to t big and noisy. So thrilled was Mr. O'Neal to be out of Los Angeles, he rolled into his new home arena in a semi-tractor trailer. From there, Shaq showered the crowd with a watergun and then delivered an uncomfortable series of one-liners during the ensuing press conference. The man of many self-applied nicknames gave himself another one: the Millennium Goliath. • When the Lakers traded Vlade Divac to Charlotte in 1996, they figured Shaquille O'Neal would be an adequate center replacement. Now that Mr. O'Neal has returned to Florida, the Lakers have returned to the original article, signing the aged Mr. Divac to a two-year deal. • Even as U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong closed in on his sixth straight Tour de France victory, his boyhood idol took shots at him. Greg LeMond - winner of the 1986, 1989, and 1990 Tour de France - told ESPN that Mr. Armstrong threatened him in 2001 after he criticized the cyclist's relationship with a questionable Italian doctor now standing trial on doping charges. "If [Armstrong's] clean, it's the greatest comeback. And if he's not, then it's the greatest fraud," Mr. LeMond told ESPN. Mr. Armstrong reiterated that he'd never failed a drug test and had proved himself time and again to be dope free.

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