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Associated Press/Photo by Eric Risberg

To tell the truth

Sports | Steroid confession helps Giambi's reputation

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

When news leaked June 16 that Sammy Sosa is among the names on a list of players who tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substances in 2003, few serious baseball observers expressed much surprise. The former Cubs slugger has long been a fixture on rumor mills and gossip sites about possible steroid use. But the news is not without consequence: Suspicion and evidence are two very different things.

Now, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform intends to investigate whether Sosa committed perjury in 2005 when he testified before Congress that he "would never put anything dangerous like that" in his body. "To be clear," he said at the time, "I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything."

No matter whether Sosa ultimately faces perjury charges, many analysts now believe his chances of reaching the Hall of Fame are far slimmer. Fellow former slugger Mark McGwire has fallen well short of enshrinement in Cooperstown in his first three years of eligibility. Like Sosa, McGwire boasts undeniable Hall of Fame numbers, but his less-than-candid testimony in the same hearing at which Sosa issued his denials has left many voters cold.

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Rafael Palmeiro, another slugger who denied steroid use in that same hearing, received a 10-game suspension five months later for a positive steroid test. His Hall of Fame hopes are likewise dubious despite a stellar career.

The list of other baseball superstars who failed to confess their doping only to have later evidence expose them includes Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds. Each of them may never reach the Hall of Fame. All of them have suffered enormous consequences in diminished public opinion. Once heroes, they are now often jeered as cheaters.

Meanwhile, Jason Giambi, a player who confessed his steroid use before a grand jury in 2003, has since enjoyed a public relations resurgence. He went on to many more productive years as a beloved member of the New York Yankees and this year has rejoined the Oakland Athletics team of his youth, much to the delight of the city where his career began.

Giambi will never make the Hall of Fame, but only for lack of numbers. Writers, by and large, are enamored with the aging star. And stories of his post-steroid renaissance, which includes winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2005, still litter sports pages across the country.

Giambi has lived a lesson so many other ballplayers refuse to learn-namely that telling the truth greatly aids public forgiveness. Somebody call Pete Rose.

Lefty's tough loss

Phil Mickelson bogeyed two of his last four holes at the U.S. Open

By Mark Bergin

Turns out, the U.S. Open is not the stuff of fairy tales. Were it, Phil Mickelson would have taken the title in the 109th playing of the tournament and boosted the spirits of his ailing wife, who is suffering from breast cancer. Had Disney written the script, the likable family man would never have bogeyed two of his last four holes to drop two shots out of first place. In the world of make-believe, Lefty, as Mickelson is affectionately known, would have drained a 40-foot birdie on 18 to win his fourth Major.

But in a tournament designed more to crush dreams than facilitate them, not even the pink ribbon Mickelson wore on his cap could keep the people's champion from succumbing to the giant that is the Bethpage Black Golf Course. The only dreams fulfilled on this day were those of 29-year-old Lucas Glover, who won for just his second time on the PGA Tour.

Of course, the absence of a Hollywood finish in a golf tournament need not preclude recovery. Early prognoses for Amy Mickelson have been good, and a happy ending may be in store.


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