WITH EACH new revelation of a baseball star’s past use of a performance-enhancing drug, Red Sox fans’ hope that drugs would not cloud the team’s most recent World Series wins in 2004 and 2007 grew fainter and fainter. Yesterday’s New York Times report that both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz are on a list of players who tested positive in 2003 for performance-enhancing drugs largely dashed that hope. It wasn’t just a bloody sock that turned things around for the team in 2004.
Ramirez’s presence on the list is not too surprising, since he served a 50-game suspension this season for using a fertility drug often taken when bodybuilders stop using steroids. Ortiz has in the past spoken out strongly against steroid use, and for good reason. These drugs can cause severe side effects, and players who use them set a lousy example for their young fans.
Baseball first tested for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. The results that year were supposed to remain anonymous, but they later became the target of federal prosecutors investigating distribution of illegal drugs among athletes. Ramirez and Ortiz are among roughly 100 names on what has become known as “the list,’’ an indication of how common use of such drugs were before baseball began its crackdown.
That crackdown came much too long after the drugs infiltrated the sport in the mid-1990s. After the devastating 1994 strike hurt baseball’s popularity, both the owners and players union were all too willing to turn a blind eye to the chemicals feeding the prodigious bursts of home runs that filled grandstands and spiked TV ratings. (Full disclosure: The Boston Globe’s parent company owns 17 percent of the Red Sox.)
The use of performance enhancers may have been no more prevalent among the Red Sox than at other clubs. But the 2003 list haunts the entire sport - and taints the Sox World Series wins. Boston fans may remember this decade fondly, but it represents a grim chapter for baseball as a whole.