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Kovacevic: How to temper audacity of dope

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 10:29 p.m.
REUTERS
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez reacts after committing an error against the New York Mets during the fourth inning of their MLB Interleague baseball game at Citifield in New York in this file photo taken June 23, 2012. Major League Baseball (MLB) said on Tuesday it is investigating a report alleging several of its high-profile players, including Rodriguez, were sold performance-enhancing drugs by a South Florida anti-aging clinic. REUTERS/Adam Hunger

This just in: Those guys in the NFL, all their hyper-chiseled physiques, all their hyper-speed healing of major injuries?

Some of that still happens through a hypodermic needle.

Or, um, antlers.

Those Major League Baseball players who hit the ball really far or throw it really hard?

Some of that still happens through nefarious means, too.

Sorry to be the bearer, but that's what stung the most about Tuesday's double-whammy of reports regarding Ray Lewis and Alex Rodriguez, isn't it?

It's not that they might or might not have done it. No, we're miles past that marker.

It's the fresh awareness that athletes everywhere still can .

Without remorse.

Without fear of consequence.

Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday that Lewis, the Ravens' marquee man since inception for better or worse, for innocent or hey-I-was-just-a-bystander, contacted a company called Sports with Alternatives to Steroids ­— SWATS, don't you know? — to seek help for the triceps he tore Oct. 13. The company's co-owner, Mitch Ross, told SI he recorded Lewis saying, “Just pile me up. Just send me everything you got because I got to get back this week.”

Sounds like someone terrified of being caught, huh?

Ross obliged in kind, per SI, by sending a deer antler spray, which contains an NFL-banned substance called IGF-1.

Lewis denied using the spray to reporters Tuesday in New Orleans, and he and the Ravens stated he never failed any of his random drug tests this season.

Do with that as you wish.

But also feel free to process that Lewis' injury should have ended his season, if not career. And yet, he's been back for the entire playoffs and, to boot, has been outrageously good with 44 tackles in three games.

Must be all that leadership everyone describes over the pianos and violins.

Rodriguez's case comes with a history.

He's an admitted cheater, admitted liar. In 2009, he openly confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03, even as he solemnly pledged he'd learned from his errors.

Then, Tuesday afternoon, presumably because we couldn't live without baseball taking a back seat to football on steroids, the Miami New Times reported Rodriguez was among nine players to have been treated by Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Florida, and that he continued to use steroids from 2009 — same year as the confession ­— right through last season.

We'll see.

He's denied the New Times' report, but what he can't deny is that, based on perception alone, fair or not, he can now formally kiss the Hall of Fame goodbye. He might have to kiss $114 million goodbye, too, if the Yankees can void his contract.

The only thing we know won't go away, regardless of how the Lewis/Rodriguez scenarios play out, is that athletes always will search for that extra edge. It'll continue no matter the testing, no matter the consequences. If they try in the Olympics, where athletes are borderline terrorized by anti-doping agents, they'll try anywhere. That's not sports. That's life.

But it doesn't mean the fight isn't worth fighting.

I've heard the suggestion that sports should just let everyone dope up as they wish, that this is the only path to a truly level playing field. This, of course, is ridiculous. No pastime is worth anyone's health, and the risks from steroids are documented to be devastating. Never mind the cultural impact on children.

No, it's got to be fought. And that can come through harsher suspensions and fines or even outright expulsion.

I've got another idea, too: Punish the teams.

Or, in the case of individual competition, their member federations.

Picture the reaction right now in Baltimore if Lewis had been nailed on this accusation and the result was that the Ravens had to forfeit their next game.

Yeah, that game.

Why should an NFL team go unpunished when college teams forfeit for tattoos?

As for the Yankees, who have been dragged down by as many doping storylines as any franchise in sports, what if they were forced to forfeit, say, 10 games?

All of a sudden, the pressure to stay clean at all costs wouldn't come just from the outside anymore. It would come from the teams' management and coaches and trainers, even their fellow players, who probably won't be too thrilled with that instant 10-game losing streak.

The culture that accepts cheating starts right there. Seems like a good place to stamp it down.

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