Dickey: Cheating just part of game 

Could this BALCO steroids case get any more tawdry? Now, the lawyer who once represented BALCO executives has admitted he defied a judge’s order in leaking court documents to San Francisco Chronicle reporters, apparently in the hopes of forcing a mistrial motion.

Let’s be honest about this: Despite the Chronicle’s repeated self-congratulations, this case has always been about self-interest, not journalistic integrity.

The reporters used the documents for a strong running story, which ultimately turned into a profitable book. The Chronicle used it in an attempt to win a Pulitzer Prize. The attempt failed, possibly because the Pulitzer committee felt a story based on court documents that were illegally leaked was not a great journalistic model.

There is a good reason that it’s illegal to leak grand jury testimony: Jurors and witnesses alike need to know that their testimony and conversations will not be made public, so they can speak freely and honestly.

Leaking testimony in a national security case or one that involves unconstitutional actions by the federal government can be justified. But leaking testimony about athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs? Please.

That’s an unwarranted abuse of "the public’s right to know."

Why are we even wasting time on this? What athletes are doing now is neither unprecedented or something that can be stopped.

Though baseball generally and Barry Bonds specifically are the targets of rage among American sports fans, there are many other examples of competitors in other sports trying to get a competitive advantage.

The NFL regularly catches steroid users. San Diego linebacker Shawn Merriman was suspended for four games last fall, though he still made the Pro Bowl.

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis has been accused of having high testosterone levels, a charge he is fighting, and other cyclists have been suspected, too. Drug use seems to be widespread among track and field competitors. NASCAR drivers have not been accused of drug use, but they regularly test the limits of restrictions on their cars; their criterion seems to be how far they can go without being caught.

Baseball itself has a long history of players and managers bending or breaking the rules to get an advantage.

Gaylord Perry was a young pitcher on his way out of baseball when he was taught to throw the spitball, which had been banned since 1920. With that pitch, he started a path to the baseball Hall of Fame — and even wrote a book about it.

On the other side, some famous hitters have been caught with corked bats, Sammy Sosa being the latest.

Groundskeepers have often slanted baselines to help their teams. Teams have stolen signs. Reportedly, the New York Giants had a man in the center-field bleachers with binoculars during the 1951 playoffs, so Bobby Thomson knew what was coming when he hit the famous home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers to send the Giants into the World Series.

We need to come to grips with the fact that athletes, coaches and managers are alwaysgoing to be looking for that edge, whether it’s in performance-enhancing drugs or alteration of playing equipment or fields.

If we just accept that, maybe we can more on, so the government isn’t wasting time on trials about performance-enhancing drugs. Or in congressional hearings on the matter. There are more important subjects, even for sports fans.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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