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Former Sports Illustrated senior editor Jeff Pearlman has a story on Slate.com today about why he suspects Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi and Roger Clemens are all using steriods.

Pearlman’s story is mostly a criticism of sports reporters who he feels are far to willing to turn a blind eye to drug use in exchange for access to the players. Here’s what he says about Giambi’s return to form:

After having been duped by the men they cover, America’s sportswriters are playing dumb again. One year after being dismissed as a has-been, steroid-using fibber, Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi is the toast of New York. Recent articles in metropolitan newspapers have praised the steadfastness and resiliency that have led him to hit a team-high 14 home runs. But where, oh where, are the doubters? At the start of spring training in 2005, Giambi looked smaller than in seasons past. Now, he has muscles atop muscles atop muscles. Yet unlike the San Francisco Chronicle, which dedicated itself (journalistically and financially) to learning the truth about Bonds, none of the New York dailies have assigned an investigative team to the case. The closest we’ve come is Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who recently wrote a piece titled “Clean Machine—Giambi Says Fast Start Is Untainted.” The article dies with this whimper of a quote: “The big thing I learned during all my problems was that I can only control what I can control. I can’t stand on a soapbox every day. I am working my tail off.”

I, for one, don’t believe him. During my six years at Sports Illustrated, I fell for the trick and covered Giambi as the hulking, lovable lug who cracked jokes and hit monstrous homers. All the while, he was cheating to gain an edge. So, why—when MLB doesn’t administer a test for human growth hormone—should I believe Giambi is clean?

And here are his thoughts on Clemens:

Likewise, when I look at Roger Clemens, I wonder: Where’s the investigative digging? Like Bonds, Clemens is a larger-than-life athletic specimen. Like Bonds, Clemens is producing at an age when most of his peers are knitting. Unlike Bonds, Clemens does not have journalists breathing down his neck. Instead, the hometown Houston Chronicle has covered his recent re-signing with the Astros as a time for unmitigated celebration. Forget combing through his garbage for vials—I just want the Chronicle to ask Clemens whether he’s used. Is the Rocket cheating? Again, I don’t know. But doesn’t someone have to at least try and find out?

Is it right to treat these athletes as suspects, even though there is no evidence to suggest that they are steroid users? Pearlman points out that baseball’s new drug testing doesn’t test for human growth hormone. And Barry Bonds never failed a drug test. So it’s really hard to sit back and say, “now that we have drug testing we don’t have to worry about steroids anymore.”

If you ask me, players like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa did a lot of damage to baseball’s credibility. So unless guys like Giambi and Pujols are willing to open up their lives and training habits to media scrutiny, to prove without a doubt that they are clean, then we should assume they’ve got something to hide.

One Response to “Are reporters dropping the ball?”

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