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Javy Lopez on steroids: "I'd be stupid enough not to use 'nitro' too"

Feb 5, 2010, 7:57 AM EST

Javy Lopez.jpgThe AJC’s Dave O’Brien points us to an extended podcast interview of Former Braves catcher Javy Lopez on Atlanta Baseball Talk last weekend, in which the topic turned to steroids. While the hosts did not explicitly ask Lopez if he personally did steroids, he was pretty candid all the same:

“Well, everybody seen players getting big, hitting the ball harder,
home runs and stuff. All of a sudden – boom — they got the big contract
and everybody’s like, ‘You know what, did that, it worked for him, why
not do it?’ . . . I mean, how can I explain this? It’s like if you’re going to race cars,
if you’re going to race a car and some people are using nitro in the
fuel [Lopez laughed], and you see them winning all the time, and you’re
using regular gas – you know what? If they’re using nitro and they’ve
been winning, well, I’d be stupid enough not to use nitro, too.”

If Lopez’s .328/.378/.687, 43 home run season during a contract year at age 32 in 2003 hadn’t already raised several red flags — and believe me, for most Braves fans it and Javy’s newly-buffed physique did, even at the time — this interview seems to put the matter to rest. But of course Javy Lopez never broke any big records and isn’t in the Hall of Fame discussion, so people won’t go crazy about it.

But I kind of wish they would go a little crazy. Not because I want to see Lopez burned at the stake — as with everyone else I take the “man, I wish he hadn’t done that, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it” approach — but because here he has has put forth the cost/benefit analysis players made regarding steroids in clearer terms than anyone else has to date.  The guys who were trying to beat you and/or take your job were doing it. The powers-that-be didn’t care. The difference between taking the “nitro” or not could be the difference between being unemployed or signing, say, a three-year, $22.5 million contract with Baltimore.

This crystal clear dynamic is why I get so aggravated when the steroid discussion, as it almost always does, revolves around the record book or the fans’ perception that they were cheated or betrayed.  Who cares about the record book or the fans’ subjective, retrospective experience? A system was in place which strongly incentivized players to take potentially harmful substances without a prescription.  Some players — think a borderline major leaguer — no doubt felt that they had to “take the nitro” or lose their jobs.

Players took the steroids, but baseball looked the other way, as did the union and the media, allowing an environment which left many feeling that they had no choice but to juice to grow and persist. Yet it’s the players who take all the heat? Madness.

  1. Eric Solomon - Feb 5, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    Craig – spot on. Bravo.

  2. Corky - Feb 5, 2010 at 8:35 AM

    Craig, you are the voice of reason. Well stated.

  3. Phil - Feb 5, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    I’ll join the chorus. Thanks for the touch of sanity.

  4. Grant - Feb 5, 2010 at 8:58 AM

    As an Orioles fan I suppose I should be outraged, but everyone knew that contract wasn’t going to end well for them either way. Whatever. Spring Training can’t get here fast enough.

  5. Bobs - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Craig-
    This is the best, most honest piece on this subject that I’ve read. Not all players who took steroids were superstars, many were border-line players. And only a few of them had viable career choices if they had to leave the game. Thus, given the choice between making millions to play baseball, and stocking shelves at Home Depot, they chose to take steroids to increase their earning potential and prolong their careers. I don’t blame them. We all do what we are rewarded to do, and MLB rewarded steroid use. Fans who are indignant about steroid use should look in the mirror and honestly think about what they would have done if they were in the same position as many players.

  6. Wouter - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    Yes, a great summary of the situation. Kudos to Lopez as well, for being this candid about it.

  7. RobRob - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Yes yes, the record book is all that sportswriters care about, finally a voice of reason. And it’s not just the record book, but the home run record specifically. Decades upon decades of lionizing the special few who have hit 60 home runs in a season, or 700 home runs in a career leaves sportswriters no choice but to tear down anyone they deem unworthy or those records because to do otherwise would invalidate the decades upon decades of lionizing those special few.

    I’m starting to get a handle on this now. The reason that people are so up in arms about steroids is that they are perceived as a shortcut. If Javy Lopez shows up at age 32 in the best shape of his life through hard work and vitamins, people say he’s a great example of the American mythology. If he took steroids in addition to those vitamins, well then he has a moral failing to take the easy way to stardom.

    Americans loathe the shortcut. Whether it’s steroids, or cutting in line at the DMV, or the perceived favoritism that welfare supposedly offers the poor to not work, we hate on the shortcuts. It’s bullshit though, right? We all know that money buys anything, but we dream that our society is a more egalitarian place. A place where hard work and vitamins can get you a $22M contract from the Orioles.

    And this is why cortisone shots, Schilling’s bloody sock, and the standard excuse when admitting to PEDs come into play: Recovering from injury. It’s the unemployment insurance of professional sports. We don’t fault those for whom unfortunate circumstances lead them to need that crutch to heal.

  8. Moses Green - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Right on brother. One very small quibble – use of past tense with ‘incentivized.’ Makes it seem like it’s not still happening with other PED’s, which it is. The incentivizing system is still in place, only the specific drugs in question have changed.

  9. BTfromVT - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    To quote Ice T “Dont hate the playa, hate the game.”

  10. Greg - Feb 5, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    Finally someone in the Reporters field said what everyone else outside of sports thinks. They all ignored it for selling more paperws, making owners richer & yes Bud Selig is the #1 culplrit. That all shucks thing he does sucks too.

  11. BC - Feb 5, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Of course he juiced for a contract. Look at Brady Anderson, Luis Gonzalez and Greg Vaughn. All of ‘em – one astronomical year that happened to be a contract year. It was all over the place.

  12. Wells - Feb 5, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Of all the apologies we’ve seen, I keep waiting for the most important one of all- that of Bud Selig. When will he bravely step forth and tell us of his regret over turning a blind eye and creating/fostering the steroids era?
    Please Mr. Selig! So I can sleep at night.

  13. Rays fan - Feb 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    Well said!
    I also agree with Moses Green. There’s still no testing for HGH, and the dollars involved mean that there will still be players trying to get an edge and labs willing to make “designer steroids” or perform blood doping, etc.
    One more thing to add with the temptations–PEDs are even in high school & college locker rooms in some places with kids hoping to big enough/fast enough/strong enough to get noticed by scouts to be drafted. They are in the minor league clubhouses with players hoping to break through to the majors as well of course.

  14. Bud Selig - Feb 5, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    I’m terribly sorry ….. that you have to continue to sleep like a vampire! BWAHAHAHAHA

  15. Rays fan - Feb 5, 2010 at 11:50 AM

    One other thing–I hope Javy’s statements do not lead to condemnation…not because I condone PED use, but because it’s part of illustrating just how widespread steroid use was before testing. I’d like every player who used them to feel they can come forward now without getting tarred and feathered.
    I also want the MLBPA to agree to blood testing to eliminate the ability to use HGH and blood doping techniques without detection.
    Without these two things–more/better testing & full/open discussion of the past, the PED era continues.

  16. homerboy - Feb 5, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    Yeah, man. I say more steroids not less. Why shouldn’t everyone take them? If we want to see the best athletes possible, we should want every pitcher throwing 95mph gas, every hitter smacking 600 foot bombs, every starting left fielder hitting 65 to 75 homers a year. Who doesn’t like that? I want to see Aaron’s stupid record broken 50 times in the next 20 years. That’s the game I want.

  17. marijuana pictures - Feb 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM

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  18. show me country gifts - Feb 5, 2010 at 4:15 PM

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  19. Epdog - Feb 7, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    Kudos to the guys at Atlantabaseball.com. Just got finished listening to the interview with Javy. Steve and Curt were restained and insightful. Once Javy got into the subject they just let him roll and it was a delight to hear. This is the stuff and approach that makes real news in an interview.

  20. CharlieH - Feb 7, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    If everyone took steroids in the same amount, or if every batter was allowed to use aluminum bats, or if pitchers were allowed to pitch with dead balls, if the game was equal for all the players, then that would be fair. Some players had major advantages over other players becuase of the use of PEDs. Some teams won more games, maybe World Series, because their players used PEDs. So there was a kind of fix going on. I don’t like cheating. I don’t like teams that cheat and win, I don’t like players that game the system. The steroid era is hopefully over with, at least for MLB. That doesn’t mean people will forget what happened. Players and teams cheated and got away with it. Making excuses doesn’t change anything.

  21. Gary - Feb 15, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    Javy admitted trying steroids in a Mar. 2, 2003 Washington Post article by Amy Shipley. The article, mostly about greenies, was entitled “Stimulants are a Major League Hit”.
    For those putting together a timeline, that was spring training before his monster contract season. And for the O’s fan who posted a reply, that was 10 months before the O’s signed him.

  22. Gary - Feb 15, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    Just to clarify. I’m not bringing this up to condemn Javy. I’m bringing it up to demonstrate that the leagues didn’t care before outside pressure forced them to care.

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