Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz denies he ever knowingly used steroids


Critics of David Ortiz may always have their doubts about him, but the Boston Red Sox slugger left little doubt about his stance on the subject of performance-enhancing drugs. He is not a cheater.

We’ve waited years for Ortiz to provide an explanation as to why his name appeared on a list of players who failed a drug test in 2003. In a strongly worded first-person essay on the Players’ Tribune website, Ortiz reiterated that he never knowingly used steroids.

"“In some people’s minds, I will always be considered a cheater,” writes Ortiz. “And that’s bull(expletive). Mark my words: Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me. You know how many times I’ve been tested since 2004? More than 80. They say these test are random. If it’s really random, I should start playing the damn lottery. Some people still think the testing is a joke. It’s no joke. Ten times a season these guys come into the clubhouse or my home with their briefcases. I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will.”"

No matter how many times he denies it, Ortiz will never be able to convince everyone. It’s not fair that a player that has so much pride in his work ethic is having his accomplishments, as well as his integrity, called into question. Especially since the Mitchell Report isn’t exactly the smoking gun that many believe it to be.

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Ortiz’s name surfaced in relation to steroid use in 2009, when the New York Times reported that he was among a list of players that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Here’s the thing – we don’t know exactly what Ortiz tested positive for. We don’t know because Ortiz doesn’t even know. He explains that when he inquired about the details of what he tested positive for, he was told this information could not legally be given to him because the results of the tests were never supposed to have been revealed publicly to begin with.

Ortiz attests that he has never taken anything that couldn’t be purchased over-the-counter at your local GNC. It’s well known that baseball players will consume any supplement they can get their hands on, as long as it’s deemed to be legal, in order to get through the grueling 162 game schedule. Prior to the Mitchell Report, there was no reason for players to suspect that these over-the-counter supplements weren’t legal because players had never been specifically told this. Then all of a sudden they are blindsided with the news that pills they had purchased at the mall contain a form of steroid that they never knew about.

"“If you think I’m full of it, go to your kitchen cabinet right now and read the back of the supplement bottle and honestly tell me you know what all that stuff is,” Ortiz challenged his critics. “I’m not driving across the border to Mexico buying some shady pills from a drug dealer. I’m in a strip mall across from the Dunkin Donuts, bro.”"

The reason MLB and the player’s association agreed to the testing in 2003 was because they wanted to determine what players were taking in order to set a standard. The results of these tests helped the league determine which products should be considered performance-enhancers. If the league didn’t have clear guidelines to inform players of what not to take prior to that, how would players like Ortiz know any better?

Ortiz explains that players are now much more conscious of what they put in their bodies. They have to be. He is adamant that he is clean, which can be supported by the endless amount of tests that he’s passed. Yet there are those that still want to tarnish his name. Why, because he’s an aging player that still manages to produce prolific numbers? That proves nothing, but it seems enough to condemn him in the court of public opinion.

An unfortunate side effect of the steroid era is that most players aren’t given the benefit of the doubt. There are some skeptics that still believe that steroid use runs rampant throughout the sport and refuse to believe that Ortiz passing random drug tests clears him of any wrongdoing.

Aug 25, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) on the bench against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Boston defeated Toronto 4-3 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Seriously? If fooling these tests is so easy, why are players still getting caught? Performance-enhancing drugs may never be completely eliminated from the game. There will always be someone that thinks they can outsmart the system, but eventually they are likely to slip up and get caught. If the vast majority of players were still cheating, the number of players testing positive wouldn’t be dwindling. If the game was still full of juiced up sluggers, we’d be seeing more players producing the kind of video game numbers that started to become common in the mid-90’s. Instead, offense around the majors is in decline.

Last season the league average for runs scored across the league was 4.07 runs per game, which is the lowest league average since 1981. For the first time since the strike-shortened season in 1994, no team managed to eclipse 800 runs. Teams have surpassed that mark 167 times since 1995, while 32 of those teams have topped 900 runs in a season. Last year no team came close, continuing a trend of declining offense that has been going on for the past several years. That’s not a coincidence.

The game of baseball may not be completely clean, but it’s certainly a lot cleaner than it was. We have plenty of evidence to support this, which is more than we can say for the evidence against Ortiz. The Mitchell Report will forever link his name to performance-enhancing drugs, but there’s little reason not to take Ortiz at his word that he never knowingly used a banned substance.

We wanted an explanation from Ortiz and we finally got one. In his own words, he is not a cheater. Whether or not people believe him will play a role in how his legacy is viewed over the years and effect his chances of being elected into the Hall of Fame once his career comes to an end. It’s unfair to him, but there is little more Ortiz can do to convince anyone. There will always be a shadow of doubt lingering over his career, but don’t blame Ortiz for this. Blame the era that he played in.

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