Jeff Mullin / commentary

Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, I thank you for the opportunity to testify before you in your ongoing quest to rid journalism of the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs.

Let me begin by admitting publicly, for the first time, I have taken steroids.

I did it not to add more muscle mass to my already buff body -- madam senator, please try to restrain your laughter -- but to treat a near-fatal condition.

OK, perhaps near-fatal isn't quite the right term. What it was, was poison ivy.

It wasn't my fault, senators, it was golf. Well, maybe not golf as a whole, but a golf ball.

It wasn't even my golf ball, but that of a guy I was playing with. He whomped it off into the weeds and plunged into the undergrowth looking for it.

So I did what any self-respecting golfer would do. I chuckled. Then I plunged in after him. Heck, who knew how many other golf balls I might find in there.

We thrashed around in the thicket for several minutes. It was kind of like Stanley looking for Livingston, except Livingston didn't have Titlist stamped across his forehead.

To tell you the truth, I don't even remember if we found the thing or not, but after a while we resumed our game and the incident was all but forgotten.

It was, that is, until the next day, when I started to itch. My legs itched, my arms itched. I itched in places not written about in the pages of family newspapers.

And I didn't just itch, I broke out. OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't just break out, I erupted.

Big, ugly things began popping up all over my body. No, madam senator, that's my head. It's been that way all my life. I appreciate your condolences.

I itched, I had a wicked rash over most of my body, I was a mess. So I turned to my doctor.

"My, that's impressive," said the doc when I pulled up my pant leg to reveal a blister the size of a golf ball. No, senator, the irony was not lost on me.

So he prescribed steroids. It was supposed to help the itching, but every time I took one I swear I could feel my biceps growing, and I had an overwhelming urge to speak with an Austrian accent and to raise taxes in California.

I am saying all this today, ladies and gentlemen of the committee, because I did not want to come off as a hypocrite and a liar, like Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles.

I did not want to come before you and sanctimoniously proclaim I had never taken steroids, period, complete with the overly dramatic finger pointing, only to have someone prove later I had. How embarrassing that would be.

In truth, I thought about ducking the issue by saying I wanted to focus on the future, not the past, like Mark McGwire, or by pretending I had lost the grasp of the English language, like Sammy Sosa. What's that, senator? You say you've read my stuff and you would believe I had lost the ability to speak English? Very funny.

I happen to believe in the integrity of the newspaper game, so I wanted to come clean. Oh, and I also use spell-check, dictionaries and a thesaurus, as well. I tried pine tar, as well, but my fingers kept sticking to the keys.

I wanted the news, and the craft of journalism, to be the fans' primary focus, not who among us was juiced on steroids.

In baseball, the winning and losing is becoming almost secondary. The real drama doesn't involve pennant races or trade rumors, but the issue of who is using and who isn't.

We used to stare in wonder at the female East German Olympic athletes who were built like tree trunks, had facial hair and sang bass. We also winked knowingly when they would set another world record. We knew it was simply another case of better living through chemistry.

So now we look the same way at baseball. Remember the old commercial that asked "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" Today the question is, "Is it real, or is it 'roids?"

Palmeiro must subscribe to the theory espoused by comedian W.C. Fields, who once said "A thing worth having is a thing worth cheating for."

Which, of course, is a load of bull droppings, a substance with which you senators are all too familiar.

Mullin is senior writer of the News -- Eagle.

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