The Floyd Landis case has moved, as these things always do, to the realm of religion.
You either believe the drug testers, who say that Landis' urine contained an elevated testosterone level and evidence of a synthetic version of the hormone, and that there is no explanation other than Landis' guilt, or you believe the Tour de France champion, who says, "There are possibly hundreds of reasons why this test could be this way."
Landis also says UCI, the international cycling federation, has stacked the deck against him by divulging test results before he'd seen them, "forcing me to try and defend myself when I had no idea what was going on," and by misrepresenting the quality of the evidence against him.
"It appears as though there is more of an agenda here than just enforcing the rules," he said.
Whichever way you believe, there's probably very little anyone can do to bring you to the other side.
There are still people out there, I'm told, who believe Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are innocent victims, just as there are those who believe the Earth is flat, dinosaurs never existed and Dennis Rodman was a more valuable basketball player than Michael Jordan.
Those of us in the typing classes like to grant ourselves medical degrees at times like this, chatting confidently about epitestosterone levels and hematocrit counts and rates of synthesis. Most of us don't know what we're talking about.
Or, well, I should only speak for myself. I don't know what I'm talking about. I had to look up that testosterone is a hormone. I didn't even take biology and I had to go to summer school for chemistry, forgetting most of what I learned by Labor Day. The rest I had wrong in the first place.
But I believe, my friends, that most of us don't know what we're talking about. Our keys are like rosaries. We believe or don't, and we finger them accordingly.
We like the cut of Floyd Landis' jib or think the anti-drug people are corrupt and agenda-driven, or we figure that all of Landis' "hundreds of reasons" can be summed up the way USA Today columnist Christine Brennan did: "We have entered 'The Dog Ate My Homework' phase of the sports world's Steroid Era."
Not that it should mean anything to anybody, because I'm just another guy trying to sort out a he said/they said, but I'm with Brennan. Preach it, sister:
"Amid the excuses and stories over the past 34 years, we actually have been able to figure out the No. 1 reason people test positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
"Because they took it."
I believe that. But here's what I know: Stripping Landis of his Tour de France crown and instituting tougher testing methods, two things sure to happen, aren't going to end the drug plague. Circumstantial evidence, to coin a phrase -- or, rather, history -- tells us that.
How to wage the war on drugs is, as always, the billion-dollar question. For such a high-priced problem, it's funny that only one solution is ever considered, and it's one that has been tried over and over again and found wanting.
Unless you believe Landis -- and most everybody else -- is clean.
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Annoying quote of the week [PERMALINK]
"It is a good feeling. It's exciting. This is something that I can get back on track. I haven't been in the playoffs for so long and I'm trying to get back."
That's Javier Lopez after being traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Boston Red Sox Friday.
Haven't been to the playoffs for so long? Lopez was in the playoffs with the Atlanta Braves in 2003, three whole years ago. That was his ninth career playoff appearance. And that's not counting 1999, when he was on a yet another Braves playoff team but didn't play in the postseason because he was hurt.
Lopez hasn't been to the playoffs since way, way back in ought-three because he chose to sign as a free agent after that season with the Orioles, a mess of a franchise that at the time had had six straight losing seasons, a streak that will reach nine unless the Orioles win 31 of their last 49 games, which they aren't going to do.
Here's a short list of Lopez's catching contemporaries who are way better than he is, but have played in fewer than nine postseasons, none of them more recent than 2003.
Mike Piazza: 4 postseasons (most recently in 2000)
Ivan Rodriguez: 4 (2003)
Here are some more players significantly better than Lopez, with the number of career postseason appearances and their most recent playoff season:
Barry Bonds: 7 (2003)
Frank Thomas: 2 (2000 -- injured in 2005, did not play)
Ken Griffey Jr.: 2 (1997)
Nomar Garciaparra: 3 (2003)
Jim Thome: 6 (2001)
I could go on almost forever. I don't know why that quote bugs me so much. But it does.
I know three years is a long time to wait for something that's really, really great. But when you've been lucky about something to a historic degree, to lament that you've gone through a fallow period that's a relative blip and also largely of your own choosing reveals not only a fundamental failure to understand what baseball's all about but also a complete lack of regard for your contemporaries.
What a yutz. If the Red Sox weren't fighting the New York Yankees for a playoff spot, I might root against them just to keep Lopez out. I might do that anyway.
(Pokes the Toronto Blue Jays.) Any signs of life there?
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