Rewarding cheaters to Hall of Fame hurts message Don Hooton and others trying to spread

A JULY 23, 2007 FILE PHOTO

Bill Madden, NY Daily News, May 5, 2017

Ever since 2003, when his own son, Taylor, committed suicide after suffering from depression as a result of using anabolic steroids, Don Hooton has embarked on a determined and often lonely mission to educate the youth of America about the dangers of PEDs.

A week ago, Hooton — whose Taylor Hooton Foundation has now affiliated with Major League Baseball and has “All Me” advisory board members on all 30 teams, including Brett Gardner with the Yankees and Neil Walker and Jay Bruce with the Mets — conducted a public forum at the National Press Club in Washington in which a special panel of physicians, foremost authorities on drugs and officials of the U.S. Doping Agency reached a consensus that the use of PEDs in America has reached epidemic levels. Among the findings: 20-25% of dietary supplements — the kind you can buy over the counter — are spiked with anabolic steroids while nearly four million people in the U.S. are using PEDs.

In a telephone conversation Thursday, Don Hooton, who really hopes he’s making a difference and helping to save lives, admitted to being alarmed. But even more ominously, he also admits to being somewhat discouraged his message to young kids is going to get lost if Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are elected to the Hall of Fame.

“Let me first say, that Major League Baseball is so far ahead of all the other sports insofar as drug testing, education efforts and eliminating steroids and supplements from the game, it’s a no contest,” Hooton said. “At the same time, though, when you see these players, like (Starling) Marte and Dee Gordon getting busted by baseball right after getting those big contracts, what message are these kids going to take away from that? They listen to what we have to say, how steroids can kill you, and they say, ‘well even though the risk of getting caught is small, even if you do get caught, $31 million (Marte’s deal with the Pirates) doesn’t sound so bad.’”

That’s the monetary reward for cheating. The ultimate reward, Hooton said, is the Hall of Fame where, lately, he has taken dead aim on the candidacies of Bonds and Clemens, and his concern that, after the last election in which the two of them got over 50% for the time in five years on the ballot, the Baseball Writers may be softening in their stance on cheaters. It was bad enough when, after enlisting Alex Rodriguez to be his primary foundation spokesman on the evils of steroids, we all learned that A-Rod was still using and that everything he’d been telling Hooton’s kids was B.S. That, admitted Hooton, was a huge setback. But rewarding Bonds and Clemens with plaques in Cooperstown, well….

“That would be the ultimate message to kids that cheaters win,” Hooton declared. “After all the tough talk about PEDs and now we’re back to looking the other way again? It seems there’s a new crop of writers who are willing to let all that happened (in the steroids era) go under the bridge. It’s dulled our senses.”

When I told him the arguments voters for Bonds and Clemens bring up — “they were Hall-of-Famers before they started using steroids”… “they never failed a drug test”… “there’s no telling who was doing what in the ‘90’s” — Hooton laughed.

 “This is not a court of law,” he said. “It’s a court of public opinion. The jury of young people are not stupid. They’ve seen the before and after pictures of Bonds. They don’t need proof to know he was a cheater. I don’t understand why the writers do.”

In all probability the writers have already elected cheaters to the Hall of Fame. Pudge Rodriguez, most notably, has the same “before and after” pictures Bonds has. And I hated to tell Hooton that a decision the Baseball Writers made at their meeting last December — to make their ballots public next year “in the name of transparency” — could make it even easier for Bonds and Clemens to get elected.

I hope I’m wrong, but if the ballots were made public, the stigma of being castigated on social media might prompt a lot of voters to use all ten spots on the ballot, voting for candidates they would never have considered voting for, just to cover themselves. This, in turn, could result in a floodgate of people being elected. For that reason, I can see the Hall’s Board of Directors, rejecting the writers’ “transparency” decision in their meeting in Cooperstown next July. (It should be noted, secret ballots are the way of the land, are they not?)

For now Hooton can only do what he does, which is to call attention to the steroids epidemic in this country “which is hidden in plain sight” and for which there is no textbook a doctor can use to diagnose or treat. Bonds and Clemens and their like are a side issue that merely make his mission harder.

“I don’t talk to the writers,” he said, “but if I did, I would tell them: ‘If you believe these guys cheated, stand up as a responsible adult and do the right the thing.’”

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/hall-fame-vote-cheaters-sends-discouraging-message-article-1.3138569

 

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