Alex Rodriguez: Steroids and Sexism

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THERE ARE MANY REASONS to be disappointed
in Alex ‘ARod’ Rodriguez. While
many sportswriters and pundits at ESPN
have spilled gallons of ink and use hours
of airtime flagellating Rodriguez for his
alleged lies and steroid use, they have
missed a crucial and not yet condemned
act perpetrated by ARod—his deplorable and overt sexist
treatment of Sports Illustrated journalist Selena Roberts
who broke the story about Rodriguez’s steroid use.
In order to understand the ARod steroid scandal, one
must be aware of some history. In 2003, the owners, Commissioner
Bud Selig, and the Major League Baseball Players’
Association (MLBPA) agreed to conduct anonymous testing
of players to see how prevalent the use of performance
enhancing drugs was in baseball. The agreement stated that
if more than 5% of the players in the sample tested positive,
Major League Baseball would institute a testing policy with
punishments for positive tests. If fewer than 5% of the
players tested positive, there would be no testing policy.
Any players that tested positive in this survey were to suffer
no repercussions and their names were to remain anonymous.
This should have been the end of the story.
However, the MLBPA failed to destroy the list of 104
players who tested positive. Federal authorities discovered
this list during their raid of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative
(BALCO) to gather more evidence in a wide-ranging
illegal steroid distribution probe. Alex Rodriguez’s name
was on the list along with 103 other players.
Sports Illustrated journalist Selena Roberts broke the
story that ARod’s name was on the 2003 list and that he
tested positive for use of the steroid primobolan. Roberts
had four sources confirming this information before she
went to print. The news that Rodriguez was confirmed as a
user of illegal steroids was significant because ARod had
previously denied using any steroids or performance
enhancing drugs during an interview with Katie Couric on
“60 Minutes” in 2007. Public perception was quickly shifting
from believing that Rodriguez was ‘clean’ to suspecting
him of cheating.
ARod and his public relations staff quickly went into
damage control and they scheduled an interview with veteran
baseball reporter Peter Gammons on ESPN. During the
interview, Rodriguez addressed the allegations put forth by
Roberts. He stated: “What makes me upset is Sports Illustrated
pays this lady Roberts to stalk me. This lady has been
thrown out of my apartment in New York City. This lady
has, five days ago she was thrown out of the University of
Miami police for trespassing. And four days ago she tried to
break into my house while my girls are up there sleeping,
and got cited by the Miami Beach Police. I have the paper
here. And this lady’s coming out with all these allegations,
all these lies, because she’s writing an article for Sports Illustrated.
And she’s coming out with a book in May. And really
respectable journalists are following this lady off the cliff,
and following her lead. And that to me is unfortunate.”
Women have fought and continue to fight unfair,
unjustified stereotypes and prejudice about their abilities
in the workplace. In the past, it was believed that women’s
emotions prevented them from doing certain jobs and
yielding the benefit of things like higher education. ARod’s
statement used debunked ideas about concerns of whether
or not women have the emotional capacity to carry out
their job as a professional in order to deflect blame from
his own choices that were exposed.
Similarly, Rodriguez’s use of the word “stalker” was
highly inappropriate. Reporters, both male and female,
routinely try to get comments and be in the vicinity of
those whom they are covering. It is good journalism, not
stalking. The use of this term contains some very loaded
gender ramifications. The use of the word “stalker” conjures
up the idea of a mentally unstable woman pulled
straight out of a film like Fatal Attraction and the character
that Glen Close portrayed. This sexist imagery was again
used to denigrate Roberts’ journalistic credibility to
absolve Rodriguez of culpability in these allegations.
ARod also stated, “really respectable journalists are following
this lady of the cliff, and following her lead” to finish
his opinion about the veracity of Roberts’ claims. Rodriguez
used the gender dynamics of the situation to portray
Roberts—a journalist for Sports Illustrated and The New
York Times—as an overly emotional, unprofessional, mentally
unstable woman that seems obsessed with a young,
single man. But nowhere in this rant did Gammons or ESPN
interrupt him or question his statements. Gammons and
ESPN chose not to defend a fellow sports journalist.
While Rodriguez’s blatant sexism was deplorable, it was
later confirmed that certain facts in his rant did not conform
to reality. While Rodriguez alleged that Roberts had
attempted to break into his home, Miami Beach and Coral
Gables police have no record of Selena Roberts being
arrested, stopped or cited. Likewise, Peter Gammons, who
interviewed ARod during the infamous ESPN interview
stated: “My first question asked if Selena’s story were true,
he essentially admitted it was, and I believed she was
therefore vindicated.”
On February 16, 2009, CNN reported that Alex
Rodriguez had called Selena Roberts and apologized to her
for his sexist ESPN rant and that the allegations that she
was a stalker were unwarranted and not based in fact.
Roberts’ story has continually been shown to be true. More
recent media admissions by ARod state that he did use the
steroid primobolan for the period of time alleged by
Roberts’ in her article.
Rodriguez’s statements to the media have continued to
be less than truthful. His assertion that primobolan was
available ovzer the counter in the Dominican Republic
(where he admitted to using it from 2001 to 2003) was
found to be untrue. The New York Daily News is now
reporting that a personal trainer, Angel Presinal, has been
connected to ARod as late as the 2007 season. This trainer
has been repeatedly connected to the use and possession
of steroids and performance enhancing substances since
2001. Presinal’s reputation has earned him the infamy of
being banned from ever Major League Baseball clubhouse.
As Alex Rodriguez’s career and credibility falls apart
before our eyes, it is commendable that the public did not
fall for his appeals to blatant sexism to blunt allegations of his
own illegal behavior. While ARod did eventually apologize
for his sexist diatribe and to Selena Roberts, the use of sexism
as a means of scapegoating is not acceptable, especially for an
athlete with global recognition like Alex Rodriguez.

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