Today I will unburden myself, engage in full disclosure, and permit the unvarnished truth to emerge: I am guilty of taking a performance-enhancing substance.
My excuses are manifold; I was in my twenties, and I was single, and perhaps most damning, I lived in Akron, Ohio, a Gomorroah of lawlessness and abundant rubber products. And so when a friend tipped me off to a substance called "creatine," I tried it, presuming that even if it didn't improve my biceps, perhaps it would somehow pump up my medulla oblongata, allowing me to compose brilliant copy about high-school football while working on deadline and thereby enabling me to sign a 10-year, $252-million contract to cover Andover High School for the Boston Globe. I bought this creatine from a shady character who used to hang out at the Summit Mall, wearing a bright-red shirt, dressed as an employee of a flashy front that referred to itself as "General Nutrition Center." Six months later, burdened by guilt and boredom, I gave it up. My performance in every single area of life, as far as I could tell, was exactly the same, though I may have improved slightly at billiards.
Today, despite the enormous toll creatine took on my life,* it remains a legal substance. "Everyone consistently using creatine is making HUGE, AMAZING gains!" claims one bodybuilding website, which also offers me the opportunity to "GET SHREDDED LIKE ABZILLA!"**. Since I am older now, and not particularly interested in shredding myself, I no longer make deals with shopping-mall pushers. But this is what appears to have happened with Rashard Lewis, who took something store-bought and made from wild yams (because everyone knows of the health dangers of farm-raised yams) and is now paying the piper.
Lewis claims he was taking something called DHEA, which supposedly produces testosterone, and happens to be readily available on two full shelves at your neighborhood Vitamin Shoppe. According to experts, it doesn't work particularly well, but it is also perfectly legal, and so I'm not sure why I should care much at all about the fact that Rashard Lewis stimulated the economy with his GNC Gold Card. At this stage, I am like the rest of you, including, I'm guessing, Rashard Lewis himself; I am hopelessly confused. I no longer have any idea what is real and what isn't anymore, and I have no idea what any of these substances do and why some are legal and some aren't, and why some are banned and some aren't--and as usual, this is baseball's fault, because baseball fooled us for so long, because baseball altered our perceptions and broke our trust and wounded us so badly that it eliminated any intelligent and rational and nuanced conversation over these issues, and now many of us struggle to discern the difference between a man who walks into a Vitamin Shoppe and someone who purchases horse tranquilizers from a Bolivian cocaine dealer. If the standard for cheating can be found at the mall, then we are all users; me, you and ABZILLA! are all varying degrees of the same desperate and curious human.
But at least my conscience is clear.
*Which essentially consists of my friend Chuck, whenever the topic arises, referring to me as a "rampant and unapologetic steroid user."
**Little-known fact: ABZILLA! once defeated Moth-Ra without the use of his hands or feet.