By Steve Czaban Special to Published Aug 02, 2006 at 5:03 AM
The names are coming fast and furious these days.

Jason Grimsley, Floyd Landis, Justin Gatlin.

Another day, another athlete stitched with the “Scarlet S.”

Meanwhile, the quest to bag Barry Bonds continues. The feds play Captain Ahab. Bonds, does indeed put the “dick” into Moby Dick.

We here in the media simply say: “Call us Ishmael.”

There’s a pervasive fanaticism about so called “performance enhancing substances.” It makes me uneasy. Every time I hear that Dick Pound guy open his sanctimonious yap, I want to shove my fist in it.

Let’s be brutally honest for a moment folks. Sports are competitive. And those at the pinnacle – regardless of the sport – didn’t get there by a desire to just be average.

Driven athletes with a commitment to winning will find any possible edge they can. Some of them are perfectly “legal” while others are not.

And the list keeps changing.

Bonds and company were forced to change their tactics only once the gasbags in Congress got involved. Until that point, the players all knew guys were using “stuff.” The union made sure to keep all the pee cups on the sidelines. And the owners went back to counting the gate.

In other words: “What’s the problem?”

It was the outside world’s sudden re-districting of what’s OK, and what is not, that threw everything into turmoil.

The logic of what is “unnatural” performance enhancement always amuses me. In baseball, you can take B-12 shots, but not amphetamines. You can have your eyesight lazered to 20/20 to better hit fastballs. But you are a “cheater” if you take a steroid to allow your blown out pitching elbow heal faster.

Players have been “enhancing” their performance “unnaturally” forever. What do you think video swing analysis is? How good would Ben Hogan have been, if he got to work on his swing moves in an air-conditioned range stall with a three-camera computer replay set-up?

How devastating would Babe Ruth have been, if somebody gave him a laptop showing the pitch sequence he faced the last dozen times he went to the plate against the pitcher he’s facing that day?

The entire right-side body armor Bonds straps on every at-bat would surely have helped “enhance” the performance of someone like former Senators slugger Frank Howard. It's not just that his generation not have form-fitting, hi-impact plastic to help them smother the inside black. They also never got to face nervous pitchers in fear of getting a first-beanball ejection from the umps just because both sides had been “warned” about starting a beanball war.

If hitting “performance” didn’t improve with all of those “unnatural” things, then we would really have a problem.

If you asked me, I’d say that not only is Landis guilty of taking “something” to help him with the Tour De France, but also that Lance Armstrong had to have something up his spandex yellow sleeve. Lance won both the race  seven times, but also the game of testing clean. Call him a double champion!

Who can really get mad about all this anyway?

They are just athletes trying to win. “Cheaters?” Please. That implies that they did nothing along the way. What Bonds did – like McGwire before him – was spectacular. And most of us would have gladly rooted for him, if not for his standing of being two steps below “herpes” on the scale of likeability.

If you worship numbers in baseball, then I can see why you are mad. But here’s an idea.

Stop worshipping numbers.

Even baseball numbers – which have the most comparative relevance of any sport – still don’t relay any context about the era in which they were compiled. Every time Bonds’ single season HR mark comes up, there will be the obligatory “yeah, but …”

You don’t need an asterisk for that. Everybody knows it.

Caring about Hack Wilson’s RBI record is absurd when black players were still 17 years away from cracking the major league color barrier.

The primary reason sports entities ban certain “substances” is because they are potentially dangerous to one’s health. Fine. Figure out which ones you can’t use, try not to keep re-writing that list every 15 minutes, and stop lecturing the fans.

We really don’t care as much as guys like Dick Pound think we do.
Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.