In a recent article that he wrote himself for the Chicago Sun-Times, former White Sox pitcher Jim Parque has come clean about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 when he was attempting to come back from shoulder injuries. Most of us have suspected Parque as PED user (HGH) since the Mitchell Report came out, and today’s article confirms those suspicions.
My visceral reaction while reading the article also confirms, at least to me, that every former PED user should do the exact same thing that Parque has done.
I am not going to fill this post with excerpts or try to over-summarize the article. Â Parque wrote it himself and I believe it is important enough to warrant being consumed fully in his own words. Â However, before I link you there and then move on with my reactions, I will pull out the following quote because it is the most compelling statement that Parque makes:
“As long as it is not hurting others” is the quandary I struggled with when I decided to take HGH. Who am I responsible to, the game or my family? Even though the game gave me a lot, my family means everything to me, and I must put them first. Were they going to starve if I stopped playing? No, but I did not want to sacrifice our lifestyle or put them in a situation in which ”the unknown” was dictating our future.
Did I hurt people? Did I disgrace baseball? Yes, but I was trying to preserve a financial future, keep my family’s lifestyle intact and keep a lifelong journey alive.
Follow the link to read Jim Parque’s HGH admission at the Chicago Sun-TimesÂ in its entirety. Â The following article by Joe Cowley also provides a little bit of the backstory behind Parque’s decision to come forward about this HGH use.
And here is what I would like to say to Jim Parque: kudos to you man.
While I think Parque comes off as even more defensive and apologetic than he needs to be, his article is undeniably genuine and absolutely should be a lesson for the multitudes of other baseball players who faced similar situations and made similar decisions.
I have long been frustrated with the performance-enhancing drug problem in baseball, and have discussed these frustrations a lot here at MSF. Â Clearly one of the reasons is that spectacular feats like the Summer of Big Mac and Sammy, and Barry Bonds’ records, among many others, now seem tainted and dirty. Â But more profound than even the disgust at not knowing what numbers and feats to trust is the consistent disappointment of learning that the athletes I adored, and whose every move I followed, could turn out to be liars and cheats.
I am someone who is still in that somewhat awkward mid- to late-20s transition phase where you go from innocent, idealistic kid to the more realistic and perhaps even jaded perspective of a man. Â Only over the last few years have I truly been able to let go of my old notions of baseball, and the sports world as a whole, as this idyllic place where everything is “pure” and the laws of human nature that govern the rest of life do not apply. Â And this applies to much more than just performance-enhancing drug use to include the myriad examples of legal troubles and other character issues we see on an almost daily basis.
To use a book/movie reference, if the world was Middle Earth I always perceived the sports world to be The Shire. Â I’d imagine that’s not uncommon for someone like me to have such a perception, someone who grows up the son of a college football coach living a fun and carefree life in which the players that you watch and idolize on Saturday are your baby-sitters, and pick you up from school sometimes when Mom or Dad can’t, and treat you like a king in the locker room, and on and on.Â
This leads me to the most prominent reason why baseball’s sordid recent history of lying, cheating drug use has disappointed me so much. Â I was innocent enough, and foolish enough, to define my consistent and unyielding fandom with blind faith. Â And now that this blind faith has been violated, repeatedly, it’s disappointing. Â But I have not stopped loving baseball, or stopped trying to give the players the benefit of the doubt in every situation; yet, I feel completely taken advantage of because those same players whose livelihood I support by being a yearly, daily, hourly, passionate fan have not respected me enough to “man up” (to use Parque’s phrase) and just be honest.
And that is why I think Jim Parque’s admission of HGH use in today’s Sun-Times should serve as a lesson to every baseball player, past and present, who has succumbed to the pressure of fans, their family, and their own dreams and ambitions.
The truth is that baseball and the sports world never was this Shire-like place, immune from the realities of the real world. The sports world is, in many ways, very much a reflection of the real world. And although kids growing up idolize athletes and entertainers for reasons borne out of idealistic adoration, I think we can actually learn more from them and have a healthier “relationship” with them by acknowledging and embracing the fact that they wake up to many of the same realities and tough decisions that we all do.
Sadly, the vast majority of PED-using athletes haven’t given us much to learn from. Â They have, quite to the contrary, given us much to be scornful of by not showing fans any respect as they try to cover up and hide the fact that they made the very human and understandable decision to seek out an edge in pursuit of their dreams and in pursuit of prosperity and security for their families.
I’ll never condone a player using steroids or HGH because I think it is wrong; does that mean that I don’t empathize or sympathize with the reality of the situation that led them to such a choice? Absolutely not. And certainly there are differences in magnitude. Jim Parque used HGH one time, immediately regretted it, then stopped and ultimately apologized. It is easy to define his PED usage as a mistake in judgment because it was short-lived. Thus, his burden for contrition in my eyes is less than that of a player who used PEDs consistently and never had the integrity and/or conscience to stop out of either regret or fear of the long-term impact of future health problems on his family.Â
But even a larger burden of contrition can be overcome with forthright admissions. Why don’t more players and even Major League Baseball itself realize this? I can completely understand and sympathize with the decision to use PEDs, but I will never understand that.
The truth is that while I think and hope that I’d never make a similar decision, I am not pretentious enough to guarantee it. If I was close to getting a scholarship to play basketball at Indiana, for instance, and someone told me that if I injected this substance and then worked my ass off that it would probably come true, I’d like to think I would have enough integrity to dismiss it offhand; but would I, in the heat of that moment with my lifelong dream hanging in the balance?
The most honestly certain statement I can make is that I hope I would, and I think I would. I can, however,Â say one thing with certainty: if I did, there is no way I would be able to look people in the face and say I didn’t, or just retreat from view so I didn’t have to address it. At some point, character and integrity and respect for my sport and my fans would beckon and I’d have to come clean.
So, once again, I say kudos to Jim Parque for doing just that.
Read Jim Parque’s article and you get a much clearer insight into the mindset that led some people to cheat. While some people cheated for Bonds-like reasons of wanting to be the best and because it was the only fuel strong enough to power their massive egos, other lower profile guys like Parque cheated just to hang onto the only spot in their life where they felt confident that they could succeed and provide for their family. Is such thinking a bit irrational? Perhaps a little. But that doesn’t mean it was not an honest feeling followed by an honest mistake.
What is preventing more players from taking Parque’s route and just admitting this? For drug addicts who are rich and famous, rising drug rehab prices should not be a concern for them, nor should they be so reluctant to tell the truth. I have to think that plenty of baseball fans are sitting here, like I am, disappointed but willing to understand and even forgive. Treat people with respect and humility — and that is what Parque has done for fans by writing this piece — and typically you get the same in return. If you choose to be disrespectful, arrogant, and concerned only with yourself, like the vast majority of past and present cheating players have been, don’t be surprised when you are treated with anger, vitriol, and then ultimately with scornful indifference.
Go ahead and blame fans all you want for speculating about and discussing steroids and HGH and who might be using, but it’s not a function of a flaw inherent in fans; it’s a function of the flaws of selfishness and disrespect inherent in so many athletes in so many sports who take their duty to build an honest relationship with fans for granted. And before anyone disagrees and asks why an athlete should be responsible for building an honest relationship with fans, and not just for focusing on performing at their highest level, ask an athlete if they’d play their sport for free.
Because without the fans, that would be the reality.
I have never begrudged an athlete from making as much money as they can, but I do get a little peeved when they forget where that money comes from. Jim Parque did not forget this. And I understand that many athletes have used PEDs in part because of their desire to perform for their fans and not disappoint them. Again, I understand. Just tell me. Be honest. Be open. Respect me enough to know that I will have the ability to empathize with the reality of the pressures athletes face and with the reality of being a human being in the world we all share.
Respect me like Jim Parque did.Â
Jim Parque now has my respect in return, in addition to my understanding and forgiveness. He made a genuine mistake and owned up to it. That’s all I, and most other fans I come into contact with, are asking. If you cheated us once, or even multiple times, don’t keep cheating us with more lies and sad, pathetic strategies of diversion. Man up.Â
Thank you Jim for being one of the few athletes to step up and set an example. I really hope that more players follow suit because it will be as meaningful as any testing program, if not moreseo, in helping us all move past one of the most disappointing and disrespectful eras in the history of sports.
* – Jim Parque card image credit: Baseball Cube
* – Rafael Palmeiro photo credit: Deadspin
* – Jim Parque photo credit: Seattle Times