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A big liar, and a bigger man, face the truth

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2009 - Two stories broke on Saturday and the men behind them had a chance to tell their side. I believe one guy; I think the other is being less than truthful.

David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox announced during a press conference at Yankees Stadium that he has no idea how his name ended up on a list of players that failed a steroid screening test in 2003.

“Big Papi” swears he has never used or purchased steroids. He did admit to “being careless” in his use of supplements and vitamins, which he said he purchased in both the United States and Dominican Republic. Naturally, he said he has long since given them up. Nor can he remember exactly what products he used.

Sorry, folks, but I think Big Papi is a big liar. For Ortiz to claim he did not know what he was putting in his system is a crock. And his testament that a solid diet and exercise is all he or any athlete needs to enhance performance really did make me LOL.

Ortiz’ numbers were so-so until he got to Boston. Then his production shot up dramatically. He helped his team win two World Series, including the historic sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and another in 2007.

His teammate Manny Ramirez apparently is on the same list from 2003, failed a performance enhancement test this year and, like Ortiz, has been a suspected steroid user for years.

Throw in the fact that Major League Baseball investigated two Boston Red Sox employees late last season for a connection to steroids. Drugs were found in a vehicle of one guy and he “dropped a dime” saying he got them from the other guy. One of the scoundrels is the son of Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy.

Ramirez was traded to Los Angeles and Ortiz continued to play with the Red Sox while this investigation unfolded. Both employees, who were fired, said they had no “first-hand” knowledge of steroid use by the two players.

Yet Ortiz tells the world he has no idea what triggered his test failure in 2003 and that he has never used a steroid or performance enhancer.

All that Ortiz is attempting to avoid is embarrassment. He’s not a future Hall of Famer. No one can take away his two wins in the World Series. Yet he is trying to pass off this mumbo jumbo as the truth. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence.

Which brings us to the man I think told the truth when forced to on Saturday.

Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers fought his way back from crack cocaine and alcohol addiction to become one of the American League’s best players in 2008. While fans voted him to the All-Star team in 2009, he wasn’t deserving. He has had an injury-filled, sub-par season.

But I doubted that his battle with addiction had anything to do with his past troubles. Maybe they don’t. But last January, Hamilton fell off his wagon big time at a restaurant in Arizona. Photos of his escapades popped up on the Internet this week, and on Saturday Hamilton told the world that he indeed did backslide.

He said it was a one-time slip. I believe him.

Hamilton had told the Rangers what happened the following day. Long before there was proof against him published on the Internet, he came clean to his team.

He is now embarrassed. And he is again fighting the demons that could bring him down. But he told the truth.

Ortiz is taking a different path.

Hamilton’s life hangs in the balance. Ortiz can only lose his good reputation. But at least Hamilton has his honor. Ortiz has thrown his away.

Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.