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Baseball's problems are nation's problems

One superstar admitted he used performance- enhancing substances. Another tested positive for three types of steroids.

Yet yesterday, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he "might suspend" New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez and was "considering" stripping former San Francisco Giants' outfielder Barry Bonds of his home run crown.

Baseball's latest bout of indecisiveness and its continued unwillingness to take swift, immediate and needed action isn't what's wrong with only the sport today. It's also what's wrong, far too often, with our nation. Cheaters get free passes. Politicians, financial institutions and others, despite acting selfishly and irresponsibly, get bailouts. Individuals, too often, aren't held accountable for their actions.

"What Alex did was wrong," Selig said in a prepared statement. "His actions are ... a reminder to everyone in baseball [that] under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished."

So punish. Suspend. Fine. Never mind that Rodriguez admitted his use happened between 2001 and 2003, before baseball's current drug program. And never mind that his players' union almost certainly would fight any discipline -- and probably win. Rodriguez's drug use was illegal. And by punishing him, "at least Selig finally would have done something," as USA Today columnist Christine Brennan complained yesterday.

Doing something for the good of America's game -- and consequently, for the good of America -- also needs to include a bit of editing to baseball's record book. Hank Aaron and his 755 round-trippers need to be returned to the top of the home run list. Aaron fell to No. 2 in the summer of 2007 when Bonds launched his 756th homer. But how many of those were legit? The government's doping case against Bonds, made public this month when court documents were unsealed, casts ever more doubt. Selig could have taken immediate action when the evidence was released. What will he do if Bonds is found guilty of lying to a federal grand jury about never knowingly using steroids? Will he do anything?

Selig and his sport could borrow a page from USA Swimming, which this month suspended Olympic hero Michael Phelps after he was photographed smoking from a marijuana pipe. The infraction could hardly be considered performance- enhancing, yet USA Swimming acted swiftly and decisively. Phelps immediately accepted the reprimand.

Pushed yesterday by reporters, Selig refused to comment further about the Bonds or Rodriguez situations.

His silence was deafening. -- Duluth News Tribune