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Let’s get the most important point out of the way first: it’s impossible to prove a negative, so Selena Roberts or some other reporter can say A-Rod was taking steroids during naptime in nursery school, and there’s really nothing A-Rod can do about it (even negative steroid tests are useless; he could have gotten undetectable drugs from his formula dealer). Roger Clemens was vigilant, and that approach failed miserably. Sammy Sosa — who, keep in mind, there was no real evidence against, except that he hit a lot of home runs — kept quiet, and that didn’t really help either.

So A-Rod is essentially a walking punching bag at this point, and Selena Roberts is taking advantage. She is pushing the idea that A-Rod must have been taking steroids in high school, because it’s “impossible” that he could have increased his bench press from 100 to 300 pounds in six months. I know a lot of people who lift weights — I was a personal trainer in college — and my own experience has been fairly typical. For comparison’s sake:

  • I started lifting when I was 20 years old, and I’m about eight inches shorter than A-Rod. On my first day, I benched 95 pounds. If he was lifting ~100 pounds during his sophomore year, it was because he had never lifted weights before.
  • Within 6-8 months, I was benching about 200 pounds. At that age, I obviously wasn’t growing anymore, and the biggest change to my diet was that I stopped eating Hershey Bars for breakfast. If A-Rod started lifting when he was 16, and grew even 2-3 inches soon thereafter, it would be normal for him to be benching well over 200 pounds, and possibly over 250, even if he wasn’t a full-time athlete, and without a major change in his eating habits.
  • When I started lifting, I was dedicated to it, in the sense that I made it a habit to go three times a week religiously. But I didn’t have millions of dollars at stake. When A-Rod was in high school, he was already an athletic freak, and had a direct financial incentive to get bigger, stronger, faster. Even without steroids, there are lots of ways you can make significant advances in the weight room: protein shakes, supplements, etc. And playing sports full-time creates a ton of testosterone in your body to start with, especially for teenagers. The idea that a high-school aged Alex Rodriguez needed more testosterone in his body in order to bench ~300 pounds is, in my mind, absurd.

So take from that what you will. Yes, to a certain extent, A-Rod got himself into this situation; considering his place in the game, he hasn’t been nearly careful enough in his private life. But everyone has skeletons, everyone has insecurities, and everyone has things they’d rather not be written about in books. Selena Roberts is going to make a lot of money off of this, and her Q score is already way up, so on a purely capitalistic level, good for her. But last night’s interview was a pile on, and most of the new accusations are impossible to substantiate, right or wrong. There’s a fine line between journalism and pushing your own agenda, and she’s toeing it very closely right now.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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  1. on May 4th at 01:03 pm
    stew said:

    Nice write up. I missed the interview last night. Will check youtube.

    I’m not swallowing all of her claims 100%, but history has proven Selena Roberts to be truthful. Weird how sport journalists seem to be having such a negative reaction to her.

  2. on May 4th at 02:15 pm
    Wouter said:

    “History has proven Selena Roberts to be truthful”? I think that’s a pretty hefty remark considering what happened at Duke. She was right about A-Rod taking steroids, but it’s not exactly a high-risk claim to make of a powerhitting MLB player from that era. And in no way does it immunitize the rest of her claims from scrutiny. I’ll need a bit more than hearsay with an obvious commercial benefit.

  3. on May 4th at 02:35 pm
    Fred said:

    “history has proven Selena Roberts to be truthful?”. Three words: Duke. Lacrosse. Scandal.

  4. on May 4th at 02:39 pm
    Evan said:

    stew said: “but history has proven Selena Roberts to be truthful”

    I would say history has proven Selena Roberts to be non-truthful at best, just ask those Duke Lacrosse players.

  5. on May 4th at 03:50 pm
    Adam said:

    Well put, Shawn. You should check out Whitlock’s column (if you haven’t already). A little more racially charged than I think is going on, but good nonetheless. http://www.kansascity.com/sports/story/1175681.html?pageNum=4&mi_pluck_action=page_nav. I’ve found the whole “gaining weight in high school” thing to be absurd. It’s called puberty. Next we’ll find out that, in middle school, A-rod started growing hair in unusual places. HGH!!!!!

  6. on May 4th at 05:04 pm
    Daniel said:

    Selena Roberts isn’t even close to truthful. The best blog on the Duke Lacrosse situation from start to end was Durham-in-Wonderland. Today, they lay out the many ways in which Selena had a complete disregard for the truth: http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/2009/05/selena-roberts-journalistic-credibility.html They write, “why should anyone believe anything you [Selena Roberts would] write about A-Rod? After all, if you saw fit to print false items in one high-profile case-false items that you have refused to correct-what’s to say you might be willing to print false items in another high-profile case?”

    Can you trust A-Rod? Who knows, but history shows you can’t truth Selena Roberts.

  7. on May 4th at 09:22 pm
    The dish » Blog Archive » Media & links. said:

    [...] about him, even though he hadn’t played in that or the previous series. Squawking Baseball takes aim at Roberts’ implication that A-Rod couldn’t have tripled his bench-press ability [...]

  8. on May 4th at 10:30 pm
    chattanooga said:

    I agree with the realism of the BP increase, just from my own personal experience. I started lifting weights at 15 when I joined the football team, and my BP max was 125. after a regimented 8 week program monitored by our team’s strength coach, I was up to 190. A new 8 week program saw me top out at 240. So after 4 months, I had gained 140 lbs on my BP max- no supplements. I have no doubt that had I been drinking protein shakes or using createne AND continued lifting on a monitored program during the off-season, I would have been to 300 by the end of six months. And I was NOT one of the top athletic prospects in the entire country.

  9. on May 5th at 07:53 am
    kevin said:

    I haven’t seen the direct quote from Serena Roberts, but it’s also possible that the incident she reports isn’t exactly as she wrote. In other words, A-Rod going from bench presses of “100 lbs. to 300 lbs.” actually could have been 120 lbs. to 250 lbs., which is a more plausible improvement. Athletes and coaches exaggerate all the time, and in this case, Roberts is using it against A-Rod. If she was writing for Sports Illustrated, she’d have used the same anecdote to demonstrate how great he was, rather than using it to show how sleazy he is. The quotes about him going from 100 to 300 were probably just approximations from someone’s memory that she is now using as exact statements.

  10. on May 5th at 06:30 pm
    Brian Myers said:

    I happened to be in a bookstore yesterday and it happened to be the release date for the A-Rod book. I happened to pick it up to thumb thru and happened not to put it back down til I was done with it.

    Very well-written hack job. Ignoring the PED stuff, Roberts does a great job of character assassination here, but what I mean by that is she does a good job of exposing A-Rod’s latent character weaknesses, and I think that in these areas what she writes is well researched and reasonably fair (he’s an a**hole and it’s well documented, and she does a good job of pulling together the hows, whys, whens and wheres). Problem is, you can’t ignore the PED stuff, and in this area I have a sneaking suspicion that what she’s done is reprehensible. I was careful to look out for it: as far as I could tell, NOT ONE source would go on the record stating that they saw him with PEDs, saw him using it, or heard him talking about using it. Whenever she made claims like that it was always to the usual ’source close to the Yankees’, or ‘former Winchester high official’, or ’source with access to the clubhouse’, etc. Yet in terms of commenting on his a**holiness, quite a lot of sources were on the record. I doubt anyone is afraid of A-Rod, so it makes me very suspicious that she couldn’t get one ’source’ on-record vis a vis the PED allegations.

    A-Rod might be guilty of everything she claims, but she doesn’t come anywhere close to proving it. And a lot of people will believe everything she wrote. I’m huge on free speech and a free press, but when I read something like this I wonder about the other side of that coin: if she doesn’t have to reveal any of her sources, citing journalistic integrity, what’s to keep her (or anyone, really) from writing whatever the hell she pleases with no evidence (perhaps no sources) whatsoever?

    It’s almost a shame that it was such a quick and easy read… more people will read it than I had hoped. It’s not that I don’t think there’s anything behind her claims… it’s that she wrote about a lot of things she can’t prove, and presented it as fact.

  11. on May 6th at 11:38 am
    Landon said:

    I loathe to Defend Selina Roberts, but I must say that if A-Rod went from benching 100 lbs to 300 lbs in a six month period in high school, it is unlikely that he did it cleanly, not impossible, but unlikely.

    You claim to have increased your bench by 100 lbs in a 6-8 month period at age 20 and that it should be easier to make such a jump in high school. From my own experience, I’d have to disagree. I weightlifted throughout high school and probably only increased from a 95 lb. bench to maybe a 185-200. I weightlifted diligently and did every clean method of trying to get bigger and stronger. Once in college, I stopped lifting regularly, but would work out for basically three month spurts now and then. At the end of these spurts, I was always much stronger than I was in high school. Today, at age 28, I’ve been lifting regularly again for about 3 years and have gradually increased my bench towards that 300 range. I can’t imagine having made that jump in 6 months.

    If A-Rod was really only strong enough to lift 100 lbs at some point, he could have made a quick jump in strength, but at a later point, probably around the 185-200 lb. range his progress would slow down as serious muscle building would be necessary to continue his increase. This point is where the story becomes unlikely (if true) without some form of chemical enhancement.

    You have to remember that he was playing sports during this time, so he was unlikely to be able to spend two hours in the gym 4-5 days a week for extended periods of the year, which is what it would take to show this type of strength gain. Most high schoolers build strength during the offseason and maintain during the season. Giving him probably from Nov-Mar and from June to Aug with no school oriented sporting events (he played football and baseball). The fact that he could have grown 2-3″ would not have been a benefit as you say, but rather a detriment. Being tall and having long arms makes bench press harder. You have farther to push the bar, thus more energy spent. You also demonstrate poor understanding about steroids. You claim as an 18 year old athlete he wouldn’t need more testosterone. Testosterone levels in average 18 year old males are in the 300-1000 ng range (thats n as in nano as in 1/1,000,000,000th of a gram). Steroids are generally given in dosage ranges in the 5-50 mg (that’s m as in milli as in 1/1,000th of a gram). This is such a huge difference that comparing the increased testosterone level in 18 year old athletes to the testosterone levels gained through the intake of steroids is just ridiculous.

    Again, could A-Rod have made that kind of jump cleanly? Sure. Is it likely? No. If he didn’t use steroids in high school, which is very likely, the better argument was made above. Whoever told the story seriously exaggerated the strength gain in the given time.

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