Derrick Rose Backtracks From PED Comments

MAY 22: Derrick Rose(notes) #1 of the Chicago Bulls looks on against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 22, 2011 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)Derrick Rose was about open more eyes with one comment than he did with his entire MVP season’s worth of play.  

When ESPN asked this question for its May 16th issue of ESPN The Magazine:

“If 1 equals ‘What are PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs)’? and 10 equals ‘Everybody’s Juicing’ … How big of an issue is illegal enhancing in your sport?”

He answered:

“Seven. It’s huge, and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person.”

I can only imagine what the editors thought when they read “Seven, It’s huge.”  Suddenly, they probably felt like Rose was matter-of-factly pulling the veil and making a grand accusation that was going to taint the sport like steroids did baseball.  

Except.

“Regarding the quote attributed to me in ESPN The Magazine, I do not recall making the statement nor do I recall the question being asked,” Rose said Sunday in a statement released by the Bulls. “If that was my response to any question, I clearly misunderstood what was asked of me. But, let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance enhancing drug problem in the NBA.””

Once the issue was brought up (a week after they were published, by the way) Derrick Rose backtracked so fast he’d leave John Wall in the dust. And the explanation makes sense.

Bulls spokesman Tim Hallam told CBSSports.com that Rose told him he would “never say anything like that.” Sources said Rose may have thought he was being asked how important it was for sports to be PED-free. A person close to Rose told the Chicago Tribune Sunday that Rose believed he was being asked, “How big of a problem would it be if steroid use were rampant in the NBA?”

Skeptics will point to the sculpted bodies of most NBA players today and wonder if Rose is just protecting himself and the league.  You don’t have to go back too far to see that weight training is a relatively recent trend.  The guys out there in the 70′s and 80′s weren’t living in weight rooms in the off-season.  A guy like Karl Malone was an anomaly for being ripped.  But now most guys have “Men’s Health cover” worthy bodies.  

But I believe Derrick Rose’s explanation.  I believe that when he was asked how big of an issue PED’s were, he thought he was being asked how important it was to keep PED’s out of basketball and not revealing they were already there.  I’m not going to sit here and be naive, though. Athletes in every sport will try to cheat to gain an advantage.  I’m sure it’s happening in the NBA. Someone is taking something that’s banned and benefiting from it.  OR… someone is taking something that’s not banned yet but will be soon enough.  There’s not a single sport that’s completely drug-free simply because that’s human nature.  Some people cheat.

The lesson here, though, is not the need to put the league under a drug testing microscope (though each league should always be updating its policies as needed).  The lesson here is to really pay attention to questions being asked.  And if you’re not sure, ask what they mean.  Because Derrick Rose almost started a firestorm by accident.  

UPDATE:

ESPN stands behind it story

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

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