A sad ‘first’ for New YorkBy ASN Staff • Oct 17th, 2008 • Category: Commentary
The New York/New Jersey Major League Soccer franchise has not accomplished much in its 13 seasons. Long known as the ugly stepchild of MLS, the MetroStars/Red Bulls have only once made it past the first round of the playoffs and only once won anything of note (the La Manga Cup, a Spanish winter tournament, in 2004). Other than that, the team has mainly been known as a case study in mismanagement, existing in a kind of purgatory at the vacuous confines of Giants Stadium.
Today, Oct. 16, 2008, the team finally made history. For the wrong reason. Two of its players became the first in the history of the league to receive suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use. Jon Conway, who has started every game at goalkeeper this season, and Jeff Parke, arguably the team’s best defender, each received 10-game suspensions for using banned performance enhancers androstatriendione (ATD) and boldenone metabolites. They were also fined 10% of their annual salary ($11,500 for Parke; $5,750 for Conway).
The players will be sorely missed on the field. Their absence in all likelihood dooms any chance the Red Bulls had for advancing past the first round of the playoffs–if they make the postseason at all. But that is besides the point. Other than a brief spell in August, the season has been a disappointment. The team didn’t look to be going anywhere, anyway.
What’s worse is the black eye suffered by a team that could ill afford it. The MetroStars/Red Bulls are finally known for something other than ineptitude. They are an embarrassment. Two of their starters have been exposed as cheaters (don’t believe some of the conspiracy theories being bandied about on the BigSoccer sewing circle and elsewhere; the Red Bulls have accepted the league’s decision without appeal and the suspensions followed what by all accounts sounds like a very thorough two month investigation of both players). It is the latest, saddest chapter for a franchise that is supposed to represent the country’s biggest market but which has been snakebitten almost from the word go.
Parke and Conway apparently claim they ingested an over-the-counter supplement that unknowingly contained a banned substance, according to Goal.com. Sure they did. If you believe Barry Bonds unknowingly took steroids and that Roger Clemens “misremembers” he did, this excuse might hold water for you. For most of us it’s nothing more than knee-jerk denial at best and an outright lie at worst. Red Bull, who gave that statement on the players’ behalf, should be ashamed for having done so. It’s too late to retract it now, obviously, but both players should be cut immediately.
The team should go a step further than that and institute its own drug testing policy on top of what the league mandates. MLS, for its part, probably needs to do more as well. Maybe not in terms of testing, but with outreach and education programs for players of all levels. Professional soccer in the U.S. can simply not afford a doping scandal. With the economy all but in recession and likely to stay there for a few years, MLS would probably not survive such a crisis. Though it would somehow be strangely appropriate that the whole thing started with this team…
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