Not that it’s going to make much of a difference, but it’s easy enough to find out if Manny Ramirez is telling the truth.

Spare us the stories about uninformed doctors, tainted supplements, out-of-control trainers and overeager cousins, like the ones every other cheater that got caught trotted out.

Just show us the prescription.

Ramirez went out of his way in a statement released by the players’ union to say the banned substance he got suspended for was “medication, not a steroid.” And that whatever it was, Ramirez’s doctor “thought (it) was OK to give me.”

OK.

But just like Alex Rodriguez’s account of the cousin who persuaded him to experiment with performance-enhancing drugs, it sounds too clever by half. It raises more questions than it answers. It already feels like one of those instances where the cover-up winds up doing way more damage than the crime.

Ramirez didn’t say what the medication was, but a person told The Associated Press it was HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, often given to women as a fertility treatment. It’s occasionally prescribed for men, too, because it stimulates production of testosterone.

Unless Ramirez was doing some family planning, it’s hard to say why a 37-year-old slugger currently tearing the cover off the ball would want HCG, and further, why he’d seek out a doctor all the way on the other side of the country to get it.

It’s very easy, though, to say why a sophisticated doper would.

HCG is something you take coming off a cycle of using anabolic steroids – which effectively depress the body’s testosterone levels – if you want to kick-start production of the stuff. HCG helps make that transition smoothly, which explains why it turned up several times in testimony gathered during the BALCO investigation.

Of course, every ballplayer has a story for every banned substance that turns up in his system or medicine cabinet.

Two of the best ever, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have denied using performance-enhancing drugs. But Bonds has been indicted on charges of lying to a grand jury and Clemens’ case is before another one as you read this. Mark McGwire still won’t talk about the past. A-Rod needed a couple tries before telling anything near the whole truth. Jose Canseco talked plenty of truth, but he didn’t know when to shut up.

Together, they’ve spun a tangled web of lies that has ensnared the entire supersized era.

And now Manny.

Ramirez’ story might not be the most far-fetched, but it’s one of the most disappointing. He was already big when he arrived in the majors, always chubby instead of chiseled and rarely moody, except when contract time rolled around. Though he was all the way on the other end of that spectrum, like A-Rod and his lean frame, Manny looked like one of those guys you could believe in. No more.

Besides, everything else about the story stinks. Unlike Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, A-Rod, Canseco and a dozen other greats frozen in the headlights, the rules have been clear since at least 2004. That’s when baseball began testing with penalties. HCG was added to the banned list last year.

If you still don’t believe Ramirez knew exactly what he was putting in his body bite-by-bite, well, the Dodgers should have plenty of seats still available for sale in the “Mannywood” section of Chavez Ravine beginning tonight.

So forget the shock and lose the awe. Everybody else will soon enough. A-Rod will be back in the Yankees lineup on Friday, Manny will be back in 50 games and both their fates will depend more on whether they can win games instead of what drug-laced cocktails helped them do it.

And just think: somewhere out there is a list that still has the names of more than 100 other juicers.



Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitkeap.org


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