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Every Rose has its thorn

By John McMullen, NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Talk to professional basketball scouts about Derrick Rose's game and the one criticism that often comes up is his lateral movement on defense.

Which is ironic since Rose just backpedaled with the deftness and dexterity of the best shutdown corner in the NFL.

It wasn't Charles Barkley claiming he was misquoted in his own autobiography but the reigning NBA MVP was reaching to explain his comments to ESPN The Magazine, where he claimed that the league has a steroid problem.

Rose said that the NBA has a "huge" problem and needs "a level playing field" in the magazine's May 16 issue.

Or did he?

Before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday night in Miami, Rose issued a statement through the team saying he does not even recall being asked about the topic and said that if he was asked about performance-enhancing drug use, he "clearly misunderstood" the question.

"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 in the statement. "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."

If this was the mafia, you might assume somebody got to Rose and forced him to distance himself from a controversy that shouldn't be all that controversial.

The NBA has largely gotten a free pass on the "steroids" issue. Memphis' O.J. Mayo was the last big name player to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs back in January and just the eighth since the league began testing in 1999.

Most assume the NBA is relatively clean and the league's waltz through the issue stems from lack of education.

After all, "steroids" are just a narrow part of the performance-enhancing drugs trade. When most people think steroids, they rightfully picture a thickly muscled bodybuilder or pro wrestler. But, understand that athletes use different performance-enhancers for different reasons.

In the predetermined world of professional wrestling, guys are training for a look. In cycling, perhaps the most tainted sport of them all, they are training for endurance. In Mixed Martial Arts, it's both. Heck, Human Growth Hormone, which is all the rage among Hollywood's elite and the sports world's highest-paid, isn't even a steroid.

I'm convinced the majority of fans no longer care about athletes and performance enhancers. Sports is entertainment to the casual fan, nothing more and nothing less.

So while most of the media feigns surprise and outrage when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez or Lance Armstrong get caught up in the dragnet, the rest of the country yawns while dodging Raptures and tornados.

The mock surprise was back over the weekend when those in the know feigned their disbelief down on Rose for stating the obvious, essentially forcing him to switch positions.

It's almost like the kayfabe of professional sports.

Back in the day scribes would keep a lid on the drinking and womanizing of big stars. The vices may have changed today but the "deal" is still in place.

In an almost Comedy Central inspired twist of fate over the same weekend Rose outed his peers, one national NBA scribe did a puff piece on one of the game's biggest stars, making it seem like swimming, yoga and Pilates could make you look like Hercules while giving you the endurance of a long-distance runner.

Is that what we want as a society?

Thing about the phrase "enhancing performance." It's not necessarily a bad thing. If it were, we would have to ban all vitamins and supplements along with weightlifting, working out and eating right.

Instead of the current witch hunt, maybe moderation and education may be the better approach to the steroid problem.

"If they are used in a therapeutic fashion, they can be helpful," Matt Chaney, a former college football player and author of Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, told The Sports Network. "I am convinced we are in some sort of hysteria. It's the silver bullet theory that if you take it once something horrible will happen. It's ridiculous. People get in trouble when they abuse them."

"We are caught in a moral myth," Chaney added. "There is a thought that we can do something about it. We can't. We will never eradicate it. Sports should have a big disclaimer -- there are drugs here."

And Derrick Rose should be able to talk about it.

05/23 13:59:36 ET