The Oscar Pistorius murder trial has become a three-ring circus, with cops admitting to botching details of the case and head detective Hilton Botha being removed from the investigation on murder charges of his own. Everything is up for grabs: whether the couple had been fighting, whether Pistorius took appropriate steps to call help, whether the injectable substance found next to his hypodermic needles is actually steroids as first reported or an “herbal remedy” as his defense now contends… Except that last point. Seriously—when have you ever heard of an “herbal remedy” that absolutely needed to be injected with a syringe?
In addition to being the most bizarre crime of the year, the Pistorius trial has thrust the issue of pro athletes and steroids back in to the limelight. From Clemens to Armstrong to Pistorius, when it comes to sports crime and steroids, where there’s smoke there’s always fire—because everybody takes steroids. As Lance Armstrong said, juicing on the Tour de France is as common as “putting air in your tires.” Suspicion of steroid use in baseball is so widespread MLB refused to even nominate anyone to the Hall of Fame this year.
Steroids have come to domiate sports. Or, more accurately—they’ve come to domiate sports fame. The guys with the glory are juicing—Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens. There are probably some guys who are playing it straight—you can spot them by finding the worst athletes in any sport. Because if you’re not optimizing your body with performance enhancers, you simply can’t compete when everyone else is.
Here’s to the crazy ones—a few guys we suspect are actually trying to play professional sports without taking steroids.
1. Jose Altuve
Clocking in at just 5-foot-5, Altuve holds his own on the Astros, batting .276 in his first season in the majors in 2011. He may not have the makings of a home-run slugger (his first home run was an inside-the-park homer) but the guy is all heart. In May of last year he faced the 6-foot-11 Mets John Rauch—a height differential of 18 inches, thought to be the biggest in MLB history.
2. Matt Cassel
Cassel wins the dubious honor of being perhaps the worst quarterback of the 2012-2013 season, heading up the Kansas City Chiefs. While the Chiefs shared their ignominious last-place record with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chiefs were statistically the worse team, and Cassel’s numbers show the bruises. Hey, it ain’t easy facing an entire league of defensemen ‘roided to the gills.
3. Robert Dee
In 2010 poor Robert Dee earned himself notoriety as the single worst player in professional tennis. He set a new record in the sport of losing 54 straight sets (that’s 18 consecutive matches in straight sets). If we had to bet on one tennis pro not on performance enhancers, it’d have to be Dee.
4. Rich Garces, aka El Guapo
Rich Garces’ nickname was El Guapo, which means “handsome” in Spanish—but make no mistake, he was named not for his adonis physique but for his vague facial resemblance to the character in “The Three Amigos.” El Guapo wasn’t a terrible player—he performed decently with the Red Sox in 1999. But he was no Roger “Rocket” Clemens, that’s for sure. And you don’t have to take more than a glance to put this guy on the “least likely to fly into roid rage” list.
5. Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards
While technically an Olympian rather than a pro, Eddie belongs on any list about athletes getting by on heart and craziness over performance enhancers. According to lore, after failing to qualify for the Olympics in downhill skiing he signed up for ski jumping, since Britain didn’t have a ski jumping team. Edwards had no idea how to ski jump, but he was the first Brit ever to represent England in the Games in that sport. Needless to say, his performance was not optimal. He was terrible. The only world record he holds is for consuming the most raw eggs, of which he ate 26 in 10 minutes.
6. Mario Mendoza
Though he played before the golden age of steroids, Mendoza set the bar for just plain terrible baseball athletes. His miserable batting average of .200 was nicknamed “The Mendoza Line”—the threshold above which any self-respecting athlete should hold himself. Not only was Mendoza not juicing, he barely appeared to be trying.
7. Jeff Mathis
One of the few modern-day baseball players to bat below The Mendoza Line, Jeff Mathis is anathema to the very concept of performance enhancers. Originally picked 33rd in the first round of the amateur draft in 2001, Mathis has managed to bat just .198 over the last 8 years.
8. Ha Seung-Jin
At a whopping 7-foot-3, Ha Seung-Jin came into the NBA full of promise. Amazingly, however, at a height that would likely allow him to place the ball into the basket without even jumping, Ha scored less than one basket per game for the Portland Trailblazers in the 04-05 and 05-06 seasons, averaging just 1.4 and 1.6 points per game, and was promptly let go. Ha, we salute you for doing the honorable thing and doing nothing to increase your speed or endurance (we guess).
9. Trindon Holliday
The literal runt of the litter, at just 5-foot-5 Trindon Holliday is the shortest (and for our money, ballsiest) player in the NFL. He’s not bulking up—but what he lacks in size he makes up for with surprising speed—even with those little legs he’s known for being fast, and ran back a few kickoffs for touchdowns last year. Sure, he might not be a marquee name per se, but he’s probably doing it au natural—and for that, we give him props.
10. Johan Petro
We end our list with a testament to athletic mediocrity, Atlanta Hawks center Johan Petro. At 7 feet tall, he probably would have dominated over players in the 70s and 80s. But in the age of steroids, Petro’s career average is just 4.7 points per game, with his lowest just 2.2 points per game in the 08-09 season. Here’s to you, spurning all those enhancers. Petro may not be competing like his peers, but he’s probably not going to fly into a homicidal rage any time soon.