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Notebook Sports

Big Mac attack


Big Mac attack

Mark McGwire among those questioned by Senate in steroid hearings

It all started when a baseball writer noticed a strange jar sitting on the top shelf of Mark McGwire's locker in the visiting clubhouse of New York's Shea Stadium during August 1998. The reporter, Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press, asked what was in the bottle. It was androstenedione, a precursor to anabolic steroids called andro for short, which, though legal at the time, was soon banned by baseball.

Mr. McGwire's admission nearly seven years ago ignited the steroids-in-baseball story. A public unfamiliar with steroids struggled to understand how the drugs worked. The andro, which Mr. McGwire ingested during his record-breaking home run season, traveled to his liver. Then the liver-the body's chemistry set-added carbon molecules to the drug, turning it into testosterone. The ill-gotten testosterone made Mr. McGwire's muscles bulge.

So what's new? Baseball's days of denial may be close to over. Already leaked grand jury testimony has revealed that Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds both took performance-enhancing drugs. Now Mr. McGwire and other ballplayers and league executives face an order to appear before Congress where they'll testify under oath about what they know about steroids. If the sport doesn't come clean, there will be a price to pay. Ask Martha Stewart.

Spring fever

If you build it, will they come? If what you're building is a competitive March Madness office pool, the answer is an overwhelming yes. Millions of Americans will spend a good part of March checking the internet at work once an hour to check the status of their chosen college basketball teams as those squads progress through the tournament. Employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates that the average bracketeer could spend 13 minutes checking scores every day at work for three weeks. The workplace dallying adds up, says the firm, costing American employers $890 million in productivity this year.

Some publications are even trying to cash in, spending the week before the opening of March Madness to give tips to the betting public. The money section on advised readers with its No. 1 suggestion to "keep it legal"-something hard to do in some states when money is on the line. Of course the rest of the article instructed readers on how to win their office pools and make some quick cash. One tip gives: Don't be afraid of the Cinderella story. "Give University of Wisconsin Milwaukee a shot at the Final Four." Of course, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Around the Horn

· Soon the Chicago Cubs may be imagining what might have been. Young phenom pitcher Mark Prior has again been sidelined by injury. This time, it's elbow inflammation in his pitching arm. "It's not the same injury," Mr. Prior reminded reporters. But that's exactly what should concern the Cubs, who desperately missed the pitcher in 2004 after losing him for a spell of ankle tendonitis. With Mr. Prior, the talent is willing, but the flesh is weak.

· Guess what wasn't indecent after all? Nicolette Sheridan's nude leap into Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens's arms during the preview to an ABC Monday Night Football broadcast. In the promotion, the Desperate Housewives star propositioned the football star before disrobing and leaping into his arms. The FCC ruled on March 14 the spot wasn't indecent.

· Tiger Woods, whose victory at Doral in March vaulted him back atop the world rankings, may have trouble remaining king of the hill. After carrying the title for years, Mr. Woods lost the No. 1 position to Vijay Singh for nearly six months. Now the two are barely separated-with Ernie Els close behind-in the complicated rankings system that calculates the top golfer.