A Tale of Two "Substance Abusers"

The 2005 "MLS All Star Game" which, like the average jury, consisted of a bunch of guys who couldn't come up with good excuses not to show up, was played in Columbus Crew stadium against an out-of-season Fulham of the EPL.

After the unsurprisingly lackluster match, Columbus Crew forward Edson Buddle hit a popular local watering hole with a few visiting players. Presumably Diet Yahoo and Mountain Dew Black were not the beverages of choice.

On the way home, in the wee hours of the morning, something happened. It's never been clear exactly what. Buddle may have attempted an illegal turn or he may have illegally tooted his horn (apparently Columbus has "No Tooting" zones) or the police may have spotted him committing the dreaded "Driving While Black" violation which is common in urban areas across the fruited plane.

In any case, Buddle ended up in the back of a squad car with a representative of Columbus' Finest demanding that he take a Breathalyzer test.

Buddle refused. Subsequently he was found guilty of what Ohio calls "OVI" which is Ohioese for "Operating a Motor Vehicle while Intoxicated", which is the automatic charge when you refuse to blow up a cop's little balloon.

Major League Soccer, citing their "Zero Tolerance Policy" immediately suspended him and mandated that he enter a substance abuse program, which he did for a little over a month before returning to the Crew.

The worst part of the incident was the level of absurd abuse the guy took from large numbers of American fans who went off the deep end railing and hectoring everyone on BigSoccer with ignorant polemics about Buddle's "Substance Abuse problem" and his "alcoholism" and his "drug abuse", none of which was ever even remotely justified.

The only thing the evidence suggested was that Buddle, a 24 year old athlete, met up with some friends at a bar, had a few pops and then got behind the wheel of a car. Not to minimize in any way the seriousness of his actions, but between the league publicaly suspending him due to "policy" and the hysterical shellacking he took from MLS "fans" the guy went through a very rough time.

Years later there were still people on BS going on and on about Buddle's "Alcohol and Drug Addiction" and his "History of Heavy Partying". There are probably still some around.

I thought about that whole ugly incident when I read about SANTINO QUARANTA YESTERDAY IN AN ARTICLE BY STEVEN GOFF

According to Goff, shortly after Buddle was stopped by Columbus police and was subsequently suspended for being found to be technically in violation of consuming a legal substance and operating a motor vehicle, Santino Quaranta was found to have a load of cocaine on board and was in the middle of a five year, $250,000 OC, Percocet, Vicodin and liquor binge.

However, because this was his "first offense" MLS didn't make it public, didn't suspend him and, except for testing him for cocaine (which he was smart enough to drop in favor of massive quantities of prescription pain killer he purchased from street dealers) didn't do anything at all.

No "mandatory suspension". No "substance abuse program" which he had to successfully complete before he could return to his team. Nothing but someone stopping by the house every now and again with a jar for him to pee in and, apparently, as long as he didn't test positive for cocaine it was OK if his bloodstream contained more narcs than your neighborhood CVS.

Goff's article takes a sympathetic approach to Quaranta's problems; the downward spiraling career, the problems with his wife, the strained relationship with his teammates, the quarter million bucks down the drain, all of it. Quaranta is a victim of a terrible affliction and is bravely soldiering on.

Goff is a hell of a writer.

So good in fact that I'm having trouble finding the thread after thread abusing the hell out of the guy the way Buddle got it for apparntly having one or two too many one night.

Can someone tell me why this is? Is it because Craig Merz, then the soccer writer for the Columbus Crew, didn't pen a long, sympathetic article outlining Buddle's sad plight? Is it because MLS's "Zero Tolerance Policy" extends to Budweiser but not to Bolivian Flake?

How do we account for the difference in the way these two cases have been handled?

Nobody (other than Sachin) has ever accused me of being a liberal, but if someone can explain this to me in terms that don't include "Because Buddle is Black" I'd be happy to hear about it. Really.

In the meantime, perhaps MLS, whose abuse policy Goffs says is "confidential" could at least shed enough light on the question because, on the face of available evidence it appears that a couple beers too many gets you a suspension and a stint in rehab and a public excoriation while all cocaine abuse gets you is the opportunity to explain to your wife why some guy stopped by the house to watch you urinate.

Maybe it's just me, but it all seems just a bit odd.