Breckenridge/Devon O’Neil " When Big Brown became Little Brown |

Breckenridge/Devon O’Neil " When Big Brown became Little Brown

For all that we don’t know about why Big Brown mysteriously ran out of gas with the Triple Crown on the line in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, here is what we do know.

We know he’d been given Winstrol, a powerful anabolic steroid that is legal in all three states where Triple Crown races are held, on the 15th of every month through April.

We know that means the drug was in his system, working, for the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 18 days after the April shot, and that there’s a decent chance it fueled his dominating victory in the Preakness two weeks after that, since a study in the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics last year found Winstrol to remain in a horse’s system for at least 32 days ” the exact number of days from April 15 to the Preakness.

We know, according to Rick Dutrow, Big Brown’s trainer, that Big Brown did not receive his Winstrol dose in May. We know that means he was running “clean” in Saturday’s 1.5-mile Belmont, April’s dose no longer there to boost his performance.

We know, too, that when a steroid user abandons his cycle, he can be prone to withdrawal effects in accordance with such a stoppage, usually a drop in physical performance. After Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, that could explain why Big Brown’s jockey, Kent Desormeaux, said, “I had no horse” late in the race ” the precise moment when he’d had an otherworldly horse in each of the previous Triple Crown races.

Remember when baseball’s steroid era was in full swing, how we looked everywhere for reasons why balls were flying out of the park at shocking rates and traveling superhuman distances? Was it the juiced ball? The smaller, modern parks? Pitching diluted by expansion?

Well, after Saturday’s Belmont, as reporters on-scene scrambled to find out what went wrong and we wondered nervously whether Big Brown’s hoof was OK, if perhaps there might have been an internal injury, I suspect there were more than a few musclebound observers out there, somewhere, sitting on their couches laughing, a needle nearby, taking great pride in the fact that, just for a moment, they were the smartest men in the room. …

If Roger Federer has it the toughest when he plays Rafael Nadal on clay, the rest of his opponents aren’t far behind. To them, after all, Federer is the untouchable player, perhaps the greatest shotmaker tennis has ever seen. And yet, once again on Sunday, Nadal made Federer look like a bug trying to defeat a windshield.

Nadal squashed Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, the first time since John McEnroe humiliated Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon 24 years ago that a men’s runner-up won only four games in a major final. …

On that note, from Nadal (28-0 at the French Open, didn’t lose a set this year), you gotta love the Quote of the Week: “I am humble, but the numbers are the numbers.” …

Another good one comes from former Michigan running back Mike Hart, a sixth-round pick of the Colts who, while describing his NFL experience thus far to the Detroit Free Press, apparently forgot some things are better left unsaid: “The only surprise is it’s not as tough as I thought it was going to be, as far as practice and those type of things.” …

When is a scoreless tie actually pretty great? When you are the 21st-ranked U.S. men’s soccer team, and you play the No. 1 Argentine squad to a draw on home turf, as the Americans did Sunday night in New Jersey. …

How are the Tampa Bay Rays still in the hunt? For starters, they’re playing old-fashioned, get-after-it NL ball, except they’re doing it in the AL, leading the majors in stolen bases (70) while keeping innings alive by hitting into the second-fewest double plays in the league (42). …

Must be nice to be Floyd Mayweather Jr., who retired at 31 last week having never lost a professional fight (39-0). …

So much for Doug Collins going back to coach the Bulls. …

In parting, it’s rare for a columnist at a major metro newspaper to consciously antagonize any pro athlete for the benefit of his readers, let alone go after his city’s King Rat. But that is exactly what L.A. Times scribe (and former Rocky Mountain News reporter) T.J. Simers has done with Kobe Bryant in recent years, hilariously chronicling their heated run-ins.

The latest, from Monday’s column: “He couldn’t have been upset about anything I’ve written, the big baby all grown up since his summer tantrum, so no reason to spank him any longer. I hadn’t even mentioned a word about his horrendous shooting performance in the opener.

“The fact is, I had already put away my notebook, and I was just going to congratulate him on being the league’s MVP ” and then tell him to start playing like one.”

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at

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