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Dec. 10, 2004

Bonds admittance of steroid use a black eye for baseball

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
Even though I wasnít surprised to read that, in sealed grand jury testimony, Barry Bonds admitted that he used steroids, I was still very disappointed. I had been waiting for months now, ever since the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal broke, for the other shoe to drop on Bonds, and wasnít shocked when it finally did this week. But Iím still saddened that the biggest star in the game has now been proven to be a cheater.

I wanted, so dearly, to believe that Bonds was clean. That his records, were just that; his; and that his amazing run over the last half decade was because he was an athlete of a caliber that nobody had ever seen before, and that we were lucky to see him on this ride.

True, steroids canít help his tremendous batting eye, and he was always one of the best players in the league. And, believe it or not, since Iím not a doctor, I donít exactly know how these drugs impacted him. Granted, we donít know how long Bonds took steroids, or when, or how much they helped his game.

But now that this grand jury information, leaked to The San Francisco Chronicle is out, we know that Bonds is, at minimum a liar and a fool, and at worst, could go down as one of the biggest frauds ever. Odds are that this will be hanging with him for a long time. This wonít be forgotten like the Sammy Sosa corked bat; this is much, much worse.

The drugs that he admitted taking are known as ďthe cream,Ē a testosterone-enhancing topical lotion and ďthe clear,Ē a pill taken orally that has THG, an incredibly powerful steroid. He also allegedly took Clomid, a female fertility drug that is supposed to heighten the effect of testosterone.

Yankees star Gary Sheffield testified that, while he was with the Atlanta Braves, Bonds also arranged to give him pills from Anderson (who allegedly gave Bonds, Sheffield and Jason Giambi all their illegal steroids), including one that Bonds, according to Sheffield, called ďred beans.Ē The Washington Post reported that they were a steroid from Mexico. Sheffield admitted in a Sports Illustrated story that he unknowingly used steroids in 2003, and baseball never punished him.

Yes, there is no denying that Bonds is a tremendous athlete with or without drugs. From 1986 to 1997, before he hired trainer Greg Anderson (now indicted as a ringleader in the BALCO steroid scandal) as his trainer, Bonds already had earned 3 MVPs and had hit 411 Home Runs. He would have hit 500, maybe even 600 Home Runs before he hung up the cleats.

And, in his defense, his Home Run totals went down in í98 and í99, but over the last five years theyíve exploded. From age 36 and beyond, an age where nearly every player deteriorates, Bonds got better and better, hitting 300 homers in the last five seasons.

Another underreported fact was that this testimony was given almost a whole year ago. Bonds vehemently denied taking steroids to the public, but when finally put under oath, he had no choice but to fess up. Whatever his creditability was worth, it has been taken away as well.

Many suspected he took steroids, but there was just speculation, no qualified evidence. Now there is his own admission. Perhaps the most troubling thing Bonds said was that he didnít know that what Anderson gave him was a steroid. Itís been known for years that Bonds is a total health-freak; he knows nutritional facts for everything he puts in him. How he didnít know what was going into his mouth befuddles me. He is also a fool for hiring, and putting all his trust in, such a shady guy.

Do I think that he lied under oath and committed perjury? I donít know, but it just strikes me as something really stupid and irresponsible to do. The more obvious explanation was that perhaps Bonds was ignorant on purpose; that he didnít want to know what was in Andersonís drugs, but he took them anyway.

I hope against hope that this isnít a Pandoraís box opening up that will taint all of baseball. But if Giambi and Bonds, two All-Stars with huge fame and mega-deal contracts are using them, why not a fringe big leaguer trying to stay in the Majors?

Or even worse, a high school athlete trying to get an edge? High school athletes die every year as a result of steroid use. Last summer, a lineman at Plano West High School in suburban Dallas, collapsed and died of heat stroke at practice, a death aided by his use of steroids.

Hopefully Bondsí revelation will get baseball to finally get in line with the other major sports in starting random (and public, if the players fail) drug testing. Since Bonds and Giambi have admitted this in depositions that were supposed to be sealed, it seems that, at this point, they canít be suspended by baseball. But the steroid use has to stop now, not just for the game, but also for the health of the players.

Giambiís cover was blown after he showed up much skinnier in spring training this past spring after a winter without the juice. He then spent much of the year with various illnesses, ailments that can be caused by use of these very powerful, illegal and dangerous drugs. But maybe he was one of the lucky ones.

Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League MVP while he was with San Diego, admitted that he was a longtime steroid user. He died of a heart attack this past fall at age 41. People in good health usually donít drop dead of heart attacks in their early forties. Yes, he was a cocaine user, but Iím fairly convinced steroids didnít improve his health the way they did his game.

Orioles reliever Steve Bechler died in 2003 during spring training in Fort Lauderdale after he had been using ephedrine, another substance that banned by baseball. The FDA responded by banning the drug supplement nationally. In football, former Steelersí linebacker Lyle Alzado suffered a painful demise, as his body slowly broke down due to his longtime use of the steroids.

Donald Fehr, the head of the MLB Players Union (MLBPA) is arguably the best guy at what he does in the world. Since he took over, the MLBPA has become the best and strongest union in sports, if not the world, as it has reached two collective bargaining agreements without giving in to the ownersí demand of a salary cap. But now, after his years of vehemently fighting against drug testing, he looks more than a little sheepish. It will probably be PR suicide for him to not support random drug testing at this point.

Should it be confirmed that steroids aided Bondsí power, it will indeed mark a sad day for baseball. The game will get past this, as it has gotten past scores of scandals before, but if it is perceived that its biggest stars are also its biggest cheaters, then it can only be seen as Major League trouble.

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  • Armin Rosen (View Email) on December 10, 2004
    In the great words of Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I want to believe that Barry Bonds never even took steroids, that the San Francisco chronicle's report is based on some falsity that will be rectified once the BALCO case goes to trial. I want to believe that even if Barry Bonds did take steroids, that he did so unknowingly or inconsistantly or both. And I want to believe that, had he knowingly and consistently taken steroids, that he had done so in such moderation that his seven MVP awards and records for single season walks, home runs, on base percentage, and slugging percentage won't eternally be in question.

    It's sad to think that future ballplayers striving for these records will be chasing a man who happened upon them only with the aid of "the cream" and "the clear;" and sadder still to think that these records might go decades without being broken.
  • William on February 24, 2005 at 6:00 PM
    I am a grade 8 student who is doing a report on Barry Bonds and his Steroid taking. Yes i unfortunetly believe that Barry Bonds did and still is taking steroids, so that he of course can get paid the big bucks. Look what happens though when a person gets caught stealing... Tisk, Tisk ,Tisk
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