Editors Debate over Bonds Steroid Issue
San Francisco baseball star Barry Bonds has again come under recent scrutiny due to allegations that he has used performance-enhancing drugs. Now in his 21st season many continue to question the validity of his 2001 home run record, in which he hit a whopping 73 dingers, surpassing Mark McGwire’s previous total of 70.
The spotlight on Bonds promises to grow more intense with the upcoming release of a book, titled Game of Shadows. The book was written by two San Francisco Chronicle writers, who obtained evidence of Bonds’ federal grand jury testimony that focused on steroid use by athletes and his trainer Greg Anderson. Although this topic was briefly touched on in last week’s issue in “Outside Oberlin,” two sports editors, Lee Hislop and Mike Mullaley, sat down to discuss this hot and controversial topic further.
M: I have been a fan of the Giants for many years, tracking their progress closely in the intense National League West Division. The most recent highlight was their 2002 quest to the World Series, which sadly ended in their defeat to the Anaheim Angels. The Giants have had some quality players, most notably Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow, Rich Aurilia, Jason Schmidt and Rob Nen. However, the player who has consistently carried them has been Barry Bonds. Not only does he have incredible ability, he has been a dedicated servant to the Giants, and one of my favorite players.
L: Barry Bonds has always been a great player, even before he was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. However, given the fact that he holds one of baseball’s most coveted records and that his bat has indeed carried the Giants for so many seasons, particularly of late, the steroid allegations cannot be ignored. If he did in fact use steroids, he should be stripped of his home-run crown and suspended indefinitely.
M: Okay, so the man is 41 years old and weighs 228 pounds, which definitely seems to be all muscle. This statistic paired with his physical appearance, may stand as obvious evidence to the accusations. But just because his name is in the record book does not mean he should be singled out entirely for steroid use. He has been nothing but a class-act on and off the field. I feel that all this negative attention is a bit unfair, as McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmerio and Jose Canseco have all taken part in it.
L: I agree with what you’re saying. It is a little unfair for all of these allegations to fall on the guy just because of his huge superstar status and home run record. But keep in mind that baseball has only recently started testing athletes for performance-enhancing drugs due to governmental pressure. Essentially, the bubble had to burst sometime and unfortunately for guys like Bonds, Giambi and Palmeiro, it burst while they were still playing. But, in the end, this is better for baseball, its finally cleaning up its act.
M: Yeah, cleaning up the game is something that definitely needs to be done. I wonder what the game’s past greats would say if they saw all the enhancements and short-cuts current players use in order to reach and succeed in the majors. I don’t agree with the use of steroids, but don’t people go to baseball games for fun and entertainment and to root on their favorite teams? Don’t people like to see home runs, grand slams and players trotting around the bases, showing off their celebration dances? I’m just saying that home runs are part of the game and maybe people should just lay off the steroid gas pedal a bit.
L: Well, what you’re saying certainly has a lot to do with the problem. Major League Baseball chose not to look at this issue for a long time because they were making more money as a result. Attendance to games increased big time in 1998 when Sosa and McGwire raced to 61. Home runs are still going to be hit, but they will be hit based on a players’ ability to hit. The last thing I want to see is the athlete who is best at injecting his buttocks with muscle enhancers meant for cows winning home run records and becoming every kid’s big hero. More than anything, guys like Greg Anderson should be held accountable. He profited for a long time off this business, selling these substances to players, and now he is paying the price. There is simply too much evidence against Bonds right now to throw the allegations out the window. In the end he may escape with his record, though.
M: After reading a synopsis on parts of the book, Bonds’ future in the game looks weaker. As a fan of his, it’s hard to swallow the allegations because they seem so realistic. He was considerably skinnier in 1998, but when Sosa and McGwire took the spotlight, the authors state that he looked to build himself up in order to gain more attention. I want to see him be successful, but with so much surrounding his every move, being successful could prove to be difficult. In the back of my mind I still hope that he simply lifted a lot of weights, ate tons of calories and worked on his game ten-fold, which allowed him to break the home run record, rather than use steroids.
L: Hope is a good word to use, because there isn’t much more to hold on to at this point if you’re in Bonds’ corner. He has been quoted as saying that he took the stuff Greg Anderson told him to take and that he never asked questions. Is anyone out there really buying that? Come, on, million dollar athletes don’t just take whatever the trainer tells them to take. Bonds has all but admitted to using performance enhancers. A bigger issue is the health effects these things could be having on athletes’ bodies. Both that and the next generation of players who are in high school or college right now watching Barry and thinking ‘Hmm...it helped him and he was already great, I could become a pro with this stuff.” It’s downright dangerous and needs to be stopped. The evidence is all there in black and white. Unfortunately, a bad example will probably be set because MLB didn’t have any official rules or testing on steroids when Bonds broke the record, therefore it will be very difficult to hold him accountable.
M: The future of Bonds and the game will be interesting, depending on
how this steroid issue is handled. If it is the case, it is too bad Bonds had
to take steroids. But as I said, I remain hopeful. After reading up on this
issue a bit, I came across a very interesting and important statement by Ken
Griffey Jr. In ESPN analyst Jeff Pearlman’s article, he states that when
asked why he did not involve himself with steroids, he said “When
I’m retired, I want them to at least be able to say, ‘There’s
no question in our minds that he did it the right way.”