Barry Bonds, Steroids, Baseball and the Federal Court System

Barry Bonds is on trial for perjury. He is being accused of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice for testifying that he never knowingly took anabolic steroids.

I am not here to get into the specifics of the case. I have no idea what the courts are going to rule. I am not here to defend or prosecute anyone. I am only here to explain how it came to pass that Bonds is sitting in a San Francisco courtroom while others who are just as guilty as him are not. And why it should not have come to this.

Whether Bonds took steroids or not (and there is no drug test which says that he did), this problem should have been solved by major league baseball long before the federal government began investigating them. There were many opportunities for the owners to get the player’s union to comply to random drug testing as far back as the strike of 1994, maybe before then. In my opinion, it should have been negotiated by both sides then.

Though both sides say that there has been language in the collective bargaining agreement banning performance enhancing drugs since the early ’90s, there is no evidence that anyone was tested before 2003. So the players of that time were pretty much allowed to do whatever they wanted knowing they wouldn’t be caught. If there were any suspicions, and there had to be, everyone just looked the other way. That includes players, managers, owners and the media.

Meanwhile the record book was being obliterated. Home runs were being hit at a record pace. Relief pitchers were throwing 80 to 90 games a year. Players who should have been on the downside of their careers suddenly saw their statistics get better, not worse. And everyone lauded these players as superhuman freaks of nature. But anyone with common sense could tell that the players bodies had changed and there was a pretty good reason why.

Former big league outfielder Jose Canseco finally blew the whistle when he wrote his book “Juiced” which was published in 2005. In it, he explained how steroids had become rampant in major league baseball. Canseco named names, including himself, told what they were using and how. It was a major hit for baseball and someone had to answer for it. At first it was Canseco. Everyone wanted to kill the messenger. Too much was at stake not to.

Then the federal government got involved and the floodgates opened. Players and owners were called onto Capitol Hill to testify and this is where Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa got themselves in hot water. All of them testified that they had not used steroids at any time only to have others dispute their claims. Palmeiro tested positive for a banned substance in 2005 while there is no evidence that the others ever did. McGuire admitted to using after he retired.

Now Bonds is on trial for perjury. And Roger Clemens will go to trial soon on the same charge. Why these two and no one else?

Easy. They are the biggest fish to fry. The best player and pitcher of their time Bonds and Clemens are the big names that the government wants. And baseball will sacrifice them now that they’ve made their billions.

The shame of it all is that it shouldn’t have come to this. Everyone in baseball knew what was going on and they let it happen. There was too much money being made not to. Baseball was losing its status in popularity to football, basketball and college sports. It had to do something after the 1994 strike to bring the fans back. Steroids were already in the game before then, but afterward they really became prevalent. And no one did anything to stop them.

The players, managers, owners and media all made money off of steroid use though they cry innocence today. The players say that there are no tests to prove that they were using. The managers say that they had no idea it was going on and if it was their guys weren’t doing it. The owners say that there was drug testing in place, but the player’s union would not allow it. And the media says that they were not aware of how widespread steroid usage was at that time.

The truth of the matter is that the players knew what they were doing and so did everyone else. They just turned a blind eye to it. And those who didn’t know just fell asleep caught up in the home run hype.

There is only one reason why Barry Bonds is in court right now. He and Clemens are going to be the fall guys for everything that is wrong with baseball from the late 1980’s to now. They are going to take the hit for everyone else. Players, managers, owners and yes media.

Though Bonds, Clemens and others will have to pay a price for what they did now, others will too. For everyone who was involved in baseball in the last twenty years has to look at themselves in the mirror and ask this question. “Am I as guilty as Bonds and Clemens?”

If they have a moral conscience the answer to that question will be pretty easy.