This won’t be easy, but I’m going to take a swing at defending the infamous Barry Bonds regarding his involvement in the BALCO drug scandal.
Sports writers couldn’t wait to jump all over Mr. Personality for taking performance-enhancing drugs. (Bonds admitted taking them but says he didn’t know what they were at the time. Yeah, sure Barry.)
What the writers and fans who are quick to condemn Bonds are missing, however, is that he plays for a steroid-friendly organization named Major League Baseball (MLB). He hasn’t been betraying baseball. He’s been toeing the company line.
Unlike the track and field athletes and NFL players who have been burned by the BALCO revelations, Bonds works for employers who didn’t even pretend to care about performance-enhancing drugs. MLB did not begin to test players until 2002. Still, today, if a player tests positive, he gets counseling. No, really. He is obligated to attend counseling. No suspension, no fine, just an afternoon chat about the perils of juicing on $10 million per year. The current MLB drug policy only resembles hardball after five positive tests. How did baseball executives come up with a five-strikes-and-you’re-out drugs policy?
So what if Bonds took steroids, especially prior to 2002? Was it really cheating? The blame for the rise of drug-bloated sluggers rests with the people who run baseball, not the players. Lumping Bonds in with Olympians and NFL players-athletes who are clearly prohibited from steroid use-is unjustified.
Guy P. Harrison is sports editor of the Caymanian Compass. He can be reached at [email protected]