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Bonds' steroid use should earn his lifetime ban

By By Will Bardwell / sports writer
March 4, 2004
Barry Bonds? Steroids? Surely you jest.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier this week that Bonds was among a handful of major league baseball players who received steroids from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative or BALCO. It certainly wasn't a surprise, but it was an important revelation that confirmed a lot of suspicions kind of like Vince McMahon announcing pro wrestling was choreographed.
If the story turns out to be true and it looks pretty solid it completely demeans everything Bonds has accomplished in one of the greatest careers in baseball history.
Bonds should be banned from the game for life. His records should be wiped off the books and his legacy cursed under the breath of every baseball fan in America.
That's what should happen. But you know what will happen?
Next to nothing. Under baseball's steroids policy, Bonds would face mandatory rehabilitation. As a first-time offender, he wouldn't even be suspended.
Let me go over that again. For using an illegal substance to gain an unfair advantage, and for making a mockery of baseball legends past and present, Bonds wouldn't miss a single game.
If Bonds is guilty my gut tells me he is then labeling him a first-time offender is like walking in on a cheating girlfriend and assuming it's never happened before. If men and baseball fans are stupid enough to believe that, then maybe they deserve both their hussy and Bonds.
But as for the rest of us who actually care about the game, Bonds has robbed baseball of something that can never be recovered. Think of the people whose records he has surpassed while juicing up Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Reggie Jackson to name a few. And he's about two years away from overtaking Hank Aaron's career record.
Sure, records are made to be broken, but not by somebody who cheats to do it.
I won't make the argument that none of the game's 500-homer hitters never cheated, but if they did, they rarely or never got caught. Maybe the Mick purposefully rubbed a little extra pine tar on his bat one day. Maybe Williams used a corked bat for a few games. Who knows?
Houston Astros second baseman Jeff Kent a former teammate of Bonds has even brought up the possibility that Babe Ruth and other legends were steroids users themselves. That seems unlikely, considering that steroids weren't scientifically tested until the 1930s very late in Ruth's career. But maybe Kent is an expert on anatomy and physiology.
Still, old-timers probably weren't beneath taking liberties with other rules when they could get away with it. But if they did, they never got caught. Their indiscretions were either so small or so well concealed that they went unnoticed. Likewise, they were probably fairly insignificant in the grand scale of a 500-homer career.
Not Bonds, though. Assuming steroids are the cause of his massive bulk-up and swollen head, his crimes have been pretty obvious for about five years. This season he will turn 40, and he'll be probably the most athletically fit guy in baseball and the most feared hitter in the game. At 40.
He's always been a great hitter, but he wasn't such a monster until 2001, when he turned 37 and hit a record 73 home runs. Before 2001, Bonds hit 40 homers in just three of his 15 seasons.
But according to the report in the Chronicle, 2001 was the year Bonds first received steroids from BALCO. And since then, he's broken the single-season home run mark and hit more than 40 homers for three years.
Nobody hits their stride at 37. Not without help.
Here's a quick exercise for you while you're killing time on the Internet at work. Go to Ebay.com and look up some Barry Bonds baseball cards. Try to find a Bonds card from 1995 or 1996, then another one from 1999 or 2000. Last of all, find a picture of him from last season. He doesn't even look like the same person.
Granted, hard work can do a lot for an athlete. Look at Walter Payton. The great Chicago Bears running back exercised relentlessly during every off-season and was able to compete with 25-year-olds well into his 30s.
But Payton didn't start looking like Hulk Hogan once he came within shouting distance of 40 years old but Bonds did. Not that Sweetness wouldn't have liked that, but how many chiseled 40-year-old bodies have you seen lately? If you've already checked out Ebay like I suggested, the answer is one.
No offense to the middle-aged crowd out there, but most guys in their late-30s are a lot chubbier than they were 10 or 15 years ago. It's not a man's fault that he gains a few pounds here and there in later age. Body chemistry changes and metabolism slows down. At best, you hope to maintain fitness.
The easiest way to get around that is to change your body's chemistry, i.e. steroids.
In fairness to Bonds, the San Francisco Chronicle reported only that steroids were given to him. Without a blood or urine test, there's no way to prove he took them. And an attorney claimed that Bonds was given steroids once by the folks at BALCO, but he didn't take them.
If that's true, and if he knew they were peddling steroids but didn't want any part of it, why ever step foot in the building again?
And like a former Bonds teammate, Andy Van Slyke, said on Tuesday, Bonds practically drove the get-away car from the bank and stuck the money in his pockets.
The answer to that question seems pretty obvious, and so does an appropriate punishment permanent banishment from baseball.

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