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From Balco to Bonds, Baseball's asterisk era

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Matt Slater | 15:23 UK time, Thursday, 14 April 2011

A quarter of a century ago, Barry Bonds hit his first home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

He had only been a first-team player for a week but great feats were expected of this 21-year-old prodigy. The son of a famous player, Bonds had been on Major League Baseball's radar ever since high school.

A superb athlete blessed with coordination, speed and strength, Bonds had it all. And he used it. A long and lucrative career in the majors saw Bonds break some of baseball's most hallowed records, including the holiest of holies, the all-time home run record.

But now - 25 years after that first beautifully-timed combination of hand, eye and muscle - Bonds has a record he did not desire: a criminal record for obstructing justice in a federal inquiry into the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds began his career with Pittsburgh in 1986 and ended it with San Francisco in 2007

Bonds began his career with Pittsburgh in 1986 and ended it with San Francisco in 2007

To explain every step of how he morphed from the golden boy of America's game to its most compromised superstar would challenge War and Peace in the word count stakes. But it is worth retelling how it started.

The year is 2002 and Bonds is in the midst of another stunning season for the San Francisco Giants, the team he joined for huge money (a record, naturally) in 1993.

He would finish the campaign with a career-high batting average and major-league records for walks and on-base percentage, two key measures of offensive production. He also hit his 600th home run. He was by some margin the best player in the game.

But 30 minutes' drive from the Giants' new stadium (built to house the new fans his exploits were attracting) federal investigators were starting an inquiry into the affairs of an unheralded sports supplement business with a grand name but nondescript premises.

That company was the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, or Balco for short, and the investigation would light a bonfire under US sport, torching reputations and consigning decades of complacent thinking about doping to the ashes.

The next three years would see the investigation progress from sifting through Balco's bins to gaining convictions for the company's top staff. What had started as a fishing trip for tax evasion was now reeling in some of the biggest names in professional sport.

The biggest of those was Bonds (although fellow Balco ambassador Marion Jones would give him a run for his money outside the US). His face was plastered all over Balco's website and the home runs kept disappearing over the fence.

By the time those first Balco sentences were dished out, Bonds was within 50 home runs of Hank Aaron's all-time record of 756. But any chance of him being cheered every blow of the way towards that total had long gone.

The myth that baseball players did not use steroids because they would not help had been exploded. It now dawned on America there was more to the recent clattering of records than the clever-sounding combinations of proteins and vitamins that Balco was selling to the public.

The speed of that realisation, however, was painfully slow and a share of the opprobrium now dumped on Bonds and baseball's numerous other fallen idols should be spared for the bosses.

They wilfully ignored the evidence in front of their noses - the circus strongmen masquerading as players, the distances the ball was flying and, most damningly, the anonymous results of their early experiments with a drug-testing regime - and counted the money.

Finally, in early 2006, MLB was shamed into action by the publication of a coruscating book, Game of Shadows.

Fans used the asterisk symbol in protest against Bonds' records. Photo: Getty

Fans display an asterisk in protest against Bonds' records. Photo: Getty

Written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the book's unwitting stars are the sluggers and sprinters who took Balco's undetectable steroids right up until the point the testers caught up.

The cast of characters includes Britain's Dwain Chambers, former 100m record-holder Tim Montgomery and double world sprint champion Kelli White, but it is Bonds who dominates.

To his dwindling number of supporters, Game of Shadows was a hatchet-job and Bonds was the meal ticket. To almost everybody else, including MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, it was the last straw.

Baseball's chief called in George Mitchell, the distinguished former senator who had helped broker Northern Ireland's "Good Friday Agreement", to conduct a forensic review of the sport's relationship with drugs.

Mitchell did not pull his punches. He described a sport "rife" with steroids and human growth hormone and criticised MLB's "slow and ineffective" adoption of anti-doping measures.

When he visited the UK in 2008, Mitchell told me he had been shocked at how widespread the problem was - "there were many, many rotten apples in that barrel" - and he referred to an entire era in the sport's history that will forever be tainted.

Bonds' part in that history is already tainted. Game of Shadows, almost a decade of negative headlines and the acrimonious final years of his playing career took the sheen off what he achieved with bat and glove. But this week's guilty verdict has sealed it: his stats will forever be followed by an asterisk.

This was, however, a verdict of shadows.

At one point in 2008, Bonds was facing 15 "felony counts" related to drug use, obstructing justice and perjury. And when he entered a federal courtroom in San Francisco last month, he was still looking at five charges.

One of those was thrown out by US District Judge Susan Illston and after three weeks of testimony and deliberation three more - all those related to perjury - were rejected by the eight women and four men of the jury. They could only agree that Bonds obstructed justice with his evasive answers when questioned back in 2003.

For the prosecution this is a qualified win. It has been a long haul and if they hoped for a Marion Jones moment (a tearful confession on the courtroom's steps) this was an expensive defeat.

That is certainly the defence's take on events and they are promising to appeal the guilty verdict when Illston brings them back for sentencing on 20 May.

The prosecution, meanwhile, will have to consider if it is worth trying again. The closeness of one of the perjury votes (11-1 in favour of conviction) may tempt them.

But the votes on the other two charges were stacked the other way, so perhaps the wisest course would be to settle for what they have.

If the verdict stands Bonds is probably looking at a short period of house arrest, although typical sentences for obstruction are 15-21 months in prison. But his real punishment is a sentence that will go beyond the grave.

His father, Bobby Bonds, died in 2003 as one of the most popular players in San Francisco Giants history. Barry will forever be remembered as the man who had it all but took more.

As well as my blogs, you can follow me when I'm out and about at http://twitter.com/bbc_matt

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great blog Matt. I wonder what his dad would have thought.

  • Comment number 2.

    Cracking Read Matt.

    Bonds will and quite rightly NEVER get into the Hall of Fame.

    He is not the only MLB star to have taken PED, will the rest of them be brought to court??? Next up is Roger Clemens, will he get a prison term??

  • Comment number 3.

    Great article, the only problem I have with the treatment of Bonds is I dont doubt that the vast majority of great home run hitters over the best part of at least 30 years were dopping and whilst the techniques and impact got more sophisticated plnty of others no doubt sit in teh HOF who should be treated the same way.

    The other point is that in many ways it should not necessarily undermine all of his achivement owing to the fact that whilst he was gaining an advantage pitchers were doing likewise and therefore it wasn't all in his favour and the number of home runs he hit was still astonishing and was in no small part due to his natural talent.

    To be clear not condoning anything he did and the price he has paid is his own doing so don't have much sympathy with him particularly just dislike the hypocrasy surrounding high profile dopers caught when techniques and investigations caught up with the cheating (remember THG was only found when a rival coach couldn't match teh sprinters who were on it with whatever he was doing) compared to the adoration the athletes who preceded them for 2 generations receive when its fairly clear from everything thats been found to date it been rife for that long.

    On Bonds though the sad thing is he probably would have got a long way up all those lists without abuse as you infer he had it all but took more.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great to see a baseball article on the BBC. Now if you can just start showing live games..!

    It's sad that the likes of Bonds, Big Mac and Clemens will never get into the HOF. They've been some of the best players the game has ever seen and really, it's impossible to know how much of an effect the juice had on them. It's right that they're not though. All we can do is hope that Tiny Tim, Albert Pujols, etc eclipse their numbers and performances.

  • Comment number 5.

    It's very telling that of the 55 "Splash Hits" in AT&T park (home runs that go into McCovey Cove - and that is a loooooong way), 35 of them were hit by Bonds.

    It's not really that his hitting percentages were so good, it's the fact that when he hit it he was able to hit it with such extraordinary power.

  • Comment number 6.

    Great player in a sport where many are equal because most are allegedly on steroids and such.

    If he had been white i wonder if the attempt to discredit this fine athlete would have been as vigorous.

    I imaging he was on something, but so was everyone else. It does not distract one iota from his achievements.

  • Comment number 7.

    "If he had been white i wonder if the attempt to discredit this fine athlete would have been as vigorous."

    He stood up tallest amongst all the others in terms of his stature in the game; it shouldn't be surprising that he got pulled back down hardest too. If it had been a white player who did exactly the same, I have no doubt people would have pulled him to pieces with equal glee.

    Looking at a hypothetical example in football; if Alex Ferguson and Paul Ince were both convicted of match-fixing, there can't be any doubt that SAF would get hit far harder by it than Ince would, purely because he stands that much higher than his peers. Colour wouldn't come into it; the media/society love discredited giants equally.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ironic that Bonds should be convicted during the week that another all-time great hitter retired rather than deal with the import of a second failed drug test. Castigate Bonds all you will Matt, but he, McGwire, Clemens and the rest are just the tip of the iceberg.
    Bud Selig has buried his head in the sand (or the bank) for way too long, baseball is wealthier and (financially) healthier than ever; that's his legacy in his eyes, and probably those of the owners. Never mind the means, feel the end.
    Bonds? Just an extremely wealthy pawn in the game who thought he was above it all.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks for explaining all the hoo-hah about this. As an expat over here in the US I never understood the story, although obviously the insinuations I did.

    Still won't get me to watch the dang sport though!

  • Comment number 10.

    I was in SF when Bonds was hitting his record..... He was and is a good guy, he helped kids and was always good with the fans.... I liked him. It strikes me as ridiculous, the American baseball fraternity said no to drug testing, meaning most of the players toyed with it, and then suddenly it cleans up it's act and needs a scapegoat... I will always be happy to remember that I was there when Barry got the record....

  • Comment number 11.

    Great blog, really interesting insight into a sport and one of its fallen hero's I know little about.

  • Comment number 12.

    Good article, but I wonder when Bud Selig will become as big a scapegoat as the players? I do not doubt the players deserve their sanctions for purposefully taking the drugs, but remember for a long time they were not actually illegal.
    So when will Bud Selig be dragged across the coals? It seems never, is this because he is in a position of power? Perhaps money also has something to do with this, he made the game too much for the witch hunt to reach his door. Not only his fault though, all the games power brokers are to blame, as are the players union who resisted testing for so long.
    In the end though it is only a handful of select players who are punished.
    This is not exactly justice, perhaps you could blog about that next time, there is a rather large can of worms that you have only skimmed the surface of.

  • Comment number 13.

    Just when will baseball improve their own drug testing proceedures to match WADA's standards ... if they have nothing to hide anymore, then why are they afraid to fully sign up?

  • Comment number 14.

    Unfortunately, baseball is only now coming to terms with drugs, which athletics has already done for years, and so has weightlifting. It was said today in the European weightlifting championships commentary that some countries devote 35% of their annual budget to drug testing, particularly out of competition. Baseball must do the same. It doesn't matter how nice these guys are, they are setting a bad example, by indicating to their fans and players of the future that, if you want to break records, you have to take drugs. That much they have in common with the old Communist bloc.

  • Comment number 15.

    Do steroids improve hand to eye coordination? It was a level playing field, they were all on it.

    He was quite possibly the greatest steroid user the game has ever seen.

    Although my personal favourite for that award would be Manny Ramirez.

  • Comment number 16.

    Call me a cynic, but is most of the angst in the States over their fallen idols not because baseball was indisputably dirty, but merely because they were found out...

  • Comment number 17.

    As a Brit living in San Fran and an irregular visitor to the ground, although by pure fluke I saw him hit 661 to break the highly respected Willie Mays/Giants home run record, but avid TV fan there are a couple of things that irk me about Bonds.

    However first I would like to say that although he no doubt was made stronger by the droids (look at his pictures through the years to see the muscle mass change) the man had a wonderful swing and perfect timing, so like David Gower in cricket, when he hit the ball it stayed hit.

    The main thing that irks me is that now that he has been found guilty it can be said that he should have pleaded which would have saved his loyal friend and alleged supplier, Greg Anderson, from serving a number of prison sentences for contempt of court, however this may be because of the 2nd thing that irked me - his apparent contempt for fans, media and others.

  • Comment number 18.

    It wasn't the inprovement in hand/eye coordination that was the problem, he was always a solid hitter. It was more the doubling of his home run count over a very short period of time, and make no mistake they weren't just home runs, they were huge!!!! Also his frame ballooned in no time at all.

    I'm a Giants fan so am really disappointed that this has taken a slight gloss of what is a massive season for us, our first in San Francisco as defending World Series champions, but hopefully all the hype and obvious discussion won't filter to the current roster and we can make a decent tilt at defending our crown.

    GO GIGANTES!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    MLB should make Bud Selig stand down as Commisioner over this issue. Players in any sport will always work out what they can get away with, look at diving and abusing the ref in football. MLB put their heads in the sand about steroids and refused to agree to any testing at all for a long time, and still do not meet WADA standards. Selig is the person who could have had this sorted before it got to this stage, he didn't and should pay the price.
    Many of the players took steriods when it was not against the rules to do so, this doesn't make it right in my opinion, but if big contracts are being handed out to those who are taking, anyone not taking were left behind.
    Bonds himself made himself unpopular with the Press by either rufusing to give interviews or being ridiculously surly. There was a classic example where he shouted at camera men who were filming him warming up in the outfield before a game. This is the reason the press went after him. He put himself on a pedastal and the press were happy to take him back down again.

  • Comment number 20.

    What about Alex Rodriguez? He admitted to using steroids which fair enough takes courage but he doesn't seem to be treated with half the contempt that Clemens, Bonds or Manny are...

  • Comment number 21.

    It was very much a great blog, nothing else to add to other comments!

  • Comment number 22.

    The USA should hurry up and impose Olympic-style punishments on drug cheats. The suspensions handed down these days are way too short.

  • Comment number 23.

    Cheaters never prosper.

  • Comment number 24.

    Its a bit rich for the BBC to be feting Carl Lewis one week and then lambasting Barry Bonds the next. Lets not forget Carl Lewis failed three drug tests at the US Olympic trials for Seoul 1988 but was still allowed to compete - he even admitted that himself. I don't condone what either of them has done obviously but this article is all too hypocritical and lacks consistency.

  • Comment number 25.

    As a longtime baseball fan and resident of the Bay Area, I remember Barry Bonds' father, Bobby Bonds, very well. There's a reason Barry is who he is: his father was an alcoholic and an abuser with just as much talent as his son, but who, after he left San Francisco, never lasted more than a year with any other team for the rest of his career. His statistics - home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases - always ranked with the top players, but he was often referred to by teammates as poison or cancer in the clubhouse. He could do anything on a ballfield - he was expected, perhaps unfairly, to be the next coming of Willie Mays - but somehow it never added up to greatness. What both father and son had in common, apart from splendid talent, was arrogance, plain meanness, and absolute, utter self-concern. A terrible waste, and a great pity.

  • Comment number 26.

    Although I would never endorse cheating or condone the use of AAS, it should be worth noting that Steroids as we know it have never been scientifically proven to enhance sports performance!

    I myself have done extensive work on the subject, yes it can improve size and strength of users but to say it had a significant effect on Barry Bonds performance is unjustified. It will forever tarnish his record and rightly so but to call Bonds and others "circus strongmen masquerading as players" is unfounded. There might even be just as solid a case for AAS hampering performance instead enhancing it. I mean if it was as rife as in the sport as they say it was then why was Barry Bonds so far ahead of everyone else?!

  • Comment number 27.

    It's great that the BBC is writing about this! The American media would never publish a story about Wayne Rooney's trials and tribulations or any other footballer for that matter. This truly shows how global the BBC is in considering what stories to cover. However, does anyone outside the USA really care about a sport (if one can really call it a sport) that is essentially the same as watching paint dry. This game can go on for hours and nothing happens. They spit chewing tobacco and stop every 30 seconds to arrange their trousers. There is a reason no one else plays this game. It's ridiculous! The fact that they call their championship the "World Series" is hysterical. I would suggest the BBC use the space taken up by the article about the "Rounders" steroid user for sports the entire world plays and not this boring game. If people want to read about this guy, they have the American media sites to click on! Could we resume to normal programing of the Premier League, Champions League, and other international leagues of the global sport that the world cares about?

  • Comment number 28.

    Avid sportsfan, and really enjoy reading about players from outside of the generic sports. Very interesting!

  • Comment number 29.


    Comments regarding the culpability of the Baseball administrators (Selig included) is spot on. Too little and far too late.

    For years baseball was the only professional sport in America without a drug policy. It wasn't just a head-in-the-sand attitude, it was a virtual invitation to players to get juiced up...and they did. The players got bigger, the homeruns more frequent, and all the while the MLB did nothing but count the money.

    I feel for the statiscally obsessed American baseball fans who have had their record books poisoned by this era. Imagine if we had asterisks next to the likes of Satchin, Lara or Ponting.

  • Comment number 30.

    American football is next (Im a huge fan btw) ... the complacency / head in the sand mantality in that sport re drugs is either hilarious or terrifying ... depending on your pov

  • Comment number 31.

    This is a fair blog. Bonds is and was the greatest player of all time, and he should go to the hall of fame. But that's less the point than the idea that US prosecutors spent 8 years to find Barry Bonds guilty of being vague, whilst every single charge - at one point there were 27 charges, incidentally - relating to PED was thrown out. It's a hatchet job.

  • Comment number 32.

    "He described a sport "rife" with steroids and human growth hormone and criticised MLB's "slow and ineffective" adoption of anti-doping measures."

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It's not only baseball Matt, and it's increasingly not only in the US, but I certainly think they were light years ahead of us. If you have worked with young North Americans fresh out of college/university, these revelations are no surprise. I guess the rewards are potentially so high that they far outweigh the risk.

    I grew up in the 'innocent' era of the 70s and 80s when we were told sport and politics didn't mix, and then realised this hadn't been the case, as the truth dripped out of the crumbling Soviet Bloc. But it's naive to believe the lengths prepared to go to for prestige stopped on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Alberto Contador's recent, predictable, absolution in Spain is a good gauge of how serious the world is about combatting cheating.

  • Comment number 33.

    What gets me about this is how they can find Bonds guilty of obstruction but not perjury! Although read his answer they got him for obstruction on. Bit wishy washy really.

    Q: Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?

    A: I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t – we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want – don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends, you come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean? …

    Q: Right.

    A: That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that – you know, that – I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see…

    That second part is what they got him on obstruction for!!!
    Bonds saying that he was a “celebrity child” who didn’t get into anyone’s business apparently is good enough to get him on obstruction of justice for something that took 7 (yes 7) years making. How is that good enough for obstruction!!!!!! It makes absolutely no sense at all, none, zip, zero, nada.

    I'm not defending Bonds, I don't like the man but the HOF would still be empty without him. He is still one of the top 5 probably top 3 best players and most gifted to ever play baseball.

    As an aside, Mitchell didn't go far enough in his report. He pulled quite a few punches as I recall (I printed off the whole report when it was available all those years ago and read it cover to cover 3 times digest as much as I could). He didn't name names (other than people who had admitted or tested positive) but I could be wrong, I haven't read it for years.

  • Comment number 34.

    Whilst I agree that something had to be doe to clean up sport, I think it is wholy unfair to denegrate Bonds achievements the way that most will now do so.

    Make no mistake about it, practically every record in baseball's books could rightly be marked with an asterix. If it isn't for doping (and don't fool yourslef that previous generations were clean) that it could be for periods where players were paid over and above salary caps with backhanders or when match fixing was rife or when the league refused entry to non-whites.

  • Comment number 35.

    *Willie Mays and Hank Aaron used amphetamines - widely available in baseball clubhouses at the time.

    *Babe Ruth played at a time when black players were banned from baseball - some of the best athletes weren't allowed to play.

    You want asterisks? Every era has its context. Bonds is a scapegoat. More than ever it's his attitude that has made the prosecution be so vociferous. A lot of fans, and more so the media, don't like him. That's why he's on trial. Manny Ramierez has been suspended twice for proven drug offenses (the last of which forced him to retire) and the general reaction was, the American equivalent of: 'O Manny! You're such a card'

  • Comment number 36.

    Kind of stole my thunder hackerjack. Sorry everyone. If only I hadn't taken time to look up vociferous

  • Comment number 37.

    Good read. Nice to see an article about baseball on the BBC (even if it is about steroid-abuse ha!)

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    So will his records be wiped out then ?

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm not a baseball fan but I know a lot about the sport's history and I can see soem parallels between this and the infamous Black Sox Scandal. As with steroid use, match fixing was widespread at the time (also parallels with cricket) but instead of rooting out the problem, the White Sox, in particular Joe Jackson were scapegoatted. Shortly after the guilty players had been banned, Ty Cobb was implicated in a match fixing scandal but the Commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis (great name!) who had led to efforts to impose the maximum possible penalties on those convicted in the Black Sox affair, basically let Cobb off the hook.

    I've no sympathy for Bonds but he is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

  • Comment number 41.

    Those home runs, and that reputation, are Bonds’s to keep. The trouble begins when others begin to judge him.

    i understand what everyone is talking about here......most of the comments are from Bonds Haters......point blank, nothing more, nothing less....apparently Bonds hit a game winning home run against your favourite team and you are harbouring pent up frustrations and judgement against him that will last the rest of your life. PED's were in baseball LONG before Bonds was using them.....and let’s not be fooled, he did and he knows it. the greatest 3rd baseman in baseball of OUR era and possibly of all time, Michael Jack Schmidt, admitted on mike and mike in the morning that he took amphetamines during the season to keep himself going......so with that knowledge, are we going to call for his expulsion from the HOF???? probably not, but again 2 wrongs dont make a right.......but if we have each living HOF'er line up, how many of them do you think will say they never took anything to get through the rigors of a 162 game season.......PED's are PED's regardless of what type they are.......GET OFF BARRY, regardless of what you think of him personally, he is the greatest pure hitter we have seen in baseball in many years

  • Comment number 42.

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  • Comment number 43.

    Barry Bonds should be stripped of all his records, as should anybody found guilty of knowingly using performance enhancing drugs. The simple fact is they cheated and cheats should not be allowed to keep their ill gotten gains. Drugs seem to be a big issue in American sports, maybe it is the winning at all costs mentality or the power of the pharmaceutical companies, but it needs to be addressed quickly or soon the sports will dissolve into farce. The IOC has it right, when someone is found guilty of steroid abuse then they are banned for life from the Olympics. Once that trust is broken it can never be reclaimed.

    Bonds was a great player, his high school performances and early MLB years show this. But if it is proved he took steroids then his records cannot stand as it will be fact that he would not have broken the record had he not taken the drugs. It is a great shame because someone who should have gone down in MLB history as a true great will instead forever be caught up in this drug scandal. The Maradona of baseball?

  • Comment number 44.

    Good article. I was born in Pennsylvania, and I been a Phillies fan since a child. I remember Bonds playing for the Pirates (our cross-state rivals), and he was a great player. Awesome natural talent. It is truly a sad ending to a story that could have turned out so much better. He never need to take steroids to be great.

    Somebody mentioned above, that its not fair to just pick on Bonds. But, it is really, because he broke the all time Home Run record using steroids, and it looked for years like he might get away with it. That fact alone, justifies the massive amount of attention and criticism leveled towards him.

    Also, they are investigating loads of players over there for steroid use, and many have confessed to it, therefore you don't hear much about them here. The Giambi bros, Rafel Palmeiro, and McGuire just to name a few. Bonds has never owned up to what he's done, and that also makes the ramped up criticism towards him even more understandable.

    BTW: There are Americans who live over here and who read these BBC blogs. So, in response to some of the foolish comments about US sports above. Check out the ESPNSoccernet website for insightful articles on football and Rooney. Here is just one:

    http://soccernet.espn.go.com/columns/story/_/id/902916/john-brewin:-rooney-furore-is-the-flight-of-reason?cc=5739

    PS: You just wait and see: one day we will win the World Cup :-)

  • Comment number 45.

    @44 - 'PS: You just wait and see: one day we will win the World Cup' that's what I love about Americans, ever the optimists.

  • Comment number 46.

    We know PED use was rife in the majors and was for ages.
    I'm not defending Schmidt or Aaron et al but amphetamines are a little different to the cream and the clear in that they do not fundamentally change your body shape and help you pack on muscle.
    Without them Bonds would not have been able to hit 73 homers in a year and break Aaron's record, never.

    Unfortunately when things like this come to light there is always going to be a scapegoat, the scapegoat is also always going to be the most high profile figure that is/was involved.
    At some point this was going to happen and everyone knew this (Bond's will have to).
    Do I hate on Bonds? Yes I do, I don't like the man and I don't like his attitude (although all potrayed in media etc but they can't all bang on about exactly the same thing and be wrong) or his demeanor like he feels he is owed this.
    But I absolutely agree he was a phenominal player/talent. He had the greatest pitch recognition of any hitter I have ever seen. He was blessed with pure skill.

    He should be in the HOF but I still don't like the man.

  • Comment number 47.

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  • Comment number 48.

    @35 - '*Babe Ruth played at a time when black players were banned from baseball - some of the best athletes weren't allowed to play.' What has this got to do with drugs cheats? Babe Ruth never used drugs and during an era in the game when home runs were at a premium. He continued to be a top class hitter and will go down as the greatest player off all time. Do you really think that a black pitcher would have faired better than a white pitcher? Considering both Aaron and Bonds needed drugs to beat his home run record and despite 100 years passing he still holds numerous records I would say he is a top class player no matter who he was playing against.

    I agree that Bonds has been vilified a bit whereas others have been let off but then none of the other drug cheats hold the record that he does, and it is the biggest record in the game. The problem is bigger than Bonds, but Bonds is the face of the problem.

  • Comment number 49.

    I actually think the point of this blog - and this case is being missed. All the cases pertaining to accusations of steroid use were thrown out, dropped or acquitted. The investigators have combined with a complicit media and the wave of public perception here. Look at all the comments, all about drug use. Barry Bonds was found guilty of being a bit vague in his deposition to a grand jury and cleared of the far more serious crime of perjury. He's been the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and, outside the fair city of San Francisco and Pittsburgh, his reputation is being dragged through the mud. For what it's worth, I've always thought he's a pretty decent guy.

  • Comment number 50.

    @49 I read this yesterday. The writer is a lawyer, and I think he looks at the situation fairly. It looks to me that to some degree justice was served, and really its because of the work of Bond's lawyers and Anderson's silence that helped him escape the other charges. At least so far.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/columns/story?id=6347688

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    @50
    Munson does not do a good job in this post. Read this, it takes his post apart bit by bit. 3 hung juries one being the biggy about lying about taking steroids is not an 0-4 for the defence and not a great achievement for the prosecution.

    http://www.hangingsliders.com/archives/496

    @49
    I don't think the jury was paying much attention during some of Bonds story telling. He flat out answered no to having anyone else inject him other than the team and his own personal physician. Yet his personal assistant (or whatever) testified that she witnessed Anderson injecting Bonds.

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/04/14/the-bonds-jury-foreman-admits-he-didnt-pay-attention-to-the-grand-jury-testimony/

  • Comment number 53.

    hmmmm. Pujols....I saw a special about him on 60 minutes the other night and although he is an amazing humanitarian, I can only wonder if all the work he has been doing is due to his guilty indiscretions. I mean come on, the guy packed on about 30lbs of pure muscle in 2 years. Although it is possible to do, he did it right in the middle of the "juice ball era".....maybe i'm a cynic and a hater. He is a great person I just hope they don't find out he had a needle in his but.

  • Comment number 54.

    I mean butt

  • Comment number 55.

    @52 yeah, after reading that, I do think Munson was overstating the victory. Especially the 0 for 4 comment. And, it does look like he himself has his own issues. If some of those comments are true then ESPN has made a big mistake in hiring him.

    But his comment that Anderson's silence really hindered the prosecution seems to make sense to me. So with the odds stacked against the prosecution, there was some sense of victory. I mean we are talking about a guy (Anderson/BALCO) who has loads testimony against him regarding the selling/giving PED's to other athletes. Right?

    I don't think the US Justice system is fundamentaly flawed, but I do think that with big money, someone can hire lawyers that muddle the case up so much, that jurors struggle to make correct judgements. That doesn't seem like justice to me. I might be dreaming, but I do hope, that one day something can be done about that. Not just because of just this case mind. But because of the thousands like it (i.e. O.J. Simpson, etc)

  • Comment number 56.

    Until the USA adopt international standards for drug offences and their associated penalties the abuse will continue. Mannie ducked his 100 game ban, which is only about 6 months for a 2nd offence, whereas most international sports have a life ban for a 2nd offence. WADA are "going after" Contador for microsopic amounts of a banned substance, yet the "American" sports have such small penalties.

  • Comment number 57.

    Matt good Blog as usual. I have a few questions though- Drugs in sports is not a new phenomenon and it has really threatened to destroy our favourite pass time over the last couple of years at least. I know for track and field with the muscle mass, the strength and recovery capabilities- How doees drugs in Baseball help a Hitter like Barry Bonds? Does it improve his eyesight, hand-eye coordination? I understand the strength arguement in hitting the ball further. What was is average Home-run distant prior to 2002 to the time He start taking the substance? This will not prove innocence or guilt, but for me there is no asterick in Barry's talent.

    He has made an error like most of us in life, the only difference is that He is a public figure and that is the reason it has been magnified. Ray Clemens, A Rod, Mannie and the list goes on and on, who have transgressed- what are the penalties for them? Baseball is America's favourite pass time and one of their beloved has trangressed- America please wake up- these guiys are human beings- it is the same thing happen to most of the lovers of Tiger Woods- He was placed on such a high pedestal- Persons couldn't believe their precious Tiger woods could be guilty of anything like what was reported. As I said with Tiger, I am now saying with Barry- Say your sorry(s) to your God firstly, Secondly to your Family and be at peace with yourself. The real fans will forgive you, even if the history books and the media won't.

  • Comment number 58.

    Considering that in the NFL more than 90% of all the players are on steroids, what is the justification in accusing any other athlete of taking peds? This is deemed legitimate by all including the Government and TV sponsors. Why then only target base ball players? And who did these players lied to? Politicians are the greatest liars why are they judging others?

  • Comment number 59.

    foya (58) incorrectly implies that only baseball players are targeted. Others convicted in the BALCO case include athletes from cycling and track. The convictions are not for taking unlawful substances, they are for perjury and obstruction of justice. These have always been serious crimes in any criminal case, not merely in sports-related cases. Athletes who cooperated with the investigation were not prosecuted for their drug use.

  • Comment number 60.

    Savage Henry (49) incorrectly states that perjury is far more serious than obstruction of justice. They are comparable in severity, and are both serious.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is not true, as gb-60 (35) writes, that Bonds was prosecuted because "a lot of fans, and more so the media, don't like him"? Does anyone suppose prosecutors care what the fans and media think? They prosecuted him (and others) because they believed he was hindering their work in an illegal way, not for any personal reason.

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Evening all, apologies for my very late return to the debate. Probably too late now to add much so I'll just answer a few direct questions.

    Zayous (57) and Watts (15) - I think there are probably two main reasons baseball players might want to use PEDs. The first is to do with injury prevention/recovery and the second is strength. Thankfully (I suppose) nobody has invented a drug that can improve a batter's hand-eye coordination but strong guys can generate more bat speed, particularly with a heavy bat. That means that even their slightly mistimed connections go a long way. All that muscle can be the difference between a deep fly ball and one that just clears the fence.

    Thor God of Thunder (39) - I would be very surprised if there was any move to wipe his records. From a legal point of view that would be very difficult to do. I think what's more likely is that they will always be tainted. I also wonder when/if BB will make the Hall of Fame.

    Marcus (30) et al - I couldn't agree more. But I don't see anything changing with the NFL anytime soon. Powerful players' union, complicit bosses, no need to placate IOC/Wada, level playing field (because it's so rife) = status quo.

    RossForsyth (26) - Hey? Never been proved? Are you sure?

    Unclefox (25) - Good points, well made. I was referring to his almost universal popularity among Giants fans. That's true, isn't it?

    OMG etc (24) - Who was feting Carl Lewis? Not me. And if mentioned every leading sportsman/woman who had been implicated as a doper this blog would have turned into a very long and depressing list. Bonds is the man in the news at the moment. Simple as that. Not sure how that is hypocritical or inconsistent. I think you just like bandying those terms around when you don't agree with something.

    Richard (20) - I think you've answered your own question. Fessing up helps.

    Grob14580 (2) - The Clemens case will be very interesting now. I'm no expert but he seems to be in a deeper hole than BB. He is accused of lying to Congress and, unlike BB, the prosecution has a willing witness.

    Right, that's more than enough from me. Cheers for reading.

  • Comment number 64.

    #27 GerrardCarroll wrote: "The fact that they call their championship the "World Series" is hysterical"

    ---------

    I feel I've got to correct you on this common misconception. Baseball has a "World Series" because it was originally sponsored by the Chicago World newspaper (in the early 20th century, I think). Hence it was then the (Chicago) World's Series. The name simply stuck from there. It is not because US baseball thinks it is effectively the world championship or anything. In fact, the USA probably wouldn't win an international championship, since many of the best MLB players are from Central America (not to mention Japan).

    Sorry to be a pedant, but it bugs me when people use that against the sport in ignorance.

    That said, as the article makes clear, the drug use issue is a pretty serious self-inflicted injury. One thing I think you didn't make as clear as you might in the blog is that, perhaps above all sports, baseball is a game of records. Making comparisons on the key records between different eras is very much part of what makes baseball so special. So to have a whole period in the sport's history compromised like that - as in the 'asterisk' protest in the picture - is particularly hurtful to the average fan. This is also the reason Bonds gets so much attention, because he broke some of the most important records (home runs in a season, career home runs, etc.). A sorry period for all concerned.

    On a happier note, do keep up the baseball blogs!

 

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