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Muscle Sport Magazine

Saved by Steroids – The Best of Both Worlds

Baseball Gets Headlines During Bonds’ HR Chase and Indictment

Love him or loathe him, Barry Bonds garners a lot of attention. Last summer, his pursuit and eventual passing of Henry Aaron’s career home run total brought a sideshow to every San Francisco Giants game, home and away. With the indictment being handed down on November 15, Bonds and baseball were once again the top story with the slugger’s perjury and obstruction of justice charges taking the lead spot in all news outlets that day. Coincidence?

OFF THE MAT

The sport of baseball has always recovered from ‘down’ periods. The 1919 Black Sox scandal rocked America’s Pastime and even the fallout of a conspiracy to throw the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds eventually dissipated. Eight men may have been out, but one was still in. Babe Ruth’s contract was sold by Boston to the New York Yankees in 1920, and the Sultan of Swat single-handedly reinvented the game with the long ball and making the public cheer at the ballpark instead of showing mistrust.

STRIKE TWO

The 1994 player’s strike caused the first cancellation of the World Series since 1904, when John McGraw refused to have his New York Giants play the ‘junior circuit’ American League. The popularity of the sport took a major hit with the 232-day stoppage, and a public relations nightmare ensued. There was a 20 percent drop in attendance the following season and the fans were not rushing out to see a bunch of millionaires who took their ball and went home with it when they decided their allowance was not high enough.

BIG RED & SLAMMIN’ SAMMY

Attendance began to rise slowly, but did not pick up steadily until 1998, which just happened to be the summer of the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The long ball was sexy again with not one, but two players breaking Roger Maris’ record of 61. McGwire (70) and Sosa (66) were as courteous to one another as entertaining to the droves of fans that came out to witness history in the making. Baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet were on everyone’s menu, and Bud Selig couldn’t have been happier.

Who could have envisioned (especially the commissioner) that not one, but both of these players would be ridiculed due to their (non) actions at the congressional hearings?

JUICY ACCUSATIONS

Baseball began to show a few chinks in the armor when performance-enhancing drugs became more of a story than who was clinching post-season berths and winning batting titles. Is he or isn’t he? That was the biggest question whenever a ball cleared the fence.

Bonds became the target of not only the fan’s attention, but Selig and basically the Federal Government, as well. American troops are fighting two wars on foreign soil, but Congress had to call ballplayers on the carpet to grill them if they had any knowledge of steroids and the like. Bonds was not called to testify back in 2005, with the reason being given as to avoid interfering with a federal investigation, which culminated in the recent indictments.

While that may make sense, the witness list minus Bonds basically turned into a ‘dog and pony’ show. If it weren’t for Raphael Palmeiro’s finger waving and subsequent failed test, nothing of any weight would have come out of the entire charade.

The main target throughout the BALCO indictments and Congress hearings has always been Bonds. Newspaper writers and personal trainers have been sentenced to jail time due to their silence on what they know or heard on Bonds’ involvement with steroids. To not call him as a witness brought the validity of the hearings down, and if the federal government wanted another charge to slap on Bonds, he would have said the same things or stood on his Fifth Amendment rights in front of Congress. It would not have interfered with their investigation or at least hamper it to the point of tainting it.

BY GEORGE, WE HAVE AN INVESTIGATION

The George Mitchell Investigation was released on December 13 and included testimony about Bonds. Jim Valente, BALCO vice president, made statements to federal agents on September 3, 2003 pursuant to a multi-agency raid at the location that he recalled “sending a blood sample belonging to Barry Bonds to Lab One, then notifying Lab One that the sample did not refer to Bonds but rather to Greg Anderson (Bonds’ personal trainer).” This was done because Bonds did not want his name on the blood sample.

Mitchell also wrote in his over 300-page report that he requested interviews of all the BALCO players, including Bonds. All either refused or failed to respond, and Mitchell even singled out Bonds because he was “at the time the subject of a criminal investigation,” and that under the circumstances, “his refusal to talk with me was understandable.”

A question that has never been answered is why Mitchell was allowed to possibly interview Bonds before the indictments were handed down and Congress did not – or could not – include him in their hearings? Wouldn’t Mitchell have been interfering with the same federal investigation if Bonds met with him and his staff?

NOW WE GOT HIM!

The Feds are charging Bonds with perjuring himself on four occasions in front of a 2003 grand jury, with Bonds testifying that he did not use steroids in 2000 and 2001; Anderson or any other third party never injected him with steroids or gave him Human Growth Hormone; and he did not use BALCO designer steroids such as ‘the clear’ or ‘the cream’ before the 2003 season. The other charge in the indictment, obstruction of justice, is referring to a pattern of giving knowingly false statements.

The indictment reads that “evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids,” and includes an alleged doping calendar for Bonds and a positive test said to be commissioned by BALCO in November 2000 showing the presence of two steroids.

The big question is why did they wait until now to hand down the indictments. There are many theories why, with two names involved being Scott Schools and Jeff Novitzky. Schools, the acting U.S. Attorney, is in a lame-duck position and could have been looking for a good parting shot before being replaced. IRS Agent Novitzky is the original whistle-blower on the entire BALCO case and has not exactly been camera-shy since his five-year probe became a household story with the release of the book, “Game of Shadows.” One could speculate that Novitzky was looking to keep the attention on the law enforcement side of taking down Bonds right before Selig and Mitchell were able to hold up their reports.

Even with that under consideration, the timing of throwing the book at Bonds seems a bit odd. How long did the G-Men need to put together the same evidence that they have had for over four years? There was ample time to present the case and get an indictment on Bonds before he passed Aaron.

BAD PR IS GOOD PR?

Baseball would like to put the entire steroid situation behind and move on with the business of playing games without the scrutiny. Selig could give all the ‘top cop’ speeches he wants, but the fact is that the eyes of the world was on his game while Bonds made his bid for history, and that could not have hurt the popularity of the sport.

In a perfect scenario, wouldn’t have it been better to nail Bonds before he took Mike Bascik deep on August 7, 2007? For the purists of the game, an incredible record would not have been passed and – in the eyes of some critics – tainted.

The Washington Nationals’ lefthander is now added to the list of hurlers that surrendered huge gopher-balls like Al Downing and Steve Traschel (isn’t it interesting that two are former Mets?), and a quick check online shows that he, too, is taking advantage of his ‘misfortune.’ For the low price of $99.99, a Bascik-autographed MLB authenticated baseball with the inscription; ‘I gave up HR #756’ can be yours. Don’t believe it? Put both of the player’s names and ‘autographed baseball’ in the same Google search and see for yourself. If you want to have a ball with both signatures, expect to pay over $600 for an official Rawlings MLB with all the certificates of authenticity and such. God Bless America!

While all of this may not be good for the game, in a strange way it has given it new life. Back in 1997, how could a journeyman pitcher have the opportunity to serve up a record breaking 435-foot moon-shot into the San Francisco night and then both players earning some side cash putting their monikers on a few cases of MLB authentic balls?

AND-ROID

Big Red’s Big Lie?

When Mark McGwire left that bottle of Androstenedione conspicuously viewable in his locker in 1998, performance-enhancing drugs and America’s Pastime were linked. Although at the time it was perfectly legal in baseball, the questions started surrounding the effects of the testosterone-producing pill on the then-home run chase.

Once McGwire stood on his fifth amendment rights at the congressional hearings, a point that was never brought up was why he did not agree to speak (other than his statement) if he did in fact did not break the rules. The labels on the bottles of Andro clearly state that usage of the supplement will cause the user to test positive for steroids on a urinalysis.

Could McGwire have been using something stronger the year that he hit 70 home runs and wanted to cover himself in case anything did become public? By having an AP reporter see the bottle on his shelf, he may have been planting a seed that he was only using a non-banned substance that would show up the same as a stronger one.

Archived from the March 2008 issue of “New York Sportscene” magazine. Photo by Jim Leary.

2 Comments

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  2. Joe Pietaro

    July 27, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Compliments are always accepted and greatly appreciated!

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