Letters

From "who cares" to "suspend them for life," the readers weigh in on baseball's steroids controversy.


Salon Staff
December 5, 2004 6:17AM (UTC)

[Read "Shocked, Shocked!" by Steve Kettmann, and "I'm in Denial," by Joan Walsh.]

Well ... we all knew it, though no one would report it until now. It was bad for business, so the powers that be who own teams, and in some cases the media, prevented the steroid story from flying.

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Fans aren't stupid, and certain players' physiques became the subject of jokes you'd make to your buddies. "Wow, (fill in the blank) put on 40 pounds of muscle in the offseason and his head grew three sizes and he's only 36 years old! Amazing, his jaw is a lantern! Wonder when he'll have all his cartilage replaced ... and his liver fails?"

The thing that bothers me most is this: Barry Bonds is a contemptible asshole who shows nothing but disrespect for the game that pays him and for those who cover it ... and no one dared suggest he's on the 'roids. Instead, he was catered to and apologized for and allowed to play in a vacuum. No one bothered the great Barry Bonds!

Put your armor on, stand right on the plate, get all the calls. Hit your dingers, take your walks, talk to no one, fill the seats, never win a big game ... Hero, my ass!

Now he has one of the most storied records in baseball and he's closing in on the other -- and solely because he enhanced his physical tools. Throw him out of the game.

-- Kevin O'Neil

If at least 25 percent, and maybe 50 percent or more of the league are on steroids, then it is a level playing field, and Barry Bonds is still lapping the field.

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And now that the league is going to (finally) try to stop steroids, it will again be a level playing field.

Bonds' troubles remind me of the Sammy Sosa's corked-bat incident. The experts say there is no gain from corking; I say there is no gain from steroids, relative to other steroid users.

I want to see the best athletes. I see it in Barry. I wouldn't suggest that anyone should use steroids, but it sure has made Barry worth watching.

-- Floyd Maxwell

After listening to some of the talking heads on ESPN, I've come to the conclusion that they've missed the boat on Bonds. They correctly point out that Bonds is/was a great player without enhancing drugs. As a result, they still think he'll be considered one of the game's greatest players.

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To me, his greatness without enhancing drugs is what makes this whole thing so disappointing. What's more of a letdown: finding out that a C student cheated to get by, or to find out that an A student cheated to get an A+? For me, I'll always just evaluate Barry on his career up to 2001.

-- John Gordenier

It seems to me that in the "baseball is business" vs. "baseball is life" battle, business won a long time ago. These days, getting upset about steroids in sports is like getting upset about Ashley Simpson lip synching.

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It's a performance, entertainment event. Baseball had its chance to be otherwise back with Mark McGuire. Blame it on the union, blame it on the owners, blame it on ratings, blame it on Fox. But don't blame it on the fans. I don't have the energy to care anymore.

-- P.E. Bird

Oh no! Say it isn't so. The United States -- the most pharmacologically advanced, most overmedicated state in history, home to thousands of drug companies and a country where half the high school athletes admit to taking performance-enhancing substances, now finds out that, maybe, its elite athletes take steroids?

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What? Did you think that athletes turn 18 and decide to turn over a new leaf and stop taking steroids because now that millions of dollars in salaries and endorsements are on the line, it just wouldn't be sporting? Didn't anyone notice how guys go from reasonably-size normal people to endomorphic behemoths in about six months? "Hey man, I work out! Almost every day!" Give me a break.

A combination of pharmacological sophistication, political clout, and leagues that turn a blind eye have allowed U.S. athletes to get away with this for years. The fact is that many of the "heroes" Americans like to parade around (both in professional sports and the Olympics) are cheats, plain and simple. I think there might be a some asterisks beside a few athletes' names from now on.

-- Kevin Hill

What hypocrisy -- we clamor for athletes with perfect bodies to keep hitting home runs, sacking quarterbacks or dunking the basketball. Yet when they are accused of using the "wrong" performance-enhancing drug we turn on them and say, "How could you?"

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What is a performance-enhancing drug? I cringe every time I see the term in print. Aren't the pain pills taken after a game used to get back on the practice field more quickly? What about the caffeine used to wake up in the morning? The point I'm trying to make here is that the line separating the drugs that we consider "OK" from the ones that are "not OK" is an ever shifting and arbitrary one. Androstenedione is OK, but pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed, and banned in at least the NHL) is not.

All one has to do to see that Bonds was juicing is compare pictures of the man from various points in his career. Of course he denied it -- it's the American way to deny until proven guilty, and then only admit to as much as can be proven. Top athletes control every aspect of the food and chemicals they put in their bodies, and Bonds knew exactly what he was using.

So does this put an asterisk by his name in the record books? No. He is not the player he is because he injected the drugs -- he injected the drugs because of the player he is, a very hard worker who is willing to do what it takes to make himself the best. This is the American ideal personified. If I'm a baseball player and I want to make myself better and increase my longevity in the game, you'd better believe I'm doing the things Bonds does. He's the ideal spokesperson for taking steroids. If these drugs are so bad, why is he so good at what he does?

These drugs apparently really work, and really do give those who use them an advantage. As long as this is so, people will continue to circumvent any restrictions and testing regimens designed to prevent their use.

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If we've learned anything from the U.S. government's prosecution of the War on Drugs, it is that supply will always rise to fill demand no matter how much is confiscated and destroyed. Widespread drug use is here to stay in both sports and society at large. How we confront and deal with that fact will go a long way toward determining the future of sports (and society).

-- Chris Cain

It has been obvious for some time that Bonds has been artificially enhanced, probably since 1999. The guy played 13 years as one of the best players of his time, a for-sure Hall of Famer, a three-time MVP. He was a slugger, averaging 32 homers a season. Then, at the age of 35, when most athletes begin or are experiencing a physical decline because of age, Bonds amps up his power production by almost 53 percent over the next six years! I defy you to name another human being, in the entirety of the human experience, who operated for an extended period of time at the peak of physical performance and then increased that performance by anything approaching 53 percent. You can't. What Bonds accomplished would be similar to Michael Jordan's coming back with the Wizards to average 45 ppg. There are only two explanations for Bonds' increased performance: (1) he's been getting help from a non-natural source or (2) he is truly the single most amazing physical specimen in human history. More journalists should have exhausted the investigation of the likely No. 1 before jumping to the unlikely No. 2.

This does not compare with McGwire and andro. McGwire, like Bonds a fitness fanatic, took a legal, over-the-counter supplement available in any GNC in the country. He kept his container in full view in his locker. Once he became aware there were problems potentially associated with it, he publicly disavowed it.

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The world of athletic performance assistance exists on a continuum: exercising and eating healthy food is on one end (the "OK" end) and taking steroids, corking your bat, throwing the game is on the other end (the "not OK" end.) Using substances whose true nature you remain intentionally ignorant of and that are given to you in a secretive way by someone known to be distributing steroids and HGH is definitely in the "not OK" camp.

McGwire's record is somewhat tainted by the andro, in the same way that Ty Cobb's batting average is somewhat tainted by the condition of the ball used during most of his career. But Cobb was still a great hitter, McGwire was still a great slugger, and neither cheated; Bonds did.

Selig should, but won't, suspend Bonds, Giambi, and Sheffield for life and he should do it now. The true shame here is that had Bonds just retired after 1998, he would have surely been a lock for the Hall. Now, I don't think he should get in.

-- Steven Flanders

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