Topic: Sports & Entertainment
Waiting for the Heroes
There are villains galore in baseball's revived steroids scandal, and let's make no mistake about it: those who run the game top the list. Let's quote an Ethics Scoreboard column in this very same space back on March 2, 2004:
So what did the owners and the players union do? Essentially, they pretended everything would go away if they just closed their eyes. And the morons actually had themselves convinced that this "strategy" worked! In 2004, baseball shattered attendance records. Washington D.C. finally got a team. The Boston Red Sox gave America one of its most joyous sports stories.
Oh yeah…and Barry Bonds, whom everybody knew had used steroids, won his fourth straight Most Valuable Player Award.
Yes, you read it right: everybody knew it back on March 2. They just chose to ignore it, that's all. It is amazing that the recent leaks from Bonds' grand jury testimony have set off such a firestorm, because they did nothing but confirm what anyone who had even one eye open had to know already. Scott Peterson was just convicted of murder (beyond a reasonable doubt!) based on less compelling circumstantial evidence than the indications that Barry Bonds has been pharmaceutically cheating. Let's see:
Add to this what we know about Bonds' personality, and have known almost from the beginning of his career: that he cares about nothing but his own performance; that serving as a role model or "good citizen" is of no interest to him; that he is openly contemptuous of authority, convention, or societal norms; that his arrogance and hubris knows no bounds. Yet knowing all of this, baseball's management stood stock still. The players' union, despite pointed threats from a Senate committee, also continued to act as if the problem was due process in drug testing rather than the integrity of the game.
Now the leaked grand jury testimony of Bonds and yet another MVP, injured Yankee first-baseman Jason Giambi has created a crisis for baseball's leaders. Not a crisis of suddenly discovering that some of the game's star sluggers were chemically enhanced, because they knew about that long ago, but the crisis of realizing that even if they wish really hard and the baseball games were really good, they would have to address the problem. And because they waited, that problem is bigger than ever, because Barry Bonds is bigger than ever, in more ways than one.
Bonds, of course, is the next villain. He holds baseball's single season record for homers, and is closing in on both Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron's career totals. A baseball-playing rutabaga with a mere glimmer of a conscience would recognize how important it is that these records be beyond suspicion. Not Bonds! He has watched how baseball's all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, traumatized the sport by linking his iconic record to gambling, but did Bonds see any reason not to risk tainting equally revered records by making the public wonder if they were achieved fairly? No, not as long as he could stoke his massive ego and pull down millions of dollars in the process.
The leaked grand jury testimony shows that Bonds had to know the jig was up, yet he persisted in his lying denials during the 2004 season that he "ever" took steroids. His grand jury claim that he was deceived into taking the drugs by Anderson is a real knee-slapper. Here's Anderson, a bulked up steroid user whom Bonds has known well since they were kids. Bonds almost certainly knows that Anderson gives steroids to other athletes. Anderson gives Barry a mysterious crème and a clear substance, saying one is for arthritis pain and the other is "flax seed oil," and Bonds, a famed control freak who is meticulous about his nutrition and work-out schedule, says, "Sure!" And never suspects the substances are steroids.
If the old witch from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" showed up on Barry's doorstep and offered him an apple, would he guess that it might be poisoned? Guess not! If Tony Soprano handed him bank bag full of freshly-minted hundred dollar bills, would he wonder if the money was stolen? Not good ol' trusting Barry! If Robert Downey Junior told him to put some white powder up his nose, would Barry Bonds assume it was a decongestant? Well, sure!
Utter nonsense. Barry Bonds is lying, lying, lying. It is surprising that his pants aren't on fire.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Barry Bonds' ethics make Pete Rose look like Sir Thomas More. Here's what he has done:
Then we have the equivalent of the Devil in this Faustian tale, Victor Conte, the head of Balco, a company that has become a steroid epidemic all by itself. Conte's ethics are summed up in this quote: "It's not cheating if everyone is doing it." If you are visiting the Ethics Scoreboard, I presume you don't require assistance in concluding that this is outrageous, but let's just summarize:
To give Conte a tiny bit of credit, he is right that widespread cheating can narrow the options down to cheating or not competing at all. This is the situation in professional body-building, where steroid use first raised its misshapen head, and NFL boasting about its steroid policy notwithstanding, it is perilously close to the situation in professional football. But the solution to that problem is to take aggressive measures to purge steroids from sport, as the Olympic sports are attempting to do, not open the doors to universal cheating.
And so, with the unethical, the venal, the self-centered, the cowardly and the corrupt everywhere in evidence in this tale, where are the heroes? They haven't emerged yet, but here are some suggestions:
The villains whose warped ethics brought us steroids in sports can be easily vanquished. All it will take is some timely heroism.