By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Barry Bonds has hit enough home runs to make him the nation’s all time home run king. It is coming out now that he did so while using steroids. Because of the arcane rules of the game and public shame, Bonds felt he had to lie to Congress when the McCain juggernaut took it upon itself to clean up baseball. Now, after testing and final reports, Bonds stands accused of perjury before Congress. If convicted, the massive slugger will be toughing it out in one of our nation’s finer prisons.
Let us be clear: It matters not that Bonds may have used chemicals to enhance his physique. Steroids did not make him stronger; they contributed to his mass. Still, it was his effort, strength, and natural talent that brought him to where he is today. He deserves nothing less than full recognition for his efforts. His urine may have once tested “dirty”, but his achievement is clean. Naysayers should be ashamed of themselves. The only thing Bonds did that brings shame is lying to Congress. He should not have been afraid to testify truthfully and there should have been no ramifications for doing so.
This is the United States of America. We are a free nation that prides itself on individual achievement and success. Ours is not a social construct predicated upon disabling those out front so as to enable those who cannot or will not keep up, to do so. Equality in this nation means equality of opportunity; not of outcome.
In sports, as in life, the loudest opponents to the concepts of “higher”, “faster”, and “stronger” are those same purists who seek a return to their little house on the prairie, want their two chickens in every pot, dream they are the Marlboro man, and plan a Donna Reed lifestyle. They will not look forward and insist on anchoring human enlightenment and progress in a bygone era. They are the modern day blacksmiths facing down the new fangled invention called the automobile.
“We have the technology”.
Americans have labored long and hard to enhance the standard of living. We have built the most impressive technology, garnered incredible scientific achievement, and expanded intellectual understanding of the universe beyond our Founders’ wildest dreams. We have driven the surface of Mars, discovered the computer chip, split the atom, and figured out the science of cloning. All of this was for the betterment of the human condition. Yet, when it comes to taking advantage of this technology for growing our own human potential, some folks dig in and insist we hold onto the ways of old. To them, churning butter is much more beneficial to humanity than margarine.
My wife had a major operation a few years ago. I had a lengthy and long discussion with the anesthesiologist prior thereto about the subject of pain management. He elaborated on what I already knew; namely, that in his profession, there are two schools of thought. One school says pain management and the drugs available should only be used to help a person deal with the pain. The other school says we have the technology and should use the spectrum of drugs available to eradicate pain altogether. Of course it was her luck to draw a student of the former but his attitude changed when I gave him my best Shirley McLaine impression when the nominal pain relief was not working.
The issue however begs the bigger question. Why interfere with athletes who choose to consume and use steroids they believe enhance performance? So far, I have yet to hear a valid and reasonable reason for the revulsion being expressed by the ‘hall monitors – turned politicians’. If Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and a plethora of other professional athletes can run faster, jump higher, hit harder, and perform better, then does not that bespeak of the value of the drug? Are not athletics all about ‘stronger faster higher’?
Objections come in two groups. There are those who claim that steroid use is “cheating”. Another group says steroids are too dangerous. We know now that both claims are not true.
I wish someone would explain to me how steroid use is cheating. Only the competitors bending over for the silver or bronze medals consider steroid use to be cheating.
Steroids increase muscle mass, increase aggressiveness, and have all these other effects that somehow enhance the work an athlete does in preparing for his/her sport. The drug itself is not a performance enhancer but rather drives the athlete to work harder and go faster. This is not cheating; this is taking advantage of what is already there. The drugs are not running, jumping, or swimming. Since the entire concept of athletic competition is about capability, then why not do all we can to bring this about and encourage this performance? If the drug and not the athlete is achieving success, then every steroid user would be a champion and every abstainer would be a failure. What does that say about Michael Jordan, Donovan McNabb, or even Hank Aaron himself?
Nobody is forcing these drugs into people. Those who choose not to partake certainly have that right … but they cannot whine about losing … no more than I can whine for not winning the Indy 500 because I was driving a Pinto. Besides, with all the science being currently employed in professional athletics, trainers have found ways to achieve the same effect with diet, LEGAL drugs, and other supplements. Is this cheating?
Steroids are unhealthy. They can cause great harm. Nobody disputes this. But then again, so can aspirin, cigarettes, sugar, or even walking across the street. All of these things, if unregulated and uncontrolled, can kill you. Today, with so much money invested in an athlete and in his performance, with the levels of medical skill and scientific expertise, it is unlikely that steroids would be used to a dangerous level. But this only applies if they are regulated and controlled; not banned and made illegal.
Yes, there will be those who ABUSE the drug. But since we do not punish all drinkers for the behaviors of the drunk, we should not deprive our athletes the right to “be all they can be” because of the mismanagement of a few.
Do you really have enough information to take a stand on this issue? Or is it like our “other” Drug War, you just accept they are “bad” because some old man tells you so. How many of you use your own performance enhancing drugs … Viagara, Cialis, or Levitra?
For me, I am more offended that anyone would ever think about putting an asterisk next to Barry Bonds’ continuing achievement. Consider what it must take just to stand there at home plate and face down a major league pitcher and still manage to hit more than 755 home runs in your career? For me, there are not enough drugs in the world to put me in that box.
… and while we are on the subject … should we discuss Marion Jones, Darryl Strawberry, or Reggie Williams?