Bonds to surpass homer marks just plain wrong

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

It has been two years and a few months since the first revelations of a designer steroid being distributed to high-profile athletes by the Bay Area Laboratories Cooperative in San Francisco.

Yesterday, while ruminating on the latest and juiciest Barry Bonds expose yet, a couple of paragraphs from a column we wrote back then jumped out of the file.

"Over the next few months, now that the American media has extricated its collective head from another of its well-known orifices, the revelations will tumble over each other until the whole tawdry mess is laid bare.

"The media beast has been dishonestly slow to awaken, but once aroused, it will eat its young to get to the bottom of the story it avoided for a generation."

It took longer than a few months but the truth finally is out. The United States sports establishment, media division, years previously had been quick to condemn disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson but did little to uncover drug cheats in its own country. But from the start, BALCO was different and its many threads have been pursued and catalogued in painstaking detail by investigative journalists from the San Francisco Chronicle until there is nowhere for Bonds to hide.

And there's nowhere for baseball to hide, either. The grand old game is left to ponder the question: What if somebody broke Hank Aaron's career home run record and an entire stadium full of people just stood up and quietly turned their backs?

RECORD CHASE

Bonds, defiant and beyond arrogant, begins this baseball season with the Giants with 708 home runs, six behind Babe Ruth and 47 behind Aaron's record of 755. And he actually expects people to find joy in his record chase.

Under different circumstances, Bonds' pursuit of his sport's most prestigious record would be a marketer's dream. Now that there's not a shred of doubt left about the how, the who, the what and the why of Bonds' drug cheating between 1999 and 2002, the magic of the home run chase has disappeared. What's left is an embarrassment.

What's left is a sham of tainted accomplishments, just as Mark McGwire's home run records of the late 1990s are tainted. Likewise those of Sammy Sosa and others. So many others. And there's the hell of it for anybody who kept his nose clean and competed without "the juice" -- clean or not, everyone is under suspicion.

CHEATING

But Bonds is the only one whose cheating has been laid bare for all to see and baseball can do nothing about it. The men who run the game kept their heads buried studiously in the sand while McGwire and Sosa waged their marvellous 1998 home run chase that brought a lot of people back to the game after the labour crises of the mid-1990s.

They did not even want to contemplate the notion of steroids, let alone ban them, until 2002 when they had no choice.

According to the evidence compiled in the book, Bonds took so many various substances that, by rights, he should glow in the dark. Fuelled by jealousy of the celebration of McGwire's 70-home run season in 1998, Bonds, at the age of 34, apparently put on 20 pounds of drug-induced off-season muscle and became known in the San Francisco clubhouse as the Incredible Hulk.

From 2000 until 2004, Bonds had the five most productive offensive seasons in baseball history, at ages when most players are forced to retire. During those five seasons, Bonds hit 258 homers and drove in 544 runs. In 2001, he beat McGwire's single-season record with 73 homers.

It's all there in black and white. Damning evidence that Bonds says he's going to ignore. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig doesn't want any part of this fight because it exposes the lack of vigilance during his watch and opens up the game to more unwanted scrutiny.

Baseball supposedly has closed the door on its steroid era. At least it's testing for the stuff now and there are penalties in place. But there's no grandfather clause on that enforcement so the game is left with the blight of those deceitful home run totals rung up by Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.

And worse, Bonds, the biggest fraud of them all, is getting ready to take down The Babe and Hammerin' Hank, two guys who made history using just the gifts with which they were born.


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