Sports Opinion: Athletes on trial?
For the past decade, Major League Baseball hasn't been perceived in a particularly positive light. With the future of "America's past time" in jeopardy and the legitimacy of the past three decades of the sport in question, US Congress decided to intervene.
Congressional hearings were held in which once beloved, and now vilified baseball stars such as Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds testified before House Committee members. Topics ranged from general use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball to the infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), a company investigated for providing numerous athletes with PEDs including Giambi and Bonds.
Many people questioned why any elected official would be spending time, money, and effort on such a relatively insignificant issue. That is a legitimate question, considering the taxes we pay fund these frivolous congressional endeavors.
I guarantee if a poll were conducted to determine the top 20 priorities of the American taxpayer, eradication of PED's in Major League Baseball would not make it on that list. Having said that, it's an issue that's somehow found its way onto the list of priorities of our representatives.
Off the top of my head, I can think of a few more pressing issues we would prefer our money to be spent on; issues of much greater consequence than who's juicing. Although I disagree with Congress' decision to meddle, I do agree with them that something had to be done.
The House Committee's true intentions are still largely up for debate. Some House Committee members showcased a genuine concern for the future of baseball and a desire to purge the game of a harmful culture. There were other members, however, who appeared to be there simply for political gain.
Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig's initial attempt to regulate PEDs was insufficient and bordering on nonexistent. For too long, Selig's impotence was the only barrier between the average baseball player and a syringe. Now at least there is some precedent, and the current baseball-ing generation know the consequences if they decide to go down the same path.
Due in large part to the prevalence of PEDs, the sport's reputation has suffered greatly. In a 2005 congressional hearing, Jose Canseco said, "Steroids [in baseball] were as prevalent in the late 1980s and 1990s as a cup of coffee."
The risk Selig runs by taking the "wait and see" approach is that people develop their own opinions about how significantly PEDs have influenced the game in the past thirty years. There are some who attribute the success of any baseball player who played in the "steroid era" to PEDs, which is completely unfair to those who had the self-control to abstain from them.
I was at AT&T Park when Barry Bonds hit his 755th home run, bringing him one shy of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. As soon as he made contact with the ball, you knew it was gone. At that moment, the crowd erupted. It was a collective cheer for one of the most, if not the most, despised athletes in recent history.
Bonds personified the corrupt, deceitful, egotistic state of the game, and was perhaps singlehandedly more responsible than any other individual for the backlash against Major League Baseball in recent years.
At that moment, however, he was beloved and a couple of days after that, immortal. And when he did finally break that record, one thought crossed my mind. This moment brought to you by the good people at BALCO.