Thursday, February 24, 2005

What did Barry do wrong?

Few athletes are as polarizing a personality as Barry Bonds. People either love him or hate him. There's no middle ground. He admitted taking steroids but he did it unknowingly. Whether you believe that statement or not, Bonds' (and Jason Giambi's) steroid use presents us with the classic "tree falling in the forest but no one saw it" debate.

Steroids were not banned substances by baseball. MLB did not test for it. So what did Bonds do wrong? If using something that has the potential to enhance performance is not against the rules, why are we chastizing them?

How different is steroid use from amphetamines, which by most reports, have been in baseball for 40 years? Amphetamines enhance a player's alertness which can enhance performance. Hypothetical: Carlos Beltran plays a 14-inning game until 1:06 a.m., then turns around for a 1 p.m. game the same day. He pops a "greenie" (nickname for amphetamine) at noon to help stay awake, then goes 3-for-4 with two home runs.

How different is that than steroids? Steroids don't have the immediate impact of amphetamines. Plus, if you take steroids, you don't automatically get huge. You still have to lift weights and have some ability, too. It's not like Popeye eating his spinach. Amphetamines are closer to that than steroids.

What about the creatine craze of the late 1990s? Or the vat of Mega-man 12 million they sell at GNC? How different is that from steroids? Again, none of these things are banned by baseball.

Look at Gabe Kapler. The Red Sox outfielder is routinely on the covers of muscle magazines. The guy is jacked. Whatever he may have taken to help get that big certainly wasn't against baseball rules.

Should steroids be banned from baseball? Probably. But so should amphetamines and any other method of enhancement that's not a weight/flexibility machine.

There are too many what-ifs when it comes to the medical aspect of steroids. A negative image exists around steroids because of what some doctors claim it can do to a user. But there are others who say such effects are not caused by steroids.

Lyle Alzado died from brain cancer caused by a human strain of Mad Cow disease, but because he admitted taking steroids, people automatically assume they know why he died.

However, Jose Canseco does admit in his book that his package costs less to mail.

And exactly how different is Canseco, Bonds, Giambi and the others from Steve Howe, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and those that went through more cocaine than all of Colombia? Howe was suspended from baseball seven different times for using coke.

The last time I checked, cocaine was just as illegal as steroids.

And if you're going to claim that cocaine cannot enhance performance, give Gary McClain a call. You know, the Villanova point guard who played the best game of his life in the 1985 NCAA national semifinals against Memphis State. He was coked out of his head.