ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2006
San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds, who beat Hank Aaron's home-run record last season, is suspected of taking human growth hormone.
Bonds, too, should be going, going, gone
If Barry Bonds were subject to the rules of track and field -- America's premier Olympic sport, holding its national convention in Honolulu this week -- his home-run records would be "going, going, gone," as famed announcer Mel Allen used to say as the ball sailed out of the park. There would be no asterisk -- Bonds' record would be annulled. Henry Aaron would be given back his hard-fought 1974 record of 755 -- and that's just what baseball should do.
For participants in the USA Track and Field Convention -- national, state and local association chairpersons, meet organizers, officials, coaches and athletes young and old -- no decision or action will have more impact than maintaining a strong anti-drug policy for our nation's youth, especially approaching the Beijing Olympics.
Bonds has increased his hat, shoe and chest sizes by 25 percent during the last 10 years, from ages 33-43, not exactly a young boy's growing period. Time magazine reported Bonds' swelling up as "a telltale sign of human growth hormone," or HGH. For him to say he didn't "knowingly" take drugs defies what everyone knows that human growth hormone and steroids do.
After a positive test result, Bonds publicly admitted (Associated Press and ESPN, Jan. 10 and 11) taking amphetamines, but predictably claimed he didn't know what it was when he got it from a teammate. Still baseball did not penalize him.
Bonds was indicted this month for perjury and objection of justice for testifying before a federal grand jury in 2003 that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Baseball players and coaches downplay amphetamine pills as unimportant "greenies" despite the aggressive, criminal and suicidal tendencies they engender when not medically monitored.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that one million student athletes say they have taken steroids. After former St. Louis Cardinals' home run hitter Mark McGwire tested positive for Androstenedione or "Andro" (now labeled a steroid), sales of the drug quadrupled, confirming a Kaiser Foundation finding that three-quarters of kids say they look up to and want to emulate professional athletes.
Before children start taking steroids and HGH, they need to be aware of the real harm and dangerous side effects, including liver and heart disease, cancer, shrunken body parts, hair in the wrong places, suicide (many sad parents recently testified before Congress) and, as the family of wrestler Chris Benoit can attest, paranoid, schizophrenic, murderous rages. Thousands of East German swimmers are now suing the current government for illnesses from forced steroid drugging.
USA Track and Field, led by CEO Craig Masback and National Chairman Bill Roe, has a "zero tolerance" policy for performance-enhancing drugs and the most rigorous testing program in sport. The punishment of at least a two-year ban from competition and the annulment of results hurts, and is imposed even if the illegal users are stars such as Olympic quintuple-medalist Marion Jones or 100-meter world record holder Tim Montgomery. Only in track and field is the entire entourage -- coaches, doctors, trainers, assistants -- equally subject to being banned. .
Major League Baseball, on the other hand, has a "zero action" policy: do nothing unless boxed into a corner. It does not record tests for amphetamines, it secretly announces to teams at least a day before when "unannounced" steroid testers are coming (allowing players to disappear or use drug-masking agents) and does not seek information about HGH. The MLB investigation into steroid use now being conducted by former Sen. George Mitchell of Maine will provide generalities but no real action -- and no unknown names will be named, according to the ground rules. Professional football, hockey, basketball and soccer are not much better -- the objective of all pro sports seems to be to hide rather than block and punish drug abuse.
In helping to create the new World and U.S. Anti-Doping Agencies, former drug czar and retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey urged "open, accountable" drug policies that the world could see, hear and know. McCaffrey, outgoing WADA Chairman Dick Pound, and former USADA Chairman and Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter -- the triumvirate who launched the struggle against sports drug abuse -- forcefully asserted that the era of hiding our embarrassments must be over. Youths must see and hear the point of drug-free athletics.
It's been a bad year for high-profile sports drug busts -- not just Jones and Bonds, but Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen and ex-Wimbledon tennis champion Martina Hingis among many others -- but it's been a good year for letting the world know that drugs in sport are unacceptable. Every bust is a message to kids: Do not cheat.
It's appalling for Bonds to assert, "This record is in no way tainted." It's time for baseball to delete the asterisk from Barry Bonds' records and do what USA Track and Field and the Olympics would do -- remove his records altogether. It's time for other sports, sponsors and the media to step up and help. Because of the powerful symbolism of the baseball home-run record -- like no other -- it's the best way baseball can restore its integrity and join track and field in sending a loud and clear message for drug-free sport to youths and the nation.