The Washington Times - February 7, 2009, 02:25PM

It was truly a bittersweet moment when Barry Bonds smashed his 756th career home run into the San Francisco night on Aug. 7, 2007. It was bitter, of course, because the poster boy for baseball’s Steroid Era had knocked the great Hank Aaron off his hard-earned pedestal and affixed an unsightly asterisk to yet another of the game’s hallowed records. It was sweet because there was a sense that the national pastime’s long nightmare was finally over and hope that squeaky clean slugger Alex Rodriguez would soon make things right.

Those hopes can officially be put to bed. Sports Illustrated, citing “four sources,” reported Saturday morning that Rodriguez, then a member of the Texas Rangers, tested positive for two anabolic steroids during his MVP season of 2003. According to SI’s sources, A-Rod’s name appears on a list of 104 major leaguers who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during Major League Baseball’s “survey testing” that season, which was conducted in order to determine whether random testing would be necessary the following year. When confronted with the allegations by a reporter Thursday night, A-Rod reportedly replied, “You’ll have to talk to the union. I’m not saying anything,” which translates roughly to “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

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Rodriguez’ “Golden Boy” days were over even before Saturday’s report surfaced. His hypersensitivity, repeated failures in the clutch and ill-advised, self-created rivalry with popular Yankees teammate Derek Jeter have made him a magnet for critisim, and his often tactless responses - “When people write [bad things] about me, I don’t know if it’s because I’m good looking, I’m biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team…” he once told SI - have made him difficult to root for. His messy divorce and public fling with pop star and fellow recent divorcee Madonna haven’t done anything to help his image, either. And now, rather than going down as the hero who carried baseball past the Steroid Era, he’ll be remembered as the goat who prolonged it.

A-Rod has slugged 553 home runs in his 13-plus seasons - an average of about 42 per year. At that rate, barring injury or age-related decline, he should replace Bonds’ tainted record with a similarly sullied mark of his own late in the 2013 season or in early 2014. Baseball fans can only hope that moment will serve as the long-awaited end of the Steroid Era. Thankfully, it won’t happen in the House that Ruth Built.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected]

Photo by the Associated Press