- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

Once the toothpaste, or in this case the steroid cream, is out of the tube, it is awfully hard to get it back in.

There is no turning back now on the steroid issue facing major league baseball. The smoke that has come in puffs here and there, with BALCO grand jury leaks and statements by players themselves, is nearly choking baseball now with the news that New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi testified before a grand jury that he injected himself with human growth hormones in 2003 and also used steroids for at least three seasons, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

After publicly claiming he did not use steroids, Giambi testified that he got several different steroids from Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson. Giambi’s teammate, Gary Sheffield, also has declared in interviews that he unknowingly received a cream from Anderson that contained steroids.

Can we stop with the witch hunt now? Do we really think Bonds’ trainer was holding out on his biggest client, the Giant Head who just won his seventh Most Valuable Player Award? Anderson has been heard on a recording talking about Bonds using an “undetectable” performance-enhancing substance during the 2003 season, the Chronicle reported in October. Anderson and BALCO labs founder Victor Conte are among four people charged in federal court with distributing illegal steroids, among other charges. All have pleaded not guilty.

Giambi, baseball’s medical oddity of 2004 after missing 82 games from — take your pick of various reports from food poisoning to a tumor in his pituitary gland — is the focus of yesterday’s disturbing news about his steroid use and the continuing dark BALCO cloud that hangs over baseball. But Giambi is a hit baseball can take. The one-time American League MVP appears to be washed up, his body breaking down — and may never be in the limelight again, save for if and when he appears in court whenever the BALCO trial begins.

The hit that will hurt the game is Bonds, who is on the verge of playing one of the most historic seasons in the history of baseball while possibly joining Giambi, Sheffield, and the rest of BALCO’s stable of juiced-up athletes in a San Francisco courtroom sometime next year. He is 12 home runs away from passing Babe Ruth and 53 from passing Hank Aaron to become baseball’s all-time leader as well as its all-time embarrassment.

Can you imagine the publicity tour surrounding the Bonds home run watch next year as the smoke from the BALCO investigation continues to emerge until it is a house on fire? We got a glimpse of it during the World Series in October, when baseball did all it could to get in and out of handing Bonds the Hank Aaron Award for most outstanding offensive performer in the National League.

It held a press conference to honor Bonds and the AL winner, Manny Ramirez, before Game4 of the Series at Busch Stadium. It held a press conference the day before for Edgar Martinez, the winner of the Robert Clemente Award, and ESPN baseball analyst Harold Reynolds was the moderator. After all the speeches and presentations, questions were entertained from reporters.

In the Hank Aaron Award press conference also moderated by Reynolds, no questions were allowed. In fact, Reynolds, who apparently forgot he wears a press credential and not a baseball uniform anymore, actually ran interference to keep reporters away from Bonds.

What will baseball do to keep Bonds from taking questions next season? Hire Pinkerton guards? Bonds did speak as part of the ceremony of what it meant to have Aaron there to present the awards.

“To have this opportunity to have the man himself present a player like myself, and I know Manny is going to say the same thing … when we were little boys, playing in our backyards and stuff saying, ‘I hope one day in my lifetime to have the opportunity to meet Hank Aaron.’”

Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi did not dream of injecting themselves with human growth hormones or other performance-enhancing substances when they were little boys. They likely didn’t even know such things existed. Too bad today’s young baseball fans have been denied that same innocence.

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