Saturday, July 14, 2007

Now that the dust has settled from the Barry Bonds pity party at the All-Star Game in San Francisco, it is important, though probably futile, to try to clean up the mess of lies, deceit and disinformation that has surfaced in regards to steroids and the home run record.

First, there is the continued contention by defenders that there is no smoking gun about Bonds and steroids — no proof.

But Bonds himself has admitted under oath that he used performance enhancing substances, though he said he did so unknowingly. The leaked grand jury testimony reported several years ago by the San Francisco Chronicle said Bonds told a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream supplied by BALCO labs. Bonds said he was told they were a nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis, the Chronicle reported.

In case you doubt the validity of that reporting, consider the fact that the person who leaked that testimony was just sentenced to 30 months in prison for letting the Chronicle reporters look at what was supposed to be secret testimony.

But even if Bonds did use steroids, there were no rules in baseball against such use until 2003, when testing began, his supporters claim.

However, steroid use was banned in baseball as far back as 1991 when, after Congress increased the penalties for steroid possession, Commissioner Fay Vincent issued the following memorandum to all clubs: “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited … This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs … including steroids.”

Just because they didn’t test until 2003 doesn’t mean there were no rules against steroid use. If you are driving over the speed limit and there are no police patrolling the road, does it mean you aren’t speeding?

Current commissioner Bud Selig has taken a beating in this Bonds steroids controversy, as critics charge he presided over the steroid era with a blind eye and did little to stop it.

But the reality is that drug testing could not have been implemented without the agreement of the MLB Players Association, and that was only going to happen when Congress became interested and started dragging players and union officials into Capitol Hill hearings and making threats.

Let’s remember the current labor deal reached last year was the first done without rancor. The one before that, in 2002, was made in the final hours under the threat of a possible strike. The one before that was reached only after the players went on strike in 1994 and the World Series was canceled.

Does anyone really believe that the union would have agreed to any drug-testing proposal at any previous time in history? And do you think it would have been in baseball’s best interest for Selig to go to the mat with the union on drug testing, particularly after the game nearly collapsed from the 1994 strike? How do you think the union would have reacted? Consider that its godfather, former players’ union boss Marvin Miller, criticized the union leadership for agreeing to reopen the labor agreement for the drug testing provisions.

“I don’t believe it’s appropriate to search anybody — either his home, or his garage, or his trunk, or his bladder or his bloodstream — without getting a court order showing probable cause,” Miller told the Associated Press in 2005. “I disapprove of all kinds of testing unless there is probable cause to believe that the person being tested has done something wrong.”

And, according to one of Bonds’ most prominent supporters, if you can’t prove Bonds has done anything wrong, then you should give him a big hug.

“There’s no reason to condemn him,” Jesse Jackson said while attending the All-Star Game, “If you can’t prove it, embrace him and his record. The record speaks for itself.

“It’s like there’s no innocence until proven guilty, no due process. In American justice, evidence matters.”

Jackson wasn’t such a champion of due process and evidence when it came to the Duke lacrosse scandal.

“The Duke scandal should lead colleges across the country to hold searching discussions about racial and sexual stereotypes, exposing the myths that entrap so many. But it shouldn’t take the brutalizing of a mother of two to raise these issues. Justice must be pursued at Duke.”

He wrote that in a column long before due process took place and evidence was revealed.

Here’s some due process — Jesse Jackson and Barry Bonds deserve each other, two All-Star frauds.

Interviewed in the dugout after coming out of the All-Star Game Tuesday night, Bonds, referring to Hank Aaron’s refusal to be on hand when the home run record is broken, said, “Baseball should be a fraternity — if we don’t stand up for one another, who will?”

Yet three years ago, Bonds became the first member in the history of the players’ union to refuse to sign the players association group licensing agreement, which allows players to share the profits from trading cards, video games and other merchandising.

That’s brotherhood, baby.

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