Although the San Francisco Chronicle broke the story (probably the law as well, since Grand Jury testimony is supposed to stay confidential), the New York Times has been leading the charge to take down Bonds and Giambi for their alleged violations.
John Hoberman, a University of Texas professor who has written extensively about performance-enhancing drugs, recommends a renunciation of athletes as role models and an emphasis on intramural and club sports, which are devoted to the joys of participation and the improvement of public health.
I couldn't agree more. I find the pursuit of sport immensely satisfying, whether it's pickup basketball, running, cycling or Sunday softball. I love the gradual improvement, running farther, getting leaner, and the camraderie of my friends. On the topic of role models, my own running partners are as good as anyone's I would wager, and I think I can safely say that aside from the clear air of Alaina's California, none of us are ingesting performance enhancing chemicals.
But the level of hypocrisy surrounding this debate, amidst calls to suspend or ban players, is insane. Bonds, Sheffield and Giambi and all other Major League players were gifted with skill and had to develop nearly unfathomable discipline to perform at the elite level of professional sport. The late great Ralph Wiley once said:
There is nothing, absolutely nothing on this green earth that you can eat drink, sniff, inject or rub on yourself that can make you hit 700 home runs in the Show. That product exists only in our collective imagination, and if he did drink the spiked Kool-Aid, so to speak, this would include Bonds.
Because if that were the case, in spite of all the "outrage," bottles of the stuff would be getting knocked back by just about everybody. People who are currently "outraged" would not only use it, they'd have their kids on it.
Amen. He also said:
Why is it when NFL football players are shot up in their ankles and calves and knees and rib cages and shoulders and necks with pain-killers to numb themselves and then go out and sacrifice their damaged limbs so they can perform for us, we have no outrage over that?
Why indeed. I'm sure that the NFL and NBA will also come under pressure to test their players for steroids. What about runners who train at high distances, thinning their blood and improving it's ability to deliver oxygen to muscles? Should we dynamite the mountain passes in Africa where elite marathoners shave those last seconds off of each mile? Why stop at sports? Should those who have used Viagra stop having sex? What about bored surbanites who dropped acid - can we revoke their right to imagination? High Schoolers get prescriptions to calm them into "attention," and don't get me started on the percentage of our produce that is genetically modified or the pesticides and steroids that find their way into our bellies via meat, dairy and fish.
Of course, I'll be sad if it turns out Serena Williams, Lance Armstrong, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kottke, Mike Piazza or one of my other favorite athletes are guilty of tilting the playing field, but I don't think it's earth shattering, especially in a culture as chemical dependent as ours.