4.11.2006

Clarifying the Steroid Witch Hunt

I've been spending a fair amount of time defending my position on the current steroid witch hunt in baseball and I thought it was more sensible to collect all those disconnected thoughts into one post here.

I think its important to define what I mean by witch hunt here.
witch-hunt also witch hunt (wchhnt) n.
An investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views.


Now, after reading that, can any of you detractors say that what's being done to Barry Bonds is anything BUT a witch hunt? I am focused more on the first part of the definition, the ostensible attempt to uncover subversive activities. The investigation is a sham with a hidden agenda. The differing views part is less pertinent to me and I would replace it with "undermine those with previously condoned views and actions" as that's closer to where I am on this investigation.

Let's get a couple of things out of the way.

Did Barry Bonds use performance enhancing drugs (PED's)? It is all but a certainty that Bonds has used some PED's in his career.

What is a PED? A PED can run the range from something as basic as a greenie (speed) to designer steroids created specifically to defeat testing capabilities and everything in between including supplements like Andro that Mark McGwire admitted to using even though it wasn't against the rules.

Is Barry Bonds the only baseball player to ever use PED's? No, don't be stupid. With so much money and prestige at stake, players will look for an edge wherever they can find it. Note, I'm not saying every baseball player has cheated, only that there has been a long established "acceptability" of PED's.

Is Barry Bonds being unfairly singled out in this latest steroid probe? Hell yes. Who else have you heard mentioned along with this investigation? No one. Not one other player has been mentioned.

Is it fair to go back through history with the public opinion of today and judge players from a different time by todays standards? No. If it were then Babe Ruth's records should be expunged as well as just about every other player.

Barry Bonds was and is an amazingly gifted baseball player. There have been many amazing and gifted players in the league over the decades. Can any of you say with absolute certainty that any given athlete hasn't cheated in some way to get where they are or were? And I'm not saying that its okay to cheat because everyone else was doing it. Not at all. But I am saying that making an example of one in the face of the overwhelming evidence of much, much wider usage is unfair in the extreme.

There is the rebuttal that McGwire and Sosa and Canseco and Palmiero aren't playing anymore and have all forfeited their chances at the Hall of Fame (Canseco never had a chance though). But that doesn't account for all of the other players who are still playing that could and should be included in the investigation. It doesn't account for the massive use of greenies and other PEDs that MLB hasn't tested for and isn't testing for them now, though greenies are now banned and I do believe testing has been instituted this season.

The Skinny: Did Bonds use PEDs? In all probablity, yes. Does his use of PEDs in an era when PEDs were tacitly condoned by Major League Baseball, the owners, the managers and the players mean that Bonds' records should be expunged? No. Not at all. Should Bonds be being singled out for his part in all of this? No. Should Bud Selig and the other owners (he is, or was, a part owner of the Milwaukee Brewers) be held as accountable for looking the other while pocketing massive profits from the use of PEDs? If players are going to be banned and barred then hell yes!

There's a Latin term for this and it is ex post facto which means "from something done afterward" or "after the fact". "Generally speaking, ex post facto laws are seen as a violation of the rule of law as it applies in a free and democratic society." Which means that, given changes in public perception, some past actions that were previously allowed, condoned or just not addressed are not against the rules/law. If ex post facto rulings were to become standard rules of law then anything you've done in your past could be used to imprison you which, I'd hope, you would think is entirely unfair.

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