Have Steroids Finally Outrun Barry Bonds?

For years, the allegations of rampant steroid use by players have plagued Major League Baseball.

Whether it was the marginal player trying to hang on long enough to reap the benefits of a major league career or the superstar trying to eclipse the game’s greatest accomplishments, there is no denying that steroids have played some role in badly damaging a sport built on records and the memory of the legendary players who set

Some players have succumbed to charges of steroid use by testing positive for any number of banned substances, while others have admitted their use either directly or in oblique references to “mistakes.” Some have let their rapidly decreasing skills and deteriorating physical condition tell the story.

One player, however, has stood defiant against a tidal wave of claims of steroid use and has steadfastly denied ever “knowingly” having taken them to enhance his performance. A miraculous late-career surge in power statistics and a dramatic change in his physical appearance have not caused Barry Bonds to waiver from his defiance and denials.

Senate hearings, accusations from a wide variety of sources, and production unequaled in the history of the game for a player of his age, have not made Bonds crack. At an age when most players have the word “former” associated with their career and are spending their summers on fishing trips, Bonds is poised to break the single greatest record in the history of baseball, 755 home runs.

All of that, however, may now be in jeopardy because of the extensive and meticulously detailed allegations in a new book from two San Francisco Chronicle reporters that traces the alleged steroid use of baseball’s least fan- and press-friendly superstar.

According to SI.com the book, Game of Shadows, has chronicled Bonds’ steroid use that  started in 1998 with injections of the powerful steroid Winstrol and progressed to a wide array of performance-enhancing drugs over at least five seasons in a regimen that grew more sophisticated and reckless as the years went on.

Reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams describe in detail which drugs Bonds used, and how often he used them. By 2001, the authors write, when Bonds broke Mark McGwire’s single-season home-run record (70) by belting 73, he was engaged in a multi-faceted steroid regimen that included two designer steroids referred to as the Cream and the Clear, as well as insulin, human growth hormone, testosterone decanoate and trenbolone.

Balco, it is claimed, even tracked the quantities and intervals of the steroid use along with Bonds’ testosterone levels. These files were seized by federal agents upon their Sept. 3, 2003 raid of Balco’s offices in Burlingame, California.

According to the book, Bonds did not simply use a limited amount of an unknown cream; he used numerous steroid-based drugs in virtually every conceivable form: by injection, swallowing pills, placing drops of liquid under his tongue, and even applying it topically, using Balco’s notorious testosterone-based cream.

The authors write that Bonds was so reliant on his regimen that he ordered his trainer Greg Anderson to start his “cycles” even before he was due to begin a new one.

Game of Shadows is the result of a two-year investigation that included, but was not limited to, court documents, affidavits filed by BALCO investigators,  athletes’ and trainers’ statements, grand jury testimony, audiotapes and interviews with more than 200 sources.

It will be interesting to see how MLB, the players union, the fans, and the media react to this bombshell book and the revelations it contains. It will be more interesting to see how influences Bonds’ behavior. Will he continue to press on toward 756 or will he quietly slink away as others have done in the midst of this scandal?

The final word, however, will not come until the Hall of Fame ballots are counted down the road. Will those votes or the actions of MLB itself vindicate the defiant superstar or banish him to the lonely environs inhabited by such fallen heroes as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Pete Rose?

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