Barry Bonds and the Balco Affair
What is a nice athlete at what for most baseball players is the down hillside of their careers doing embroiled in illegal drugs? It depends on whom you listen to in the Barry Bonds and Balco story.
The tale is one that most baseball fans have followed with varying degrees of dismay and distress over the last few years. It has to do with Barry Bonds was an excellent athlete and signed on to the major leagues at 22 at 6’1 and 185 lbs but very skillful and growing ever more so each season. He had a great record and was a team player. However, like all athletes it appeared that Barry Bonds also wanted to be the best. To that end, he teamed up with Gregory Anderson to train more effectively and Anderson in turned introduced Barry Bonds to Victor Conte the founder of Balco. Another athlete who also wanted to be the best, was professional bodybuilder, Ronnie Coleman. Did Ronnie Coleman use steroids? As of today, we have no proof, but steroids in bodybuilding is very common.
Victor Conte’s company provided athletes with non-traditional supplements combined with blood testing and apparently proved successful for many athletes in improving their performance. Up until a sample of “the Clear” was sent to a federal agency along with the complaint that it was a designer steroid and undetectable, these supplements were highly successful and invisible. What actually happened with Barry Bonds in the consultation with Victor Conte? We may never get to the bottom of it, whether or not Barry Bonds was lied to by Anderson and Conte and duped into taking illegal performance enhancing substances against his will or not. If he knew is a matter of debate and this is not one that anyone will likely ever win. The bottom line is, the discovering of tetrahydrogestrinone, brought steroids in baseball to the forfront.
If Barry Bonds knew he was taking steroids it is far too late to admit so now. If an unscrupulous drug supplier and his trainer duped him, well, that is a shame but it remains that some of his record-breaking performances occurred after teaming up with Greg Anderson and Conte.
Which leaves the Balco affair as a smear on the already cloudy image of major league baseball and Barry Bonds’ records in limbo? If he did not know are the records still valid. Does he deserve a place in the Hall of Fame? Even if Barry Bonds knew and deliberately cheated it is hard to erase a performance such as his 2003 season and his final season. How does the baseball fan react to that? What actions are reasonable in the light of all that occurred in the Balco affair?
In Victor Conte’s overwhelming need to found a successful company no matter what the means, he overstepped the bounds of what is legal and stepped on quite a few fans in the process.
That leaves us with the issue of how to view Barry Bonds records, how long did he take steroids, which of his achievements were unaided by performance enhancing drugs? Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss every accomplishment in his entire career? This is the quandary over Barry Bonds the unwitting dupe, or Barry Bonds the blatant cheater and the Balco affair leaves baseball.