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It's a struggle to put Barry Bonds, and his impending home run record, in perspective
A cat-and-mouse game will continue as long as athletes seek an edge and new products are developed that evade existing test procedures. But now that MLB finally has a tough anti-steroid policy in place, players are taking a serious career risk in using such substances. The first positive test draws a 50-game suspension, the second a 100-game furlough, the third a lifetime ban. Players are tested as part of their spring physicals, and at least once again during the season. Random testing also takes place.
The Fifth Amendment guarantees due process, which Americans translate as "innocent until proven guilty." That may be the case in the judicial system, but not in the court of public opinion--just ask William Frawley or Michael Vick.
Consider, too, Rafael Palmeiro, the former Baltimore Orioles star, who is one of only four players (Hall of Famers Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray being the others) who have more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. He tested positive for steroids in 2005 after telling Congress emphatically that he'd never used them. He drew a light 10-day suspension. But upon his return to the lineup, earplugs were his only defense against the hometown boos. His career ended in universal disgrace.
Without such a positive test, the hometown fans, and others, still adore Barry Bonds. Nevertheless, a combination of common sense and evidence tells us he cheated his way to the home-run record. Once he overtakes Mr. Aaron's 755 home runs, there'll be an asterisk next to that statistic whether it's actually printed there or not.
The true test for Mr. Bonds and for Mr. Palmeiro will be whether they're elected to the Hall of Fame, or left to join Pete Rose as stars who gambled with their legacies, and lost.