Baseball, Steroids and Barry Bonds
SUSAN STAMBERG, host:
This week more evidence came out that Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants has used steroids. The evidence comes from the forthcoming book, Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports, to be published later this month. An excerpt appeared this week in Sports Illustrated. This is not the first book or article to point the finger at Barry Bonds. On Wednesday, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he's going to look into the book's allegations. Baseball has been in a tango with steroids for years. In his book, Juicing the Game, Howard Bryant said baseball was willing to look the other way because the steroid-enhanced performances got fans passionate again. Howard Bryant is in our studio. Hi.
HOWARD BRYANT reporting:
STAMBERG: So tell us what's new in these latest charges.
BRYANT: I think what's new in the book is for the first time you have specific drug use by Barry Bonds. There are players over the years, there have been writers, there have been people who believe that Barry Bonds had used drugs outside of the designer steroids that he had testified with the grand jury about a couple of years ago. But now this book, from what I understand, what it does is it details not just that drug use, but drug use of his everyday regimen. Barry Bonds for the past seven or eight years has essentially pointed his finger at everybody and said either show me the proof or leave me alone, and now this is the first time where we're going to see the proof.
STAMBERG: And so that's why it's exciting, because he has been denying it over and over...
BRYANT: Well, he's been denying it, exactly. And what he's been doing is the same thing that a lot of people do, is they believe that the continued denial becomes truth, and it's not. And I think what I tried to do in my book and what I think what the two authors did in their book is they have cornered Barry Bonds. They've cornered this rampant culture of bigness that seemed to define baseball for the last ten years where steroid use benefited these performances.
STAMBERG: How are these steroids hurting? How are they harming the game?
BRYANT: Well, they're harming the history. Baseball more than any other sport relies on its history. It relies on its lineage, and I don't think there's another sport that cherishes its record book as baseball does. And I think that baseball has compromised its record book by allowing these players to use these drugs, because let's face it, baseball has been thrilling.
STAMBERG: There's all this turmoil going on, the charges, the counter-charges, the denial. What's the state of steroids in baseball these days? Are people still using them?
BRYANT: We'll find out, because they have testing in place and supposedly these tests are difficult enough that players will have trouble beating the test. But I think that players are always going to use whatever they think is going to better their performance, and I don't think that's the issue. I think the issue is the game recognizing that it doesn't condone this type of behavior and it's going to at least try to discourage people from using.
STAMBERG: But they have said, baseball has said, it will do testing now for steroids.
BRYANT: And it has been for three years.
STAMBERG: How are they doing?
BRYANT: Well, the penalties are sufficient now. The maximum 100-game penalty, I think that in the 162-game season being penalized 100 games is fairly significant. Where they haven't been so good is acknowledging the reason for these penalties. Here's the disconnect. We were told for years that baseball didn't have a steroid problem. We were told for years that baseball had taken care of these problems whatever they might be. So what's the reason for a 100-game penalty unless you've got a real problem?
STAMBERG: So the baseball commissioner says that he's going to take a look at the evidence in this latest book. What do you think?
BRYANT: I don't think much of it. And I applaud the commissioner for at least trying to go forward. They've got steroid penalties in place. They've got an agreement with the Players' Association that they're going to test not just for steroids, but amphetamines, which have been in the game for 40 years. But the commissioner, he's in a bind. His entire reign as commissioner has been paralleled by this rampant steroid use where the record books have changed and where baseball has been altered. And his question is whether or not he has the courage and whether he has the conviction and the will to investigate himself.
STAMBERG: Thank you very much. Howard Bryant is staff writer for the Washington Post. His book is called Juicing the Game. Thank you.
BRYANT: Thank you.