Slugger Barry Bonds, in the Shadow of Steroids

Reporter Tony Cox talks with New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden about MLB slugger Barry Bonds and his alleged history with performance-enhancing drugs. A new book by two San Francisco Chronicle investigative reporters, Game of Shadows, details years of alleged steroid use by the league's most feared power hitter.

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ED GORDON, host:

Once again, Major League Baseball Star Barry Bonds is starting a baseball season tarnished. A new book, Games of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the steroid scandal that rocked professional sports traces the slugger's alleged history with enhancement drugs. The book was written by two reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle and is due in stores at the end of the month. But he latest edition of Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands today, has excerpts.

Reporter Tony Cox asked New York Times Sports Columnist Bill Rhoden why Barry Bonds seems to be under attack.

Mr. BILL RHODEN (Sports Columnist, New York Times): Well, Tony, Barry Bonds is probably the most despised athlete in North America. You know, probably if you were a Sammy Sosa type, somebody who, you know, gave the media a little bit more--I'm not saying that we wouldn't be in the middle of this scandal--but I think there would not be a, such a guillotine edge to it. And I think that it's sort of the continuation of a long line of persecution of black athletes, but that's...

TONY COX reporting: Another story. We'll get to that in a minute.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COX: All right, let's break this Barry Bonds scandal down into digestible parts. How credible is the book and its charges against him?

Mr. RHODEN: Well, the book is credible, the authors are credible-I mean these are two reporters that have been on this trail for years. I mean, they've written more than 100 stories on Barry Bonds. Their work has won a Pulitzer. And, you know, Tony, I think we have to separate journalistic endeavors and the great role of the media, versus what should be done. You know what I'm saying?

COX: Mm hmmm.

Mr. RHODEN: I mean, a lot of things are just great journalistic exercises and that's what this is. I mean, this is not new--they put together a lot of the reporting under one roof.

COX: How much should this matter what they're talking about, with regards to Bonds?

Mr. RHODEN: Generally, it matters because I think we're in the steroid age of athletics. And I think what this book does, is talk about a Wild West time in baseball, where everything was sort of permitted. Under the laws of baseball, there was no law.

COX: At the time.

Mr. RHODEN: There was no rule.

COX: Right.

Mr. RHODEN: At the time governing steroid use.

COX: Here is another question for you, because we've talked a lot about black athletes being demonized and Barry Bonds certainly falls into that category. Although, he has yet to catch Mike Tyson, in terms of...

Mr. RHODEN: Yeah.

COX: ...demonized as a black athlete. However does he not have a responsibility, particularly to young, black athletes who look up to him to serve as some sort of role model?

Mr. RHODEN: The short answer is, yes. I think that all of us who are conscious African-American men, based, you know, depending on how we see this...

COX: Mm hmmm.

Mr. RHODEN: ...should be great role models. And if in fact Barry Bonds, used performance enhancing drugs, you know, could say, well as a black man, I shouldn't have used perform acing enhancing drugs. But you go back to Barry Bonds' foundation; the foundation quietly gives a lot of money to people getting out of prison. You know what I'm saying? so there's a lot of stuff that his foundation, and that he's doing with his money that benefits an African-American community more than just words.

COX: Do you think that in some way, Barry Bonds relishes this spotlight even though it has a lot of negative connotations to it?

Mr. RHODEN: That's a great question, because in the era that we're in, there is no bad, you know, this is great reality TV, having the guy that's chasing Barry Bonds be the object of this posse chasing him, and the two, before the season ends his book comes out.

I think at some level, when they're talking about this stuff, what's good TV and all that, it's well, this probably isn't the worst thing that could happen, provided you don't go to prison. I mean.

COX: Right.

Mr. RHODEN: But then again, will they allow cameras in prison, I mean, you know, where does it end?

COX: Bill Rhoden, his sports column is with the New York Times. Bill thanks very much.

Mr. RHODEN: Hey, Tony my pleasure, thank you.

GORDON: That was New York reporter with Tony Cox with New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden.

This is NPR News.

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS AND NOTES.

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