Hold on to your hats, sports fans. A shocking revelation was dropped on us a few weeks ago: Barry Bonds may have used steroids. I know, I know. You're as flabbergasted as I am.
Just like you, I thought Barry's physique went from Dave Chappelle-like to hulking behemoth in a few years due to exercise. I guess not. If you believe Bonds, he was unwittingly supplied substances called "the cream" and "the clear" by a personal trainer who insisted they were an arthritis treatment and/or flaxseed oil. Once Barry started applying these substances to his body, muscle mass started to grow in a huge way.
Baseball's current most proficient home-run hitter has become the latest athlete to wear the scarlet "S" for steroids … and to be honest with you, I couldn't care less. Why should I give a crap if Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield (baseball), Marion Jones (track and field) or David Boston (whatever sport it is the Miami Dolphins are trying to play this season) want to juice up their physiques with some bizarre growth hormones? Oh, it "taints the sanctity" of their sports? Bull. I'm a sports fan. All I want to see is Bonds hitting home runs, Boston catching touchdown passes and Jones breaking world records and winning gold medals for the United States. Whatever athletes have to do to achieve their peak level of performance, I'm all for it.
Anyone who claims to be outraged by the current rash of steroid-taking athletes needs a perspective check. From the time they start to show amazing potential, they devote their lives to getting and keeping themselves in prime physical condition. Steroids are not going to turn a bum like you or me into a home-run champion, nor a slam-dunker, nor a four-minute-miler. We are never going to challenge these athletes for supremacy in the record books, so steroids do not directly affect our lives in the least.
We only discovered a handful of steroid-users thanks to a ravenous sports media and some loose lips. The biggest pair of said loose lips can be found on the face of Victor Conte. He founded the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), which is now considered by most to be "ground zero" for steroids. According to Conte, he administered steroids to Jones, he used them to help Tim Montgomery become the world's fastest man in 2002 and he gave the designer hormone THG to Greg Anderson, Bonds' trainer. (No word yet on whether or not Conte used steroids to help Al Gore invent the Internet.)
I feel safe in assuming that Conte is far from the only such conduit between professional athletes and steroids, but he is the only one thus far who can't keep his mouth shut about it. What Conte has said so far pales in comparison to the bombshells he is threatening to drop on the sports world, which undoubtedly have more than a few baseball players squirming in their jockstraps and preparing for another round of denials, blame-shifting and frequent use of the word "alleged."
Competition is beyond fierce in today's professional ranks, and athletes feel they must do whatever possible to keep up. Hours upon hours of weight training, diets that make the South Beach look easy and grueling practices await the lady or gentleman lucky enough to make it to the pinnacle of his or her sport.
Why, then, should we care if an athlete decides to alter or improve his or her physical form through steroids? (Besides that feeling of moral superiority it gives us.) If I find that a cup of coffee, a bump of cocaine or a tab of blotter acid improves my performance as a writer, then why shouldn't I do any or all of them? It worked for my man Hunter S. Thompson. Flintstones vitamins are fine and dandy when you're a preteen, but once you get to high school you're going to need something stronger if you want to achieve results. I haven't spent much time around high school locker rooms (part of my probation terms), but I imagine you'd find some serious acne and shrinkage of the genitals if you looked closely enough. Those are side effects of steroid use, along with something called "'roid rage." What's that? Well, let's just say that if you're thinking about pissing off a pizza-faced high school linebacker, you should have a last will and testament on file somewhere.
So where does this rampant abuse leave the world of sports? I would say on the right track. Today's sports fans subconsciously want their favorite athletes to do whatever they can to win. That's what it's all about. It's insufficient to simply give your best effort; the point of competing is to win. Bonds and Giambi will see minor repercussions for their admitted steroid use, but they'll still be in the game next season.
Ken Caminiti won't be, but that's only because his fondness for steroids was surpassed by his fondness for crack cocaine. This once-great baseball player fell victim to crack, and the story of his final hours is a tragic shame. He tried to clean up his act for a few years, but then found himself walking the trail that so many addicts blazed before him. Caminiti got a hefty cash advance on his credit card, went through New York City on a crack hunt, and ended up dying in the late-morning hours of an October day in 2003. This former major-league slugger fell victim to the booger sugar that had forced him out of baseball.
Personally, I'd rather Bonds and his batting brethren stick to the steroids rather than coke. I can't think of many things that cocaine will actually help you do better. I have friends who think that marijuana makes them smarter and funnier, but I'm not convinced yet. Dr. Timothy Leary espoused the virtues of LSD, but I can't see an athlete improving his performance while tripping balls. (A coach like Phil Jackson, maybe, but not an athlete.) By comparison, baseball's leading hitters seem to have one thing in common: They use steroids and growth hormones. They are able to not only maintain satisfactory performance, but break long-standing records. How can these drugs be that bad? After all, sweet victory must be achieved at any cost even if it means smaller genitals.