'Roid Rage Raises Head...Again
OK kids, finish this rhyme: "Cross your heart, hope to die, stick a needle in your..."
The answer, boys and girls, is "eye". But what would the answer be if we asked Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or Shawne Merriman? Arm? Leg? @$$?
These three athletes have been in the "eye" of the hurricane, if you will, regarding their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. According to an Associated Press report, Bonds failed a test for amphetamines (which are a type of stimulant) last year, and it was also reported that Bonds blamed teammate Mark Sweeney for providing him the drugs.
(Sweeney, by the way, hit .251 last year with five home runs. Not exactly stellar numbers. He might want to try taking something a bit stronger.)
Though Bonds later refuted the claim that he had received the drugs from Sweeney, he did not deny taking any amphetamines. As a result, the circumstantial evidence continues to pile up against the man pursuing one of sport's all-time greatest records. Day after day, Bonds loses credibility and faces a more-than-uphill battle in the American court of public opinion.
McGwire, for his part, made the headlines once again in the latest baseball Hall of Fame voting. As anticipated, he failed to gain the necessary number of votes to be elected. Heck, he wasn't even close - only 128 of 545 voters (23.5 percent) selected him on their ballots, well short of the required 75 percent for entry.
The former Oakland Athletic and St. Louis Cardinal slugger blasted 583 home runs in his career, which places him seventh in baseball history. In 1998, McGwire and Sammy Sosa made their memorable push to break Roger Maris's single-season home run record, with McGwire reaching the plateau first and seemingly setting an insurmountable mark with his 70th dinger (Bonds broke that record in less than five years). At the time, everyone lauded McGwire's efforts for helping to save the game of baseball, which was struggling to regain fans after the 1994 strike.
But McGwire's legacy has forever been tainted by the infamous bottle of Andro found in his locker, as people began to question his cartoonish physique. After he retired from baseball, McGwire quickly faded away from the spotlight, but his testimony in front of Congress might have permanently damned him. "I'm not here to talk about the past," he repeated, as if being quizzed about the Louisiana Purchase, not about steroid use in baseball clubhouses.
Football, America's new pastime, hasn't been spared the negative press. Better known as "Lights Out" for his punishment on opposing quarterbacks, Merriman, last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's steroids and related substances policy. Despite missing those four games, he piled up impressive statistics for the San Diego Chargers during this season, which warranted his name in the discussion to be named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The other top contenders for the award, Denver Broncos corner Champ Bailey and Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, who eventually won the award, vehemently opposed Merriman meriting postseason honors and recgonition. And who can blame them? While there is just rampant speculation about Bonds or McGwire, Merriman was found guilty as charged. And yet, Merriman was named to the AP's All-Pro Team and will head to the Pro Bowl after the season.
Why the double standards? Is it more acceptable for football players, who put their bodies through extreme punishment week in and week out, to take performance-enhancing drugs, as opposed to baseball players, who don't face the same type of rigorous punishment?
Though I highly suspect that McGwire took steroids or other illegal supplements, and the same for Bonds, nobody knows for sure except for them. For Merriman, it's open and shut: He cheated. Plain and simple. Gil Grissom of CSI would be so lucky to have a case like this. But while that may not play a part in Merriman's chances to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame down the road, provided he stays clean, we know for a fact that Merriman did something illegal.
I don't know if Bonds or McGwire did anything illegal, nor do I know that they are squeaky clean. And we may never know, unless they come out and admit to anything.
But what I do know is this: In America, we are presumed innocent until found guilty. So as much as I hate to think this, and as unpopular as this is across the country, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire shouldn't be punished until there's evidence, conclusive evidence, of wrongdoing.