Barry Bonds And The Drug War

By Anthony Papa
Updated: November 26, 2007

NEW YORK — What does the war on drugs have to do with baseball? Just ask Barry Bonds who was just indicted by federal prosecutors on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Bonds is now facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Anti-doping advocates, including America’s deputy drug czar, are calling for jail time for baseball players who use steroids saying that it may be the only effective deterrent for curbing illegal use.

Let’s face it, while Bonds’s indictment for lying to a grand jury may have legal basis, the real underlying reason for this federal indictment four years after the BALCO investigation is their failure to get Bonds to admit he had used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs.

In that case a business named Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) was alleged to be distributing illegal performance — enhancing drugs was investigated by several governmental agencies. This resulted in a huge scandal which involved many major league baseball players and led to Major League Baseball initiating penalties for players caught using steroids in 2004.

Well now the government is ready to take down the home-run king along with the entire sport of baseball by pushing their personal agenda of a zero tolerance for drug use.

Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency thinks that Major League Baseball’s rules concerning the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids don’t pack enough of a wallop in terms of functioning as a real deterrent. He is rooting for Bonds to be imprisoned so it sends a clear message.

Imprisonment of record-breaking hitters like Bonds will not solve baseball’s problem. I know this is true because of the failed war on drugs. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

It has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, with more than 2.3 million citizens sitting behind bars, a rate of one in every 136 U.S. residents.

About 55% of all federal and over 20% of all state prisoners are convicted of drug-law violations with many of them serving mandatory-minimum sentences for simple possession offences. And despite all of the incarceration drug use and drug availability are as prevalent as ever. Are we now going to add major league players to drug war statistics?

For the sake of argument, what if Bonds did use steroids? Does he belong in jail? He is not the first athlete to use them and he will not be the last. The pursuit for athletic superiority through the use of chemicals has been around a long time. Before steroids were officially banned in the early 1970’s, almost 70% of all Olympic athletes had used them.

Is it ethical and morally right to sentence someone to a lengthy prison term for putting substances in their own bodies? The premise for prosecuting the other war with no exit strategy – the drug war — has slowly but surely infiltrated the public’s eye through different vehicles.

Now the feds attempt to bring their message through the sport of baseball. Bonds joins the ranks of the demonized including medical marijuana users, pain sufferers and their doctors who prescribe opioid analgesics, and students who are forced to urinate in cups. All of this in the name of a drug-free America without concern for individuals’ rights.

At one time baseball was our obsession. It was a sport that walked hand and hand with the American dream full of heroes of whom we could all be proud.

Now the federal government, with its crusade against any and all drug use, has begun a new mission to alter our way of thinking no matter what the cost or how many lives are ruined. I say no to the government for trying to destroy our national past time and no to imprisoning a baseball king.