Bonds#8217; #8216;Roidgate#8217; shows need for teaching youth

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2007

For years and years, we have been told a few basic principles of life that most Americans try to live by.

“Cheaters never win.”

“Crime doesn’t pay.”

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“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

And then you have Barry Bonds, the Major League Baseball player that recently set the sport’s most hallowed record by passing Hammerin’ Hank Aaron as the best home run hitter to ever grab a bat.

Even those who don’t follow the sport likely realize that Bonds’ story is about more than baseball. The real theme here is that this man’s legacy and likely induction into the Hall of Fame flies in the face of everything we have ever been taught.

See, Bonds will always have an asterisk — although you may or may not be able to see it — by his name and any of the dozens of records he will shatter.

The question is simple: Did he cheat? Should he be mentioned in the same sentence as Aaron, Babe Ruth and other greats?

The answers are not nearly as easy to attain.

Steroid use has always been the proverbial big white elephant in the room that no one in the sport wanted to talk about.

Now, federal investigations, congressional inquiries and the focus of the media microscope have made this something that our entire society must face, even those individuals who care nothing about the sport.

The real issue arises when we consider how to explain this to children and how to view a situation that contradicts what many of us hold dear.

I can hear the conversation now.

“Daddy, how did Barry Bonds go from hitting about 30 home runs a year during his first 10 seasons to more than 40 in a season seven time since? Did he cheat?,” Little Susie or Johnny may ask.

“Well, now, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But many people believe — and a lot of things point to the allegations being true — that he did cheat,” a father might answer.

“But you told me that cheaters never win. Barry Bonds won. Someone at my school said he was the best player ever to play. Can I do what Barry did?”

How can a father or mother or coach or teacher answer that? It certainly poses a difficult question.

The media, Major League Baseball and society as a whole is left to wonder how to handle this issue that may contradict what we have always known.

Did Bonds cheat? No one can say for sure but where there is lots of smoke there is usually a fire somewhere. In this case it may have been in the needles and creams that Balco was supplying MLB players.

The truth will come out someday and only time will tell.

It is up to the rest of us to keep preaching the message that good guys — and girls — don’t finish last and that each of us truly will reap what we sow.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at