Liars, cheats, drugs: Sports keep reflecting society

Posted: Sunday, December 05, 2004

So Barry Bonds admits he took steroids, but says he didn't know what they were. Yeah, and Carmelo Anthony had no idea there was marijuana in his backpack, or that he was making his acting debut in a DVD where one of his homies warns that drug snitches ''get a hole in their head.''

Marion Jones seems to know something, though, at least if you believe the weasel who surfaced on national television Friday night to brag about how he helped her win five medals in the 2000 Olympics by supplying her with a smorgasbord of various drugs.

Jones, it seems, was so comfortable with a needle that she could inject herself with the grace of a street junkie. Need a gold medal or two? It's easy. Just pull up the spandex, whip out the $1,000 designer injector, and run, run like the wind.

Of course, Jones denies everything, though it defies logic that someone so dominant in Sydney can't even shag a bronze medal in Athens where the drug cops just happened to be so good that two Greek track stars fled the Olympic village on a motorcycle in sheer terror when the testers came knocking.

Bonds is also in public denial, though he was forced under threat of perjury to finally admit to a federal grand jury that he did use a cream and a clear substance given to him by his trainer, who has been indicted in a steroid-distribution ring.

To hear Bonds tell it, he used the substances to treat arthritis pain, not to add a few more bulges on his already comically blown-up body. Anthony could have claimed the marijuana found in his backpack at the airport was for medicinal purposes, too. But he had a better excuse he blamed a member of his posse for putting the drugs there.

Even if Bonds were telling the partial truth when he danced around questions from the grand jury as if he were trying to tiptoe around a catcher at home plate, it doesn't matter. His home run records have been exposed as fraudulent, and the same sport that once put an asterisk beside Roger Maris' name just because he beat the Babe should strip the 73 home runs hit by Bonds in 2001 from the record books.

Can you imagine Henry Aaron having to congratulate Bonds when he breaks his career home run mark of 755? What kind of ceremony will Bud Selig have prepared for a day that's only 53 home runs away?

In Jones' case, there are already rumblings among international Olympic officials that she could be stripped of the five medals she won in Sydney, where drug cheats were still one step ahead of drug testers.

At least the folks who run the Olympics are trying. Baseball has done nothing other than implement a lame testing plan that its coddled millionaires have no trouble getting around.

Consider guys like Jason Giambi, who told the same grand jury that he used steroids for at least three seasons and injected himself with human growth hormone in 2003 so that he could hit more balls into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium.

Giambi may pay a steeper price than even Jones or Bonds for his bodybuilding exploits. He missed half of last season because of fatigue and a benign tumor, which the Daily News of New York reported was in his pituitary gland.

Giambi reportedly testified that one of the drugs he used was Clomid, a female fertility drug that some medical experts say can exacerbate a pituitary tumor. To add insult to his injury, the Yankees may try to terminate a contract that still owes him some $82 million because of his steroid use.

Not all athletes are juiced, of course, it just seems that way. And the ones who aren't have problems of their own.

Take Anthony, the Denver Nuggets star whose idea of adjusting to life in the NBA means carrying around a baggie of pot to the airport, getting into a bar fight in New York, and appearing in a movie in Baltimore where the gang banger standing next to him brags about shooting anyone who tips off police about drug deals.

About the only thing Anthony hasn't done is go into the stands and beat up some fans like his fellow players did in Detroit.

Anthony came out of college early, but staying in school may not have taught him much. Coaches like Urban Meyer of Utah don't set a great example by leaving for another school just as his players and their university should be savoring their greatest moment.

And on Saturday, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr accused other coaches of trying to steal recruits by telling them he was sick or was going to retire.

Even at straight-laced BYU, four football players were indicted Friday on charges they raped a 17-year-old last year after first giving her alcohol and showing her pornographic movies. The players found the girl at a Provo mall, which might have been easier than finding porn and alcohol in the Mormon city.

Steroids, drugs, fights, lies, alleged rapes. In just a few days we've been treated to the seamy underbelly of almost every major sport.

It's almost enough to make rigged sports like gymnastics and figure skating look good. Or, better yet, even boxing.

After all, it's been years since Mike Tyson bit anyone's ear off or threatened to eat their children.

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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