Friday is the last day for Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters to submit their 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballots. These ballots feature two players in their 10th and final year of Hall of Fame eligibility. of fame who really dominated their time but were not elected: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Without a doubt, this is because towards the end of their careers, both men were accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) banned by their sport. But as a federal agent who investigated the two men for years and, as The New York Times reported in 2007, “unearthed evidence that a grand jury used” to indict Bonds on charges. Related to these allegations, I came to this conclusion: Bonds and Clemens played in a time when widespread abuse of DEPs in baseball was the result of a collective failure – of Major League Baseball, of teams, of players. , the union of players, the media and even fans. To varying degrees, many of us were complicit in sitting down and watching the hitting and throwing wonders of that time and turning a blind eye for the most part. When evidence was presented in the federal criminal trials of Bonds and Clemens, they and other players ended up bearing the brunt of this collective failure and selective consequences, and, unfairly, they still are. (Bonds’ 2011 obstruction of justice conviction was overturned in 2015; in 2012, Clemens was acquitted of all charges related to his 2008 congressional testimony.)
Both men should be in the Hall of Fame.
Bonds was a career 0.298 hitter, eight-time Gold Glove winner, seven-time National League MVP and, most notably, the all-time leader of the MLB with 762 home runs. Clemens was a six-time Cy Young Award winner and American League MVP in 1986, with a record 354-184 wins and 4,672 career strikeouts. Despite stats and accolades that clearly place both at the peak of their time – and among the greatest across the eras – in the last few years of eligibility, they have both failed to collect the 75 for. Required hundred of the Baseball Writers’ Association vote required for induction into the lobby. Obviously, this is because they became children of the “steroid age” of baseball, when drug testing went from virtually non-existent to still woefully inadequate, and which many players have. used DEPs with abandon. I know these circumstances well because it has become my job to investigate them.
In 2002, I participated in the launch of a series of surveys on the proliferation of DCs in professional sport. I rummaged through the garbage at the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, known as BALCO. I worked with former Senator George Mitchell on the so-called Mitchell Report which chronicled the MLB steroid problem. Later in my career, I investigated the use of the PED in cycling, including helping to launch a federal investigation into Lance Armstrong while he was a member of the US Postal Service sponsored team. In 2015, I went to work for Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as UFC, the best mixed martial arts organization, and started to develop what I now consider to be one of the best anti-doping programs. in professional sport.
Here’s what I see: Neither Bonds nor Clemens have been charged with using or possessing PEDs. They were charged with making false statements and then cleared. As The Times reported in 2007, the Mitchell Report “linked 89 Major League Baseball players” to “use of illegal performance enhancing drugs.” Bonds and Clemens were mentioned in the report, but they were far from alone. As The Times reported in 2008, US attorneys had “documents that link over 100 Major League Baseball players to positive steroid tests in 2003”. I’ve had a lot of conversations with MLB players around that time, and based on those conversations, as well as those numbers, I think a lot of MLB players used PEDs before the league. and the players’ union will not agree to present their now-credible anti-PED program. For a long time, PED abuse was not as much of an aberration as it was part of a larger culture within the sport.
Have MLB officials finally taken the necessary steps to clean up their sport? Yes. But along the way, it took 10 baseball players and officers to testify under oath before the House Committee on Government Reform in March 2005, in a one-day hearing that increased pressure on the league to seriously engage in the fight against the use of PED. Before that, from my point of view as a federal investigator, there was not enough proactivity. As the leader of a sports league today, I believe it is incumbent on management and player representatives to set standards and remove ambiguities so that athletes can focus on creating and performing. maintaining an example for current and future competitors.
The Mitchell Report concludes that “the use of steroids in Major League Baseball was widespread. Baseball’s response has been slow to develop and was initially ineffective, ”and went on to say,“ Obviously, players who have illegally used performance enhancing substances are responsible for their actions. But they did not act in a vacuum. Everyone involved in baseball for the past two decades – commissioners, club officials, the Players’ Association and players – share some responsibility for the age of steroids.
I would add many of us to this list – we have relished every home run and shutout like a vice.
Yes, the Hall of Fame, the MLB, and the Baseball Writers’ Association are separate organizations. And yes, Hall of Fame’s selection criteria include “integrity,” “sportsmanship,” and “character,” not just stats and abilities – no doubt some baseball writers give this a high. great importance. But if we’re going to turn Bonds and Clemens away, then there is something wrong with the integrity of the entire Hall of Fame process and the record of a time when baseball itself was not. not up to Hall of Fame standards. Bonds and Clemens represented the best baseball players on the field and represented the era in which they played. When you add that up, they should be in Cooperstown, enshrined in the Hall alongside the other greats in the game.