Friday, November 23, 2007

Marion Jones' Records are Gone: Is Barry Bonds Next?

Various reasons have been supplied for why Barry Bonds' numerous baseball records cannot be removed from the books even if he is convicted of lying to a federal grand jury about using steroids. Disgraced track and field star Marion Jones is in a very similar situation to Bonds; she never failed a drug test but she has admitted to lying about her steroid use (Bonds admitted to unknowingly using steroids but has been charged with perjury because the federal government believes that he knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs). The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the governing body of track and field, has decided to completely eliminate all of Jones' results after Sept. 1, 2000. Jones, who is suspended from competing until October 7, 2009, has been ordered to return all the prize money--approximately $700,000--and awards that she received during that time period and will not be reinstated until she does so. Baseball pundits say that Bonds' records cannot be erased because this will create chaos--affecting pitchers' statistics, team won/loss records and so forth--but the IAAF seems to be completely unconcerned about similar ramifications for track and field; clean athletes who finished behind Jones will be moved up in the standings and if there are no clean athletes behind her in certain events then the gold medal position may simply be left vacated.

The IAAF solution may not be perfect but it sets a good example; cheaters like Jones try to achieve historical immortality, so the best way to dissuade future cheaters is to show that cheaters who are caught will not keep their records. What if someone who also cheated is moved up to replace Jones or Bonds? The investigation of drug use is ongoing, so just like it took some time to catch Jones it may take some time to catch other previously undetected cheaters--but just because every single cheater has not been caught and punished we should not let the ones who have been caught off the hook. The information in Game of Shadows alone presents a very compelling case against Bonds; even if he somehow skates on the federal government's perjury charges, MLB should demand that Bonds offer some explanation or refutation of the book's assertions. "Innocent until proven guilty" applies only to criminal charges; if MLB wants its record book to continue to have any meaning then it cannot afford to simply ignore the mountain of evidence that indicates that Bonds cheated and that his cheating directly correlated with an increase in his power numbers. Otherwise, MLB does a great disservice not only to the clean sluggers of the past decade but also the retired sluggers who Bonds has passed in the record book.

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