Column: Bonds sentencing doesn't end steroid era

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 14, 2011
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By TIM DAHLBERG AP Sports Columnist Barry Bonds will find out Friday whether he will go to prison for his conviction in the BALCO steroids case. The feeling in legal circles is he won't, though prosecutors still hope a federal judge will see things their way and put him behind bars for up to 15 months. That Bonds is a convicted felon should be victory enough for the investigators and attorneys who built the case against him. They finally got the biggest name in baseball, a slugger whose home run totals seemed to rise exponentially with the size of his head. That they didn't get Bonds for actually using steroids doesn't really matter. His conviction on an obstruction of justice count wrapped a tidy bow on the entire BALCO investigation, nearly a decade after a determined investigator began digging into garbage cans outside of Victor Conte's Bay Area offices. Now Bonds will stand before a federal judge in the same city where he hit so many of his massive home runs and get his punishment. Not for cheating the game of baseball but for playing games with a grand jury investigating his use of the ''cream'' and the ''clear.'' It's a good time to declare the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case officially closed. An even better time to declare the steroid era in baseball finally over. If only it were that easy. The startling revelation that reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for a banned substance isn't just evidence that baseball's toughened drug testing is working. It's evidence that - assuming the test is accurate - players are still trying to get better through modern science. Hard to blame them. The payoffs for a few more home runs are so great that it has to be tempting for almost any player to take a chance on performance-enhancing drugs and hope testing doesn't nail them. Yes, things have changed since Bonds testified before a federal grand jury investigating steroid distribution in 2003, when baseball had just announced the start of testing with penalties for steroid use. But, more than two decades after players first started juicing, they're still at it. The threat of regular testing and lengthy suspensions hasn't eliminated the use of PEDs, even while anecdotal evidence seems to show steroid use is declining. Braun's case is somewhat shocking if only because he was one of the few power hitters in recent times who hadn't come under suspicion. Though he has unusual bat speed, he's not particularly muscular or bloated like most of the cheating sluggers we have seen over the years. About the only thing he would seem to have in common with Bonds is an ability to hit long home runs and score big contracts - $141.5 million over the next nine years for Braun from the Milwaukee Brewers. Though Major League Baseball does not confirm initial positive tests until the arbitration process is complete, ESPN cited two sources as saying he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. A later test by the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Montreal determined that the testosterone was synthetic, the network reported. A spokesman for Braun denies it all and says the slugger was outraged by what he believes is a false positive test. The player's union also weighed in on his behalf, cautioning against a ''rush to judgment'' until the process plays out. And Brewers owner Mark Attanasio praised Braun as ''a model citizen in every sense of the word'' and ''a person of character and integrity.'' Whatever. A lot of people supported Bonds, too, even when logic told them it was impossible to hit 73 home runs in a season while playing in a pitcher's ballpark. Braun's positive test had to be particularly embarrassing to baseball, even if commissioner Bud Selig no longer owns the Brewers. It came just a few weeks after Braun was voted National League MVP and after a season in which just two players - Manny Ramirez and Colorado catcher Eliezer Alfonzo - were suspended for using performance-enhancing substances. Still, a sport that had to be dragged kicking and screaming into any kind of testing is now leading the way in trying to keep players clean. There are harsh penalties for getting caught - Braun will be suspended 50 games if his test is upheld - and there soon will be blood testing for HGH in spring training and the offseason. That doesn't mean players won't keep trying to cheat. They will, because the rewards are still greater than the risks. Credit Jeff Novitzky and his fellow BALCO investigators for at least trying to stem the tide. At a time when baseball and its union were paralyzed by the issue of steroids, they attacked from the legal front and ultimately may have saved the game from itself. Surely, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston will take that into consideration when the BALCO era comes to an end with the sentencing of its poster child. But there's something else she should be thinking about, too. Watching Bonds hit mammoth home runs undoubtedly led others to use steroids. Watching him get sent to prison might lead a new generation of players to think twice. ---- Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Cavs, Pacers talking three-team George trade

In appreciation of Ichiro, the oldest man to play center field since at least 1900

WATCH: Adam Rosales sprints to fastest home run trot record

Report: Pacers not interested in acquiring Kevin Love

Vikings say they encouraged Floyd to drink kombucha tea

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Jason Williams injured in first BIG3 game

Report: Mavs leaning toward two-year deal for Nowitzki

Spieth holes bunker shot to win Travelers Championship playoff

Tebow promoted by Mets to A-Advanced St. Lucia

Cam Newton reveals the one thing his life is missing

George denies he is already moving out of Indiana home

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

Box Score 6/23: Philly continues to trust the process

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker