I don’t often stoop to Fisking articles about sports, but sometimes, somebody takes a position so dumb, it begs for a thorough takedown. I've had it with being lied to by dopers, and with their gullible defenders. We should know better by now.
Fair warning kids - this is going to get ugly and touch on race, law, and politics. If any of those bother you, avert your eyes now.
Jemele Hill’s defense of Barry Bonds’ is one of those articles that rolls out every stinking defense of a likely doper that can possibly be rolled out. The reason it’s dumb is because 5 years into the Balco investigation, two years after congressional hearings, two years after the Operacion Puerto dominos started falling, a professional sports journalist should know better. We've heard the lies before. We shouldn't be buying them any longer.
After two years of stunning convictions (legal, USADA and WADA), I’ve kinda had it with dopers. Those among you who've read this blog for a while know my position on doping is somewhat pragmatic and not moralistic in the least. In sports where everybody does it, literally, I believe doping is bad, but it is probably the cost of staying in the game for many or most players, kind of like spikes-up slides into second in baseball and stealing signs, or the occasional hold or crack-back block in football. Bad, but “acceptable cheating” within the game itself if nobody is going to enforce the rules. It’s a bit like speeding on I-95 – illegal, but you’d be a damned fool to try to go 55 where *everybody*, literally everybody, is doing 75. Yep, bad stuff. But we’re talking about being observant of unwritten rules, the little hypocrisies that provide most of the order in society. It’s a valid and workable world view, even if the hypocrisy inherent in it happens to creep you out a bit. Me… I’m down with well-placed hypocrisy.
But sometimes, there is a reckoning, and the hypocrisy and cheating and corruption has to end. When a league starts to crack down on doping, and law enforcement starts to look into it, that is a signal that must be observed, a signal that the unwritten rules have changed. They are suddenly aligned with the letter of the law. At that point, my attitude toward doping becomes much harsher. At that point, it's time to stop the lies, stop ignoring the cheating, and do something about it. Is it fair to the dopers to change the rules mid-course? Maybe not. But then they really shouldn't be cheating to begin with, and if they decided to play by the unwritten rules, playing the game on the dark side, it's their responsibility to clean up their own act and they have no right to bitch about it. They can't play fast and loose, and then complain that they are being subjected to enforcement, knowing that the written rules are being enforced, and the unwritten rules they used to justify cheating have changed. Sorry, but you guys broke the rules - quit lying and being hypocritical about it. Man up, admit the truth, and move on. I'll accept the truth from a Frankie Andreau, telling me doping was the cost of staying in the game in '96. I won't hold it against him because I think he's telling the truth, he's honest about it now, and he's working to bring the ethos of the sport, the unwritten rules, into harmony with the clean and noble written rules of the sport. So too David Millar. I admire what they are doing.
On the other hand, I won't accept lies from more recent dopers, especially from the guys who are racing in today's clearly less-doped, superman performance-free peloton. Part of the deal with guys who follow the unwritten rules religiously is they are claiming to be gutsy and courageous, and realistic about the hard nature of competition. If that's true, they should be honest with themselves about what they are doing, and if they get caught, honest with us about what they did. We should also be honest and understand that in the wake of heavily stepped up doping enforcement cheating isn't necessary the way it once was. Doping is thus altered from an "everybody is doing it" act, into a betrayal of the sport, from the cost of staying in the game into cheating, from a minor misdemeanor into a major felony.
Cycling had the Festina affair, but didn’t appear to take doping seriously until Operacion Puerto broke open. Since then, it has become clear: riders need to lose the EPO and other drugs, and those who don’t will face bans, and possibly criminal prosecution. It’s pretty clear, and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for those who violate the written rules or the unwritten ones at this point, then try to excuse their cheating with all sorts of lame rationalizations or denials.
Baseball turned this corner (along with track and a few other sports) in the
You will automatically assume the reason I'm defending Barry Bonds is because he's black and I'm black.
Interesting premise. I assumed you were defending him because you get paid to say contrary and outrageous BS, kind of like Steven A. Smith or Jim Rome. There’s your first mistake. Let’s call it a mulligan though.
Is Barry Bonds being mistreated? The answer is yes. This is not about the commonality of race. And for the record, I have been as critical as anyone of Bonds. I didn't want to see him break Hank Aaron's record, because he's not as dignified as Aaron was and Bonds didn't respect his natural ability the same way Aaron respected his.
Okay, fine. Isn’t that sort of playing the reverse “he’s a credit to his race” card though?
But that doesn't mean Bonds belongs in prison.
Oh, so he’s on trial for being a prick?
The only way to see the indictment of Bonds is as a gross, terrible injustice, a startling abuse of power and a waste of taxpayer money.
A gross injustice. Okay, so this is a lynch mob or something?
The "race card" is somewhere in my back pocket, but I'll play that later on. For now, let's focus on something even bigger than race -- the unbelievably deep hypocrisy that has fueled the federal government's pursuit of Bonds for four years.
Um, Jemele dear, you played the race card in the first sentence. The paragraph just before this one is basically table talk, saying you lifted your cards and saw races over eights… Oh, and then you see hypocrisy in doping prosecution. Wow, that’s an original argument against doping. How unique to hear that - "the enforcers are hypocritical so we shouldn't enforce the doping prohibitions." But do continue.
The decision to indict Bonds on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, a charge I still don't understand, considering the government didn't need Bonds to topple BALCO -- isn't right, fair or just.No, it isn’t. But here’s the funny thing about it – when the feds call you in front of a grand jury, you take an oath and then, to all intents and purposes, lie your needle-holed ass off, it turns out that they have a remarkable lack of humor about the whole situation. It’s as if prosecutors and FBI agents are on a personal mission to discover the truth and to mete out justice to everybody. It’s shameful really, that our law enforcement people would get so wrapped up in punishing every little crime. It's not right or fair or just in that sense, but it is justice and it is the law.
The feds have made Bonds into Al Capone, when he's more like Pookie than Nino Brown. They're blaming the crackhead instead of the drug dealer, the prostitute instead of the pimp, the wayward child instead of the enabling parent.
Okay, so if your kid gets busted, Jemele, we’re going to have you serve time for him. You down with that? Or would you make a distinction between parents having some moral culpability for a child’s actions, while the child has actual and legal responsibility for his own actions? And since when did some pimp turn Barry out and make him his baseball prostitute? What exactly is Barry addicted to, if he suffers from some disease?
Cast aside whether Bonds signed enough autographs, the irrelevant tales about what a jerk he's been to the media, his mistress, the rocky divorce and our general addiction to seeing towering stars fall,
I already did. I don’t care about that stuff and presume a substantial percentage of my sports heroes are bastards. (Paging Mr. Armstrong… Jaune courtesy phone…)
then digest this: Barry Bonds -- who didn't create BALCO, who didn't distribute the performance-enhancing drugs that came out of BALCO, who was nothing more than a client of BALCO -- is facing stiffer punishment and castigation than Victor Conte, the man who masterminded the entire operation.
Has it crossed anyone's mind that perhaps Mr. Conte told the truth when called before the grand jury and expressed repentance? Last time I checked, those were strong considerations on the federal sentencing guidelines, which could double or half a typical sentence. Additionally, the truth-telling also affects which charges are filed – simply put, lying to the grand jury will add a perjury charge for each time you lie. The reason that federal prosecutors take grand jury perjury so seriously is that the federal system is grand jury driven. It operates because individuals are expected to tell the truth before the grand jury, and the grand jury – which is an investigative arm, not truly a court body that determines guilt – would not function if individuals could lie to it at will. It's an honor system and it only works when people follow the rule, to tell the truth. Grand jury perjury charges in this way resemble perjury charges arising out of civil violations, like Martha Stewart’s offense. Federal prosecutors take a very dim view of perjury and obstruction of justice there because civil enforcement systems don’t work if people can get away with lying. That is why the Department of Justice and
Bonds -- who wasn't the first baseball player to take performance-enhancing drugs unknowingly or otherwise, who played in a league that, for a time, subtly encouraged PED use, who played against players taking the same drugs as him, who isn't even the first player to lie to the government about taking performance-enhancing drugs (see: Palmeiro, Rafael) -- is facing prison time and will be anointed the primary culprit of an era he didn't create.
I agree that for a while, everybody was doing it. But when everybody got subpoenaed, ad everybody had to testify, then everybody should have known the rules changed. As for Congress… if Congress doesn’t want to enforce the laws prohibiting perjury, that’s their problem. DOJ cannot prosecute Palmeiro for perjury before Congress unless Congress asks DOJ to take action. This isn’t prosecutorial caprice, it’s Separation of Powers in action.
And the universe was definitely trying to send us a message, because as the Bonds indictment continued to ripple, MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball's revenue climbed to $6 billion this year, the highest amount in history. How much of that came from Bonds' bat? How much of that came because of an orchestrated ignorance of steroids?
Probably a lot of that. But charges of hypocrisy against Major League Baseball do not affect the essential question, whether Barry Bonds lied under oath to a federal grand jury.
How rich of the White House to briefly ignore issues like the war in Iraq, escalating violence in this country, and poor health care to express its disappointment in Bonds.This argument is akin to saying City Hall ought to prevent the police from going out to fight crime, because City Hall’s hands are full with directing the fire department out to fight fires. It’s also incredibly silly to assume that the White House can’t handle a couple different problems at one time. For that matter it betrays woeful ignorance of the actual functioning of government generally, to assume that the White House policy staff are involved in the nitty-gritty of frankly minor criminal investigations. And while we’re at it, violent crime isn’t escalating across the country, it’s at fairly low and stable levels, and is in fact still on a steadily decreasing trendline, with occasional geographically localized blips.
President Bush's interest in this matter is intriguing, considering when he owned part of the Texas Rangers, he employed some of the biggest juicers in the game -- Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, and a handful of others who were suspect.
I guess we ought to hold fans responsible, because they were attending games while these guys were juicing… Honestly, I can understand disliking politicians, but blaming Bush for juicing in pro sports reminds me of that scene in Forest Gump where Jenny’s boyfriend kicks her ass and says, “I’m sorry… it’s this damn war.” At some point, it’s just possible that the POTUS isn’t responsible for every single thing that happens in the
The government has spent some $6 million to catch a baseball player who mostly committed a crime against himself and his legacy.
And his fellow players and the tens of millions of baseball fans, and the players who preceded him who did not dope, and those who will come after him. Y’know, the record book. History. That, and Title 18, section 1621 of the US Code, which prohibits perjury.
They have sought Bonds for four years, a pursuit that would have been reasonable if he were a violent criminal.I guess corruption in politicians we don’t like is a big deal. In millionaire athletes… not so much.
For what? Because they didn't like that Bonds didn't cower in fear while testifying during the BALCO trial?
Yeah, that, and he allegedly committed *perjury* while under oath and a grant of immunity. You’d think that “BALCO trial” and “they have sought Bonds for years” would be mutually exclusive…
Because he's spoiled, rich and arrogant, and they wanted to knock him down a peg or two?
Yeah, it’s really disturbing when people hate rich arrogant people and would like to knock their snotty noses down a peg or two. Like former MLB team owners who went to
Should Bonds have fessed up to whatever he did? Certainly. But $6 million seems like a hefty price to pay to crush a ballplayer's ego and inflate a government branch's.
Yes, that’s the whole friggin’ point of grand jury testimony. You fess up. There is no choice, no ability to take the 5th, because you get immunity for your testimony. Telling the truth is what you do when you get subpoenaed.
I certainly don't support lying to the government
Except in this case. Where you support it wholeheartedly and then chalk up the legal repercussions of the lies to racism.
if that's what Bonds did.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But I'm not about to pretend that Bonds' alleged lie is the equivalent of handing over sensitive government documents to Osama bin Laden.
This is another ridiculous logical fallacy, presenting a false dilemma. A similar example would be, “we shouldn’t prosecute rapists because rape isn’t as serious as mass murder.” Why can’t we prosecute mass murdering terrorists *and* perjurers?
SMACK. Time to play the race card. Bonds' blackness is not the sole reason Bonds is in this mess. But it is a factor in why the fairness seems so skewed, why the vitriol seems so severe, why the pursuit was so unrelenting.
SMACK? Um, sorry, you played the river card about 10 paragraphs ago. You already flipped the race card. Do me a favor though, if it's r
SMACK? Um, sorry, you played the river card about 10 paragraphs ago. You already flipped the race card. Do me a favor though, if it's racism, why isn't Sammy Sosa under the gun here?
Bonds' most egregious error is that he is not content to play the role of the grateful black man. Black athletes, particularly males, who express the kind of arrogance Bonds does are often villified more than white athletes who do the same.
While it’s true a lot of black athletes are subjected to unfair pressure, I’d submit Bonds’ most egregious error was in lying to the grand jury combined with a very public arrogance about his involvement with Balco. It doesn’t help that he broke Aaron’s record. His high profile coupled with pretty obvious lying and publicly defiant stance fairly begs for prosecutorial attention, akin to the bank robber who dares the cops to do something by robbing banks located next door to police stations. If Mark McGwire lied to the grand jury then hoisted a metaphorical middle finger at the law a couple times a week, instead of hiding out in a gated community like a hermit, he’d be under indictment now too.
Brett Favre pleaded to be surrounded by talent for years, yet when Randy Moss expressed similar frustration in
he was called selfish and whiny and told to shut up. Oakland
If Brett Favre had acted the way Randy Moss acted over the first 8 years of his career, Brett Favre would be considered a punk too. If the feds felt they could bust either of them for perjury, they'd be under indictment too...
Gary Sheffield, while not the most eloquent speaker, alerted us to the obvious -- that MLB has a certain amount of economic control over Latino players because it plucks them from their home countries so they won't have to pay hefty signing bonuses in the draft.
Sheffieldwas roasted for this,
I didn’t roast him for it. But the way
but it was perfectly fine for Larry Bird to say the NBA needs more white superstars.So how are those TV ratings working out for you, Mr. Stern?
Jemelle's argument is that noting the fact of race is the same as racism. Which begs the question, if she thinks Bonds’ race is the key factor here, what does that make her? Not a professor of formal logic, I guess.
Black athletes who refuse to kowtow get it worse, and from that perspective the race card is appropriately applicable.Yeah, maybe in some cases. But not here. If you compare Sosa to Bonds you’ll note the difference is that Sosa isn’t a prick. And apparently hasn’t lied to any grand juries.
For weeks, we've gotten reports of various baseball players purchasing human growth hormone, for obviously circumspect reasons and from obviously suspect people. Why isn't the government knocking at the door of Rick Ankiel, forcing him to testify against his supplier?
Give it some time. It took 5 years to bring the Balco investigation to a head, and John Ashcroft was reamed out for having the nerve to waste time and government money going after doping in sports. That was 5 years ago, of course…
Why didn't the government pursue the past that Mark McGwire wasn't eager to talk about?
Did McGwire lie to a grand jury? Has Congress asked DOJ to prosecute McGwire for not talking to Tom Davis’ committee?
Why does MLB seem to have only a passive interest in Paul Byrd? What-about-them arguments are normally despicable
But that won’t stop you from making them, will it Jemelle…
but to ignore that Bonds was part of an ensemble cast is foolish and lacks perspective.
Who is ignoring the ensemble cast?
Who is ignoring the ensemble cast?How many people have gone to jail so far in the Balco scandal? How many Olympic medals returned? How many future convictions are coming?
Of course, no matter how this situation concludes -- despite the hypocrisy and racial undertones in this case -- the overall moral lesson here is integrity should be used in conjunction with talent.
I’m sorry… what the f*** does that even mean? Moral integrity should be used in conjunction with talent? Huh? So we’re saying superstars should be moral paragons now? What? Wouldn’t Bonds’ failures in this arena (mistresses, divorces, lies, lack of common decency when dealing with others) make him even more culpable?
If it's true Bonds could have avoided this
If it's true he *could* have avoided this? What, did s
If it's true he *could* have avoided this? What, did some guy just run up to him on the street, stick a needle in his ass… every day for 5 years… and then make him lie to a federal grand jury? The mind boggles.
-- had he not been jealous of Sammy Sosa and McGwire, players whose talent was never in the same stratosphere as Bonds' -- then that's the real crime.The dope was forced on him by guys who, even doped up, weren’t nearly as good…
Had Bonds simply stayed the course and remained the player he was prior to the steroid era, he would have received the credit that made him seek out performance-enhancing drugs in the first place.
Well, possibly, if he hadn’t been such a colossal jerk. He is one of those guys who didn’t need steroids to suffer from ‘roid rage.
He'll have to live with that forever. And that, to me, is justice.
This is like saying the murderer’s own guilt is enough punishment.
Whatever.This whole article attempts to absolve Barry of what he is charged with, lying to a grand jury, by attempting to make the underlying criminal activities seem like a nullity. Thing is, we cyclists have heard every one of these excuses before. They are pathetic, the lies that a doper's blind supporters accept and parrot, with the doper hoping all the while to avoid conviction and to conduct enough damage control to salvage their past image. She isn't the only one, just the worst example I've seen lately, with pretty much all the excuses you could use here. The only excuse she doesn't use is an attack on the reliability of the testing - an excuse that in some cases has some validity - and she doesn't use it here, I'm sure, only because the dope provided by Balco was undetectable in lab tests so Barry never got caught, hence there are no positive results to dispute.
The thing is, the athlete's image as a wholesome person, a role model, is gone the moment the needle goes in, only the doper and his supporters don't get it that the image is dead. It may live on as a zombie, but the athlete is now a doper, and given the fact that the western sporting establishment has now determined to take doping offenses seriously, the doped athlete and his supporter should admit this. Hell, I support Lance Armstrong, I really look up to him because he did great things on the bike and is doing much greater things now in the fight against cancer, but I think of his image as an athlete as one of these doped zombies, even though nobody has proven that he took anything. Probably most top cyclists of his era were doped, that's just the way it is, you have to deal with it and move on. You can't undo the past, ad WADA's and UCI's past willful blindness. I *can* accept that maybe Lance and a lot of athletes took a lot of drugs. I'm willing to live with the denials of these undetected dopers because they are living under the old code, kind of like how the womanizing, drunk, obese Babe Ruth was revered as a real hero, when in fact he was possibly the Barry Bonds of his era. I'm okay with it, hiding the clay feet of the stars is what we used to do. But what I can't accept is the lies and hypocrisy when they get caught.
Ten years ago, lying about doping was what everybody did. That was the culture. But the culture has changed, and honesty is called for. Ms. Hill's defense of Barry Bonds, repeating the lies and excuses of 1996 is, at best, lamely tone deaf and ignorant of the changed rules of the game; and at worst this article reveals Ms. Hill as either foolish or disingenuous.