With the verdict known can we be assured that the matter of the United States vs. Major League Baseball’s all-time home run king and seven –time National League MVP is evidence the this messy issue of performance enhancing drug usage has finally come to an end in MLB.
Pay close attention folks, the jurors that convicted Barry Bonds found him to be guilty of obstruction of justice; this finding and verdict had nothing to do with his still supposed steroids use. The jurors really had very little information to really make a decision as to whether or not Bonds lied under oath. But as you and I both know they did and according to records the verdict read like this:
“Divided, not unanimous,” on count one.
“Divided, not unanimous,” on count two.
“Divided, not unanimous,” on count three.
On the last charge and just when it appeared that he would get off scot-free, came the final word from the jury:
“Guilty”, on the charge of obstruction of justice.
The jury determined from the instruction provided to them by Judge Susan Illston, that Mr. Bonds was to be found guilty if they believed that he had “obstructed, influenced or impeded, or endeavored to obstruct, influence, or impede” the grand jury “by knowingly giving material testimony that was intentionally evasive, false or misleading.”
Even though Barry Bonds has been convicted of obstructing justice the spotlight remains focused on Major League Baseball. The suspicion remains; that MLB officials knew that players were using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and did little or nothing to rid the game of these substances. The 1994 World Series had been lost to the strike called by players that began in late July of that year. The period from 1995 to 2003 was a period of unprecedented home run hitting and this coincided with the return of fans to ballparks across the country.
According to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig “This trial is a stark illustration of how far this sport has come,” he said. “In contrast to allegations about the conduct of former players and the environment of past years, 2011 marks the eighth season of drug testing in the major leagues and our 11th season in the minors. With increased testing, cutting-edge research, proactive security efforts, and extensive education and awareness programs, we have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to keeping illegal substances out of the game.”
It should be noted that of the top seven home run hitters in baseball between 1995 and 2003, the last year before testing for PEDs was implemented, six of them have been implicated as users of PEDs (only Jim Thome has not been stained by this association). This dark period of baseball history received more unwanted publicity with the sudden retirement of slugger Manny Ramirez last week as he faced a possible 100 game suspension for violation of baseball’s drug policies.
On deck is the case of the Federal Government against pitcher Roger Clemens. We should also remember that the Mitchell Report issued in 2009 contained the blacked out names of over 100 players accused of using performance enhancing drugs in the 1995-2003 period.
There is a lesson here for sports administrators and managers. Barry Bonds may have been found guilty by a federal jury of criminal activity; but Major League Baseball leaders are also guilty of looking the other way for too long and ignoring the problem of illegal drug use by players. It is probably no coincidence that this occurred during a time when profits and team values were soaring. There are ultimately consequences to pay whenever financial concerns override ethical behavior.
Editor’s Note: these kinds of ethical issues are faced by leaders in sports on a regular basis. These are the kinds of subjects covered in depth in programs of study at the United States Sports Academy. For more information on these programs go to http://www.ussa.edu.
Fred Cromartie, Ed. D.
Dr. Cromartie is the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy. He has masters and doctoral degrees in sports management from the Academy and has a professional background in sport education, sport as a player and official, human resources and management.