Bonds has created a conundrum out which we will never emerge. Even if a jury finds him innocent, the court of public opinion has already rendered its judgment. Unfortunately, that judgment is also divided. So we will be left with people believing that he used steroids but it doesn’t matter because a) they don’t really help your performance or b) when he used them they were not banned (so how could he have cheated); others will believe he used them and feel that radical measures such as erasing Bonds' name from all the record books should hold, or that the records should employ asterisks freely, or that Bonds' stats should be adjusted to reflect a steroid-free career. But none of this will matter because in the end we will all lack the purity that we all seek from our game, that the game was played fair and square from beginning to end, that accomplishments are not marred by facts or rumors of cheating, that careers were made and built out of mental commitment and fortitude, and pure physical prowess.
I wrote earlier about one of the overlooked aspects of the steroids scandal: Assume that steroids do improve performance. How many times did a juiced at bat give an unfair advantage to a team? On how many occasions did warning track power become a game winning home run? How many times did a short fly out become a long fly out that drove in a go ahead run? Of course, the answers to these questions can never be found. And that’s the point. Because the “cheating” involved is as masked as can be, and it’s mixed in with all the nuances and intricacies that involve the team game of baseball, we will never find the smoking gun that can then be used to reconstruct the past.
How much of this has to do with changed morals? Who knows? But if the Bonds saga were a remake of Chariots of Fire, there would be a dramatic scene where Bonds would be sitting in his locker room, looking at his vial of flaxseed/clear or whatever it was, considering the ramifications of even appearing to cheat, and then tossing it into the trash and walking out into field triumphantly. What we’ll have instead is endless punditry on ESPN and Court TV. Stay tuned, or not.