The Darkest Day of the Game?

Speculation had run rampant for months, even years. Home Runs were up, players were noticeably larger, and steroids had become mainstream. But despite the possible connections – there couldn't be anything to them, could there be? The past 36 hours have stated otherwise. When there's smoke, there's fire, and ladies and gentlemen, the game of baseball is up in flames.

It's been a long time coming to this day. Suspicions surrounding players had been around for many, many years. Players across the board were becoming bigger and stronger. More Home Runs were being hit by more players. Pitchers and others complained of ‘juiced' balls and smaller ballparks, but deep down others wondered about what (or who) exactly was juiced.

Of course, there was no real way of answering that question. The MLBPA strongly opposed any type of drug testing – and without it, there could be no proof.

But the hard hitting continued, the players kept getting bigger – and suspicion (especially within the media) grew. Players like Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds saw seemingly overnight growth of muscle mass, and suspicion grew larger.

But still, how would anyone know? Baseball was so far behind every other professional sport in drug testing, that the technology could easily be bypassed. Would there be any way to really find out?

Who would have known it would have taken a sports-obsessed President, a shady Laboratory in California, and the personal trainer of the man at the center of the controversy to bring it all to light.

President George W. Bush had a full plate of issues to deal with, ranging from a struggling economy to controversial war on the other side of the world, but the President also made it clear that the steroid abuse going on in America must cease – and it would not become a black eye on the United States with the Summer Olympics, the largest international competition held, looming.

So, in steps the one body that can make someone talk – the federal government. No longer was it an issue of union vs. owners, or media vs. players, it became a serious issue involving the government. Telling the beat writer from the San Francisco Chronicle that you didn't use steroids is one thing – but lying under oath in front of a federal Grand Jury is an entirely different ballgame.

The federal investigation of BALCO picked up steam, indictments were handed out, and players were asked to testify.

The truth was coming, but after spending 10 years struggling to regain popularity after a terrible strike cancelled the World Series, could the game really handle another shocker?

We're about to find out.

Over the past 36 hours, reports have leaked that both Giambi and Bonds admitted to using steroids in the 2003 season – although speaking nothing of other potential abuses. Giambi fully admitted to steroid use, including those acquired from Greg Anderson, the personal trainer of Barry Bonds.

Giambi was an issue, but the controversy really centered on Bonds. Bonds, the man that holds the single season Home Run record, the man moving closer and closer to overtaking both Ruth and Aaron, could his power really have come from something besides his natural ability and hard work?

According to reports obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Barry Bonds admitted to having used steroids during the 2003 season.

Again, Barry Bonds admitted to having used steroids during the 2003 season.

Nevermind the fact that Bonds claims' he was unaware they were steroids at the time, arguably the greatest hitter of the era admitted to having taken illegal substances that would increase his performance.

There's no telling how many more names may come out in the following weeks and months, being associated with steroid use. But the fact is, it's out there now. Baseball players have used banned substances to improve their performance – some of which have a major effect on the games most storied records and traditions – like the all time Home Run record.

This could blow over like many other sports controversies, but this one may be here to stay. Spin it any way you like; players are cheating. And the sport has sat idly by as it let it happen. Now the commissioner's office will have to deal with the most difficult problem the sport has ever faced.

Over the coming months, Bud Selig will have to answer a number of difficult questions. How do you get steroids out of the game, especially in the middle of a collective bargaining agreement that does little to punish those that violate the rules? How do you deal with past abusers that did not fail drug tests, but later admitted to using the substances? Should their stats (and records) stand, even with the admission of steroid use?

There's no good answer to any of these questions – and no matter what happens, plenty of people will be scarred because of it. But the integrity of America's pastime is in question. If it's not handled properly, baseball could lose many fans once again – and this time, for good.

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