Gwen Knapp wrote a terrific feature on Major League Baseball's home run champion, Barry Bonds, published Wednesday at Sports on Earth. It's a long, great read on the limbo in which Bonds finds himself since playing his final game for the San Francisco Giants in 2007. He's been locked out of the game, first unable to find work as a player — Bonds never retired, he says, but instead was "fired" — and today as an instructor.
What's the difference between Bonds and other players in the performance-enhancing drugs era? For one, Knapp says: Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi and Matt Williams, among others who have found forgiveness, don't have a criminal record — a felony obstruction of justice charge that Bonds continues to appeal as he serves his sentence.
Another: Bonds spent his playing days acting awfully angry much of the time, and his personality faults haven't done him any favors. But it's not like McGwire is known as the friendliest person in the world. Bonds is being kept out of baseball.
Despite being stuck in limbo, Bonds has managed to undergo a transformation. The first part has been physical. He's dramatically trim compared to his playing days, when he was bloated from from working out (along with whatever else he put into his body). Whenever Bonds is spotted these days, it's often on a racing bike. And he's often hard to recognize at first.
Further, the toll that chasing Hank Aaron's home run record, along with the legal trial that followed, has started to ease. Bonds, people who know him say, is happier than he used to be.
And then there's the unlikely girlfriend situation. Olympian cyclist Mari Holden:
In his life away from baseball, Bonds has already pulled off an upset, winning over an ardent, public critic of PEDs: his girlfriend. In 2005, three months after McGwire went to Washington and declined to talk about his past, Holden appeared at a hearing about performance-enhancement among women and girls. Designated as an athlete ambassador for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, she told Congress:
"I am here because I want to make sure that the clean athletes of today and tomorrow have a voice. Our children need to have a level playing field, and the use of drugs for sport or looks should be deterred at all levels. As a clean athlete, I want you to test me so that the world knows that when I win, I win fair and square. I believe all clean athletes feel the same when given the chance to speak freely about these issues. Frankly, it is the same simple rule we all followed as children on the playground and which our children hopefully still follow today. Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat."
Major League Baseball isn't as forgiving to Bonds.
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