Aaron was introduced to the crowd as the “true” all-time home run king, a blatant shot at Barry Bonds, who broke Aaron’s record of 755 home runs back in 2007, ending with a career total of 762 the same year. Bonds, who played with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, admitted taking anabolic steroids (although he claims unknowingly).
Many believe the performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) likely helped him break the records. Bonds still has not been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in either of his two years of eligibility because of his steroid usage. When asked about Aaron’s introduction by the stadium announcer as the “true” home run king, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who was in attendance, said he still sees Aaron’s record as the true home run mark.
People have argued that Bonds’ home run records – he also holds the single season record with 73 homers, broken back in 2001 - should either be stricken from the books or simply be asterisked with a footnote that the record was accomplished with the assistance of steroids.
This is hypocrisy. Steroids should be banned but they were not when Bonds and many others used them. Players, owners, league officials, union leaders, coaches and management all knew that PED’s were being used at that time and did nothing to stop it.
That is why Bonds is not without his defenders, myself included. Who can really tell which athlete’s record is clean and whose is not? It is just too difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Four players in the top ten all-time home run list have been shown to have taken performance enhancing drugs. If Bonds’ record is stricken where does it end? How deep does this rabbit hole go?
The simple solution to this is to leave the records as they stand regardless of the public sentiment. It is far too difficult to determine who was clean and who was not. And it is important to note that these substances were not banned until 2004. When Bonds was taking the enhancements, they were perfectly legitimate. In fact, Aaron admitted taking amphetamines as an aid during his playing days.
Selig’s comments about Aaron’s record are hypocritical. The steroid era happened under Selig’s watch. He, the players, management, owners, the union each allowed it to grow to the point of excess. Selig, who took over as MLB commissioner in 1992, only changed his mind after Congress became involved in 2005. Selig and the MLB were shamed into strengthening their penalties. The first steroid policy was enacted the season before but was too weak, first time users were suspended for only 10 days compared to now where a player is suspended half a season. Many of the game’s star sluggers were soon labeled cheaters for their steroid use. Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro became villains. Star pitchers, including Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne and Andy Pettitte; have also been identified as steroid users.
In the end it's pointless to try and erase Bonds’ record. His achievements were set within the current rules of the game. People may not like it, but it's Bonds’ record until someone else breaks it.
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