Barry Bonds and his supporters have not been shy about playing the race card in griping about his treatment by the press. Now, we will see if they are correct.
As of Thursday afternoon, Bonds and squeaky clean Roger Clemens, who has risen to the stature of media icon, have become linked as co-steroid users, thanks to the Mitchell Report.
Bonds, also a featured performer in the 409-page report, was outed long ago, and the mountain of evidence against him is much higher than exists for Clemens. However, we have only begun the game with Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who can lay claim to 354 victories and has denied the charges through his lawyer.
Bonds and his fans long ago cried foul, saying that he never flunked a drug test and that he would never have been treated so roughly by the media if he were a white player, a player like Clemens, who generally has gotten along with the press (but not always) and has stood as a shining example of blue-collar determination.
Not so Bonds, who has turned petulance and rudeness into an art form. Nobody likes Barry is pretty much the story, and for good reason.
No question that a number of Americans still are hung up on race. My guess is that most fans see Bonds as a jerk, because that's the image he has cultivated. Others, I believe a small minority, focus on his blackness as a negative.
Now that he and Clemens both carry the label of probable steroid cheaters, I hope the media have the good sense to treat them the same. However, I'm not so sure that will happen.
On Thursday afternoon, minutes after former senator George Mitchell had completed his presentation on the long-awaited report to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, I already heard the talking heads on television trying to give Clemens the benefit of the doubt, labeling statements from the man who fingered him as unreliable.
Didn't sound like it to me after reading the report. Mitchell got much of his information from two people, both of whom were under legal duress to talk. Brian McNamee is a former New York City cop and bullpen catcher for the New York Yankees who became a strength and conditioning coach.
He was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays in that capacity in 1995, two years before Clemens joined the team. McNamee, interviewed by Mitchell on three occasions, said that Clemens approached him in 1998 about the advisability of using steroids to give him a performance boost.
McNamee said he injected Clemens, who was squeamish about using a needle on himself, with the steroid Winstrol four times that summer from a bottle that Clemens provided (he also brought the needles). How did McNamee know it was Winstrol? It was written on the bottle.
The threat of a lawsuit by Clemens would be persuasive on his behalf, but only if he followed through.
Offering dates and witnesses to rebut McNamee would enhance Clemens' credibility.
Slipping into seclusion, as did Mark McGwire after his "I don't want to talk about the past" speech to Congress, would not.
As for the media - and that means me, too - we need to understand that everyone is watching. If we discover that Bonds and Clemens both cheated their sport and their fans by using steroids and HGH, they deserve equal treatment by the press.
They also deserve each other.