Ruling Won’t Help Barry Bonds Change Public Opinion

A Legal Victory

Barry Bonds is no longer a man convicted of breaking the law regarding his testimony in the 2003 BALCO investigation. His conviction for obstruction of justice in the U.S. government’s investigation into illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs was overturned Wednesday by a federal court of appeals.

While Bonds is pleased, the court decision was based on a point of law regarding witness testimony. It had nothing to do with whether Bonds knowingly used PEDs.

The court of public opinion found him guilty on that count years ago, and his victory in the legal system doesn’t change that.

Bonds is one of the best baseball players in the history of the game, but his career is forever tarnished by his use of performance-enhancers.

Integrity Compromised

It’s really a shame.

Barry Bonds worked hard to become an historically special player. As I wrote in August, 2010, I view Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in the same way — as two of the finest players ever at their positions, who justified using performance-enhancing drugs by convincing themselves it was a way of allowing them to work out longer and harder. Of course in Bonds’ case, there also was Mark McGwire breaking his single season home run record.

Think of all the hard work that Lance Armstrong put into overcoming cancer and becoming the world’s best cyclist. All that he worked for, all that he accomplished, has been tainted by the way in which he chose to compete.

Armstrong and others who have used PEDs can blame the culture of their sport, the lack of proper rules enforcement, or argue that they were just doing what many others in their sport were doing. But, each of them made a conscious decision to break the rules.

They compromised their integrity. They lacked the courage and self-restraint to compete honorably and responsibly.

Why do we talk about The Way You Win Matters?

It’s because true competition requires an even playing field in which participants play under the same rules and conditions. It means determining the winner based on merit, not by using questionable means to gain an advantage.

Of course, what makes this a challenge is that we all want to win. And often, there are short-term benefits from circumventing or breaking rules. The risk/reward element plays into it, too. Not everyone who breaks a rule gets caught, just as many kids who cheat on exams, get away with it.

It can be tempting to try to gain an advantage outside the rules.

Yet, the real sense of accomplishment is knowing that you competed honorably. That you can look in the mirror and be proud of the way in which you represented yourself, your team, and your sport. That you didn’t compromise your integrity as a competitor, even if your opponent did.

On and off the field, our character is tested every day. The way we respond creates habits.

It really comes down to the kind of person you want to be.

How much do you value your integrity?

Photo Credit: Dan Gaken via Flickr

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