posted on Sep, 20 2005 @ 08:06 PM
WASHINGTON -- Barry Bonds went to Washington on Tuesday and hit his 706th home run, another towering drive seven rows into the right-field upper deck
at aging RFK Stadium.
He also had a message for members of Congress, who have told the leaders of Major League Baseball that the federal government will legislate a tougher
drug-testing program in the sport if they don't.
"I think we have other issues in this country that are a lot more serious," said Bonds at a media conference prior to his first-ever appearance with
the Giants against the Nationals in the nation's capital. "I think those efforts should be directed at taking care of that. Let's talk about all the
athletes who helped the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
"Right now, people are losing lives and don't have homes. I think that's a little more serious, [actually] a lot more serious."
Bonds has homered in his last three games and is now eight in arrears of Babe Ruth's 714 and 49 behind Hank Aaron's 755. RFK Stadium, which opened in
1961 but hasn't seen baseball played regularly since the expansion Senators left after the 1971 season, is the 35th ballpark in which Bonds has
Bonds' previous three homers, dating back to last Sept. 26, came against Dodgers pitchers. On Tuesday night, he smacked a 1-2 fastball with two out in
the fourth inning off Nationals right-hander -- and former Giants teammate -- Livan Hernandez. The homer was his 62nd against the Nationals/Expos,
which ties the team for second with the Dodgers for the most Bonds' homers against a particular team. The Padres have given up 80 taters to Bonds, who
homered on Friday night against Brad Penny, took Saturday off and roughed up Taiwan native Hong Chin Kou on Sunday.
Bonds' pregame comments came as both houses of Congress have been investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports for the
better part of the last four years. At present, there are bills in several committees of both the House and Senate that would mandate strict,
Olympic-style penalties for any player testing positive for taking a host of steroid-based drugs -- two years for the first time and a lifetime ban
for the second.
Peter Magowan, the Giants' managing general partner, who traveled to Washington with the team, also said on Sunday that he believes Congress has more
pressing problems at the moment than baseball or Bonds.
"I absolutely do," said Magowan. "While Bonds is back there if they decided to do something, I'd be pretty disappointed. They have New Orleans to deal
with. They have the confirmation hearings of Judge Roberts to deal with. It would shock me right now to see Congress get into this."
For nearly two months, the House Government Reform Committee has been studying whether to recall or rebuke Baltimore Orioles star Rafael Palmeiro
because of his testimony under oath earlier this year that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs. Palmeiro subsequently tested positive and
was suspended for 10 days under MLB's current drug policy.
Palmeiro was subpoenaed to a hearing on Capitol Hill this past March, along with former and current stars Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Frank Thomas,
Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling. Jason Giambi was excused, and Bonds wasn't invited at the time, ostensibly because of the ongoing investigation into
the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). Both were among a group of 10 players called by a San Francisco grand jury in December 2003,
investigating BALCO for tax evasion and the sale of performance-enhancing drugs without a prescription.
Four men were indicted, including BALCO's founder, Victor Conte, and Greg Anderson, Bonds' former personal trainer. The case has since been
Bonds said that he still considered Palmeiro a close friend, but that he hadn't spoken to him since the positive test was made public on Aug. 1.
"I've just been trying to get back with the team," said Bonds. "The only time I've ever hung out with him has been at a ballpark or if we've been on
the Japan tour together. Something like that. I've played with him, with a lot of guys. When the season's over, they go their way and I go mine. And
we'll see each other next year. We all had our own personal friends.
"I will always have respect for him as a person and a player, regardless."
Bonds was asked how many times he has been drug-tested and whether he would testify before a Congressional Committee, if asked.
To the latter question, he replied that he would have to speak to his lawyers before committing. To the former, he said that he's been tested under
the auspices of the MLB program once a year for the last three years, in two parts over five to 10 days.
This year -- the first time the penalties for a first offense have been punitive -- Bonds obviously didn't test positive, because he wasn't
Although Bonds was on the disabled list for the first 142 games of the season, he was still eligible to be tested under rules of the collectively
bargained program. He was tested earlier in the season when he was with the team at SBC Park before departing on June 24 for more than two months of
rehabilitation on his thrice-repaired right knee.
Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who was critical of Palmeiro and said that his records should be expunged because of the positive drug test, wasn't
so tough on Bonds during his own media conference on Monday.
"Has anything been proven that he used something illegal?" said the Hall of Famer. "If someone is proven to use steroids or performance-enhancing
drugs, as far as I'm concerned, the numbers should be wiped out. But nothing has been proven with Barry Bonds. So you have to look at him like you
would look at any other player who has had a terrific career and continues to add to that.
"It has been amazing what he has been able to do in the last four or five years, and even the career he had before that. He has seven MVPs. He's one
of the best players that ever played the game -- offensively."