Saturday, May 06, 2006

What I'm Reading -- Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports

I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship with baseball. I was a loyal fan as a kid, but the 1994 strike turned me off for a while. Then in 1998, the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa homerun chase was bringing me back until an Associated Press writer saw a bottle of Andro (a testosterone booster) in McGwire’s locker. Over the next few years, homerun numbers exploded and Major League Baseball ignored rumors of rampant steroid use until an investigation into the Bay Area Co-Operative began a couple of years ago, which allegedly connected a producer of steroids with baseball, football and track athletes.

Game of Shadows by San Francisco Chronicle writers Mark Fainaru-Wara and Lance Williams describes the rise and fall of BALCO, as well as the alleged steroid use of Barry Bonds and others. This book is not quite the definitive look at baseball and steroids it was advertised to be. The authors do a great job spelling out how BALCO was run and provides interesting details of how the investigation into the company was handled.

They also use tons of interviews, recordings and leaked grand jury testimony to piece together what allegedly led Bonds to steroids, what he specifically used and what effects they had. Considering that the authors claim they have all of this information concerning Bonds, their documentation in this book is somewhat vague.

Also, for anyone who has followed the story, there is not much new here. Some of the inside information about Bonds is interesting, though these are mostly just allegations. Overall, this is a decent book, though I was a bit disappointed. If anyone is specifically interested in Bonds or BALCO, this is a good account of them. For a better overall look at baseball and stereoids, read Juicing the Game by Boston Herald columnist Howard Bryant

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