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When Barry Bonds is a horse

Steroids kills another sport

Steroids are like a cancer, spreading from sport to sport and killing whatever they come in contact with. Baseball, track and field....

And now horse racing.

What's next? What's left? Are NASCAR drivers going to start driving fuel-injected engines -- injected with Winstrol? Somebody better give a test to that kid who won the National Spelling Bee the other day.

But back to horse racing for a minute. I'm not a huge fan, but like a lot of Americans I've taking great joy from the Triple Crown events over the years, as someone old enough to remember actual winners including -- the great Secretariat -- but also some noble near-greats from the poor man's Canonero II to Smarty Jones. In this year's Kentucky Derby, I was pulling for the filly Eight Belles (Hillary guilt, perhaps?), so I was shocked and horrified to see the horse I'd just been cheering on put to death a few feet from the finish line.

I didn't even watch the Preakness, but decided to give the sport one more chance and met with some friends and family to watch what had been "guaranteed" as Big Brown taking the first Triple Crown in 30 years, since I was a freshman in college. Instead, Big Brown vanished from the TV screen about as quickly as a highly advertised new sit-com on Fox -- leaving millions of Americans to wonder what the heck just happened.

What happened was...this was your horse NOT on drugs.

He blew away the field at the Kentucky Derby. He made the Preakness field look like circus ponies. But on the day that would solidify his legacy and give racing a respite from intense scrutiny, Big Brown crumbled. He crumbled so badly that one could legitimately wonder whether he was nothing but a chemical horse, a paper tiger propped up — and propelled — by steroids. After three months of dominance, Big Brown became the first Triple Crown hopeful to finish dead last at the Belmont Stakes. His jockey, Kent Desormeaux, said that heading into the final turn, when he called on Big Brown to give him that special reserve, he realized, "I had no horse."
The racing public has the right to ask: Did he ever have a super horse?
On Friday, the trainer Rick Dutrow told reporters that he had not given Big Brown a shot of the anabolic steroid Winstrol since before the Kentucky Derby and would not use it Saturday at the Belmont.
Earlier, Dutrow admitted that he gave Big Brown and all his other horses shots of Winstrol on the 15th of each month. He said he did not know what it did.

What it did, apparently, was fool millions into watching and getting all excited about something that wasn't real, kind of like watching Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in a single season or Roger Clemens going from fairly great to unhittable in his 40s. If the drug Winstrol sounds familiar, it is one of the performance-enhancing drugs that Clemens was allegedly injected with when he started his late-career surge. Big Brown and Roger Clemens -- two horse's asses.

It's amazing how many sports I've seen shrink or fade in my lifetime, some a little (pro tennis, the Indy 500) and some a lot, with heavyweight boxing Exhibit A but now horse racing coming up on the rail. But from now on (and I'm assuming that baseball has cleaned up its act, probably a ridiculous assumpton, but...) I'm going to try to only watch sports that are real.

Is curling interesting?