The alternative to inaction by Major League Baseball is that Bonds' assault on the record book will become an assault on the game's legitimacy. And even if rules are passed, don't bet on Bonds' name ever being drawn out of the hat for a "random" test. So questions will persist.
Of course the president and Congress are aiming beyond just Major League Baseball. They potentially will be looking at all athletics -- professional and amateur, including college sports. And there are some in Congress, even from the Republican side of the aisle, who doubt that legislation would ever be effective anyway. Legendary former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, now a Republican member of the House of Representatives, has said in essence that there will always be skirting of the rules by coaches and athletes in sports, just as in every other endeavor of life.
Certainly Osborne brings a level of expertise to the debate that few in Congress can equal. His pessimism aside, however, the lack of uniformity in dealing with these "performance-enhancing drugs" almost surely will force additional reforms. If that used to be in doubt, it is less so now that the president has made steroids a major political issue. The main questions are whether the reforms will be voluntary by the various leagues, associations and athletic conferences, or whether Congress will force their hand.
Judging from the deluge of articles and stories on steroids that have been coinciding with the start of the baseball season, it may well be institutional action by Major League Baseball and its powerful players union that prompts Congress to take swift and strong pre-election action on steroid use in all sports.
Based on the results of our poll, there is just enough support for any such move as to compel both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to act. But there is also enough opposition, or just plain indifference, to make the issue of steroid laws a matter of public policy, not political advantage.