To compare Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein seems somewhat naive. It may even come across as an insult to the latter pair, who exposed the truth behind the Watergate scandal while working for the Washington Post.
All Fainaru-Wada and Williams, authors of Game of Shadows, did was uncover that a couple of athletes had used steroids. That’s something the public had assumed, anyway.
If you were to just glance at the book’s cover, it might force you to think that its focus is on Bonds, which it is to some degree. But what might strike you when reading the book is just how truly deep the scandal surrounding sports nutrition center Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, was.
It wasn’t just Bonds.
The true achievement in Game of Shadows is not in exposing Barry Bonds as a steroids-user. The achievement lies in showing that Marion Jones, a gold medal winner at the 2000 Summer Olympics, was using the performance-enhancing drugs.
Or in proving that Tim Montgomery, another track and field star, set the men’s 100 meter world record while he was using steroids.
Or that several American shotputters, thought to be in the twilight of their careers, were able to gain spots on their Olympic teams thanks to steroids from BALCO founder Victor Conte and his nutrition center. There is a reason that the first part of the book is called ‘Everybody Cheats.’
It is not often that a book has such an effect on the national conscience. Steroid use in sports was the classic look-the-other-way national decision. Bonds grew from – as it was put in Game of Shadows – a muscular marathon runner’s build to his current physique, which closely resembles that of an NFL linebacker. While it is still yet proven that Bonds ever took steroids, Game of Shadows makes the reader realize that no one can hide from the public’s perception of the truth.
When federal agents raided BALCO’s offices in December 2005, Conte admitted his entire scheme, including how he was able to provide steroids to athletes, in a lengthy, but unrecorded interview with agent Jeff Novitzky. Fifteen months later, Conte is being exposed as an accomplice to cheating athletes all over the country. His star-filled clientele is going down with him, and Conte is passionately denying that he provided steroids to athletes.
Just when the case of athletes cheating seems to be over, it really is just beginning. And Game of Shadows is a great place to start.