The San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds was one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game. Unfortunately, and unnecessarily given his skill as a player, he got sucked into baseball’s so-called Steroid Era, a period from 1988 to 2004.
Personally, I think the Steroid Era is still going and should be defined: 1988 to Present.
BARRY AND WILLIE
Being a Giants fan, with Willie Mays as my baseball hero, I really liked the opening paragraph of this federal Court of Appeals decision: “Barry Bonds was a celebrity child who grew up in baseball locker rooms as he watched his father Bobby Bonds and his godfather, the legendary Willie Mays, compete in the Major Leagues. Barry Bonds was a phenomenal baseball player in his own right. Early in his career he won MVP awards and played in multiple All-Star games.
“Toward the end of his career, playing for the San Francisco Giants, his appearance showed strong indications of the use of steroids, some of which could have been administered by his trainer, Greg Anderson. Bond’s weight and hat size increased, along with the batting power that transformed him into one of the most feared hitters ever to play the game. From the late 1990s through the early-2000s, steroid use in baseball fueled an unprecedented explosion in offense, leading some commentators to refer to the period as the ‘Steroid Era.’”
In 2002, the federal government through its Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, began investigating the distribution of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
The government’s purported objective was to investigate whether the distributors of PEDs laundered the proceeds gained by selling those drugs. In fact, they were after drug users and distributors, not money launderers.
What the government wants it gets, so after raiding the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), the government convened a Grand Jury and demanded that Barry Bonds testify. He was given immunity as long as he told the truth. How could he go wrong, always tell the truth, right?
The government asked Barry lots of questions, especially about his trainer Greg Anderson and Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO.
After Bonds testified, he was charged with perjury, obstructing the Grand Jury’s investigation and with obstruction of justice.
You be the judge, does Barry’s answer before the Grand Jury sound at all evasive and misleading?
Question: Did Greg (Anderson) ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with? (Sentence ends with a preposition but we’ll let it go.)
Answer: I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t — we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want — don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends, you come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?
Answer: That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see.
BARRY BONDS INDICTED
After that brilliant non-responsive answer under penalty of perjury before the Grand Jury, Bonds was indicted for making “intentionally evasive, false and misleading statements.”
He had five different explanations including that most of what he said was factually true, even if non-responsive. In the end, the federal Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, writing, “The [Bonds] statement served to divert the grand jury’s attention away from the relevant inquiry of the investigation, which was Anderson and BALCO’s distribution of steroids and PEDs. The statement was therefore evasive.”
Barry Bonds got 30 days home confinement and two years probation. Maybe there’s another conviction for use of steroids that I missed, but in this case, Bonds got off light considering the damage he and others did to the reputation of baseball.
Hopefully Barry has cleaned up his act. Baseball hasn’t.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nev. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firm’s website www.portersimon.com. Find them on Facebook.