Bonds indicted on federal charges
Home run king charged with perjury, obstruction of justice
Former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds has been indicted by a federal grand jury seated in San Francisco on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs in testimony given before another grand jury nearly four years ago.The indictments were unsealed on Thursday against Bonds, who holds Major League Baseball's all-time record with 762 home runs, and is another tentacle of the case brought against employees and the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Bonds has been ordered to appear in court on Dec. 7, the U.S. Justice Dept. announced. In the most damaging evidence presented in the indictment, the government said it based its findings, in part, on the fact that "during the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained, including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances, for Bonds and other professional athletes." If convicted, Bonds could be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.
The investigation into the case against Bonds has spanned four years, three grand juries and led to the jailing of Greg Anderson, his former personal trainer, for refusing to testify against Bonds. Anderson was one of five people ultimately charged in the case, and previously had served three months in prison and three months under house arrest in a plea bargain arrangement. Victor Conte, BALCO's president and founder, was the only other principal to go to jail.Anderson, who has been in a minimum security prison in Dublin, Calif., since July 2006, was immediately released by a federal judge after Thursday's indictment was filed with the Clerk of the Court in Northern California, said Mark Geragos, Anderson's attorney. "I'm gratified that Greg is walking out," Geragos said. "However, after reading the indictment, there doesn't appear to be anything new. I think keeping him in there for a year was punitive." The indictment, citing the actual grand jury testimony elicited from Bonds on Dec. 4, 2003, alleges that Bonds lied when asked if he was ever given or was administered anabolic steroids, testosterone or human growth hormone with needles by Anderson during the period from 2000 to 2002. In all cases, even when presented with charts and evidence of the positive test, Bonds responded emphatically by answering, "No" or "Not at all" or "No, no." The indictment, which cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath, also stipulates that Bonds withheld evidence and thus "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly did corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice, by knowingly giving Grand Jury testimony that was intentionally evasive, false and misleading." John Burris, one of Bonds' attorneys, told The Associated Press, "I'm surprised. There's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Burris said that he did not know of the indictment before being alerted by the AP, and said that he would immediately call Bonds to notify him.Commissioner Bud Selig, who traveled back home to Milwaukee on Thursday after the conclusion of the owners' meetings in Naples, Fla., issued a statement advising caution. Selig told the owners during Thursday morning's session that a pending report from a committee headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, regarding baseball's so-called steroid era, is due by the end of the year. "I have yet to see the details of this indictment and while everyone in America is considered innocent until proven guilty, I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely," Selig said. "It is important that the facts regarding steroid use in baseball be known, which is why I asked Senator Mitchell to investigate the issue. I look forward to receiving his report and findings so that we can openly address any issue associated with past steroid use." Likewise, Don Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association and an attorney, noted in a statement that anyone charged with a crime is still innocent until proven guilty. "I was saddened to learn this afternoon of the indictment of Barry Bonds," he said. "However, we must remember, as the U.S. Attorney stated in his press release today, that an indictment contains only allegations, and in this country every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." After Bonds formally turns himself in, the legal steps facing him are most likely to be a petition for bail, which he'll almost undoubtedly be granted, followed by an arraignment where he'll enter a plea. If that is a not guilty plea, then a trial date will be set. "It goes without saying that we look forward to rebutting these unsupported charges in court," Bonds' defense attorney Mike Rains said. "We will no doubt have more specific comments in the very near future once we have had the opportunity to actually see this indictment that took so long to generate."
Bonds had been widely suspected of using steroids, particularly during the years 1999 to 2002, when his power numbers increased and he broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run record by hitting 73 during the 2001 season. Though most peformance-enhancing drugs were illegal to procure in the U.S. without a prescription at the time, they were not explicitly banned in baseball, which began testing at the Major League level on an anonymous survey basis in 2003.As part of the BALCO investigation, the feds seized all the urine samples accumulated that season. And it may be a positive sample attributed to Bonds that the grand jury is using as the crux of this indictment.
Baseball now tests for any performance-enhancing drug banned by the federal government. And according to terms of the program, any player testing positive for the first time is suspended for 50 games."We currently have a testing program that is as good as any in professional sports, and the program is working," Selig said. "We continue to fund research to find an efficacious test for HGH and have banned amphetamines from our sport. We will continue to work diligently to eradicate the use of all illegal performance-enhancing substances from the game." Bonds, 43, has never admitted using steroids, and in fact, denied doing so in a recent interview with NBC's Jim Gray, saying, "That's not true. That's not right and it's not fair to me." Bonds was told by the Giants in September that his 15-year reign with the team was over and he would not be asked back. After the World Series, he filed for free agency and was hoping to play again next season. The Giants released a statement on Thursday saying it was "a very a sad day." "For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era," the statement read. "These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law." The Hall of Fame currently has an exhibit dedicated to Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run, which he hit in August.
"As a historic museum, we have no intention of taking the exhibit down," Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said.
The steroid issue has hovered like a shroud over Bonds for years.He testified in front of the original BALCO grand jury in December 2003, and from that testimony perjury suspicions grew. When the transcript was illegally leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds said he may have unknowingly used topical steroids called "the cream" and "the clear." Bonds said he thought the substances were arthritis balm and flaxseed oil. Bonds was one of several baseball players who were subpoenaed by that grand jury, including Gary Sheffield, now of the Tigers, and Jason Giambi of the Yankees. Giambi's testimony, in which he admitted injecting himself with steroids, was also leaked to the Chronicle. This season, after he vaguely reiterated that admission to USA Today, Giambi was brought in front of attorneys for the Commissioner's Office. Under the threat of suspension from Selig, Giambi agreed to appear before Mitchell, who is now wrapping up his investigation after 19 months. Giambi is the only active player known to testify in front Mitchell. The Bonds indictment comes at a time when Major League Baseball is at it's zenith in popularity, setting records this season in gross revenue ($6 billion) and attendance (79.5 million). It also comes at a time when nine former or active players, including Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels and Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals, have been named in reports about the purchase of steroids, testosterone and HGH through clinics in the south or pharmacies doing business on the Internet. That probe, which is not linked to the BALCO case, has been conducted for the past two years by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney. Bonds, though, is the first baseball player to be criminally indicted on steroid-related charges. President Bush, a former baseball team owner who has spoken against steroid use, is "very disappointed to hear this," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.