Misconceptions about the Barry Bonds trial

April 19, 2011 1:53:28 PM PDT
He hadn't played a ball game in three years. Nine years had elapsed since a federal drug raid first linked his name to steroids.

Nevertheless, until the moment when the jury brought back its muddled verdict (guilty of obstruction, deadlock on perjury), the trial of Barry Bonds provoked intense interest and excited debate among sports fans.

Did baseball's home run champion know he was taking BALCO's banned drugs? Was the former Giants slugger guilty of lying under oath about it? Was the government wrong to target him?

But all too often, the passionate arguments about the Bonds trial were based on a misunderstanding of basic facts. And so, at times, the debate was slightly out of kilter -- like the quote in our headline. (It's an El Cerrito Little Leaguer's pronouncement about the whole sorry mess, relayed by his coach a few years back.)

Here, from online comments, are some misconceptions about Bonds, BALCO and the trial, along with the actual facts:

Bonds should have just taken the 5th at the Congressional hearing. Pretty dumb. ... If he'd kept quiet during the original government interview, he wouldn't be here now.

Why did the FEDS grant immunity to all the baseball players that testified except for BONDS on the BALCO case?

Other baseball players -- but not Bonds -- testified at Congressional hearings regarding steroids in sports. Bonds' alleged perjury was in testimony before the federal grand jury that investigated the BALCO steroids scandal in 2003.

More than 30 elite athletes were called to testify about BALCO. All, including Bonds, were given immunity from prosecution. As a result, they couldn't cite their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying.

The only thing I care about in this case is that prosecutors are wasting our taxpayer money to score political points for their own elections...

I believe the FBI should face multiple counts of obstruction of justice.

The Bonds prosecutors work for the U.S. attorney general, who is appointed by the president, not elected.

The BALCO steroids probe started under John Ashcroft, who was appointed attorney general by President George W. Bush, a Republican. At the time of Bonds' trial, the prosecutors' new boss was Eric Holder, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

The lead federal agency on BALCO was the IRS; the Food & Drug Administration became involved when IRS agent Jeff Novitzky took a job with the FDA. The FBI played almost no role.

I absolutely despise (the baseball players who testified in the Bonds trial). It's one thing to rat on someone plotting terrorism or murder but it's another to rat out a colleague that was doing what you were doing.

The baseball players who testified said they got banned drugs from Greg Anderson, who they knew because he was Bonds' trainer. But none of them said anything about Bonds using banned drugs.

If I were Bonds' lawyer I would have asked the personal shopper the following: Are you a qualified chemist to know what was in the injection? If the answer is no, as it has to be, then her testimony goes out the window.

Bonds faced a perjury charge because he testified that no one but a physician had ever given him an injection of any kind. Personal shopper Kathy Hoskins testified she saw Bonds getting an injection in the abdomen from his trainer. She never claimed to know what it was. The government said it was obviously human growth hormone. The jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction on this count.

Why don't Mark McGwire and Roger (Clemens) have trial dates? Why haven't they been getting dragged for the last 8 years to court?

At a Congressional hearing, McGwire, the former Oakland and St. Louis slugger, declined to answer questions about his steroid use, saying, "I'm not here to talk about the past." He might have been cited for contempt, but the lawmakers decided not to pursue it.

At a different hearing, Clemens, a former Yankees and Red Sox fireballer, testified that he had never used banned drugs, but his former trainer told lawmakers Clemens had used steroids for years. Clemens was indicted for perjury. His trial is scheduled to begin in July in Washington, D.C.

The jury is not aware of the fact that April 8 is the anniversary of the day Hank Aaron hit (home run number) 715 to break Babe Ruth's record. So if they find Bonds not guilty on April 8, baseball should just shut up and give Barry Bonds all the respect that comes from being the true record holder.

Actually, the Bonds verdict came in on April 13 -- the 48th anniversary of the first major league hit by Pete Rose, baseball's career hit leader, who was banned and imprisoned for betting on games while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. It was baseball's biggest scandal, until the Bonds case.

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)


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