Reasonable to Doubt Bonds
A long, drawn out process was brought to a resolution of sorts this week as the perjury trial of former San Francisco Giant (in more ways than one) slugger Barry Bonds came to a largely unsatisfying conclusion. A federal grand jury found Bonds guilty on only one count of obstruction of justice after failing to come to an agreement on 3 other charges of lying under oath about his “alleged” steroid use. This trial didn’t offer anything new in the way of evidence against Bonds but what there was should have been more than enough. The fact that Bonds’ ”trainer” Greg Anderson has repeatedly chosen to go to jail rather than testify about Bonds says more about his guilt than anything Anderson could provide on the stand. Anyone with even a modicum of common sense would have to dismiss Bonds’ claim that he never ‘knowingly’ took performance-enhancing drugs as total bullshit. That the members of the jury decided only on the obstruction count suggests that they confused the concept of reasonable doubt with benefit of the doubt.
Nonetheless, the decision makes Bonds a convicted felon, at least for now. Barr-oid’s lawyers have already suggested an appeal of the verdict, correctly surmising that finding Bonds guilty of obstruction without saying what he was obstructing is inconsistent at best. Either way, Bonds is unlikely to see anything more in the way of punishment than probation.
Meanwhile, some in the media have questioned the time and expense the government has spent in bringing Bonds to trial, apparently thinking the prosecution was about steroid use. They argue that Congress had no business involving itself in the steroid scandal of professional sports. Those people are missing the point. Once government became involved it was the responsibility of those called to testify to tell the truth. Federal grand juries and congressional investigations are two of the most important avenues the country has in bringing justice to bear on serious crime. The Justice Department has a clear interest in protecting the integrity of that system. In such a high profile case in which Bonds was so obviously lying, it’s not surprising that the government would be reluctant to let Bonds’ testimony go unchallenged.
It is only through the hubris of players like Bonds and Roger Clemens (the next target of federal prosecution) that we are here in the first place. If they had only come clean on their use of illegal substances, they would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist and the whole thing would have become a faded memory, as it was in the case of Andy Pettite and Jason Giambi. The real shame is that Bonds and Clemens were great players without resorting to PEDs. The fact that they chose to use them made a mockery of the game and was unfair to players like Henry Aaron, who played before them and did things the right way. Their open arrogance only serves to highlight the class with which Aaron carried himself under far more trying circumstances. As it was, the players’ association in Major League Baseball would never have taken the issue of PEDs seriously without the public pressure of congressional hearings. Some say that steroid use is a victimless crime (or not a crime at all) but, as the father of a teenage son who is interested in sports, I don’t want him or any other kid thinking that PED use is the ticket to a successful career in athletics. The mere presence of Anderson in this saga is an illustration that there are unsavory individuals willing to exploit that weakness in character.
The bottom line is that athletes like Bonds and Clemens represent the worst excesses of professional sports. They need to be held accountable in some way for their actions.