Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Steroid Accusations Against Barry Bonds May Reignite Interest in Possible Perjury Charges

A book by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters called "Game of Shadows" that is scheduled to appear in late March alleges that San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds became a heavy steroid user beginning in 1998, including the use of some of the strongest drugs available that are injected into the body.  Bonds testified before a federal grand jury in San Francisco in 2003 in the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) steroid investigation that led to guilty pleas by its founder, Victor Conte, and Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson.  Reports of the grand jury testimony indicate that Bonds admitted to going to BALCO's office to have his blood tested and that he used a cream provided by Anderson, but stated he did not know that it contained a designer steroid.  Bonds purportedly asserted that he never knowingly took steroids, a position that would be contradicted if the claims in "Game of Shadows" are true.

Whether the book contains anything not already known to federal prosecutors will likely be the key to the possibility that Bonds could face a federal investigation for perjury or obstruction of justice.  If the information in the book comes from Anderson, Conte, and others implicated in the BALCO prosecution, then it is likely federal prosecutors already know about it, although perhaps not in as much detail.  A perjury case built on the testimony of convicted felons does not strike me as particularly strong, and Conte in particular has been quite erratic in his public statements.  In 2005, former major leaguer Rafael Palmeiro testified before Congress that he had never used steroids and then three months later tested positive for stanozolol, one of the drugs Bonds is accused of using.  The House committee, however, did not pursue perjury charges because of the lack of evidence that Palmeiro had used steroids before his testimony. 

This type of case is difficult to win because the government must prove that the defendant lied, and not just that the person was less-than-forthright in the testimony.  Bonds admits to using something that turned out to contain steroids, and does not deny his interactions with BALCO.  Did he lie before the grand jury, or was he just perhaps just evasive?  More than accusations in a book containing sensational claims of continued steroid use will be needed to pursue a criminal prosecution.  A Yahoo Sports column (here) by Jeff Passan discusses the book. (ph)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2006/03/will_steroid_ac.html

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