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Nothing minor league about Bonds trial

I tried to resist, but I can’t, I’m hooked, so let’s talk Barry Bonds.

On Monday, my colleague Lowell Cohn wrote that Bonds’ trial “is so out of proportion to what he did. He cheated at baseball and probably lied about it.” Wednesday’s paper features a piece by Associated Press sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, who asks “just what is it the government hopes to gain by convicting him of some relatively minor charges of lying to a grand jury?”

Out of proportion? Relatively minor charges? I beg to differ.

This isn’t about cheating baseball. It’s about perjury, and perjury is a big deal. Try lying to the feds if you don’t believe me. Ask Chris Webber. Or Michael Deaver. Remember your favorite Watergate conspirator. Or rapper Lil’ Kim. Hey, how about Bill Clinton? He may not have been convicted, but don’t underestimate the historical impact of being impeached. In every case, lying to a grand jury or a federal agent complicated whatever else was at play.

Bonds allegedly was using a controlled substance – and so were a bunch of other baseball players, track stars and assorted athletes. You can’t buy anabolic steroids or human growth hormone over the counter at your local pharmacy. You need a prescription. It’s just like Vicodin, to mention a widely abused prescription drug and the semi-regular source of newspaper stories about people a lot less famous than Barry Bonds.

In this case, the feds weren’t after Bonds (or the other athletes, most of whom either cooperated or found themselves convicted of perjury). They were after his dealer. Bonds was offered immunity. All he had to do was tell the truth; he wouldn’t be liable for anything. According to the U.S. attorney, he lied anyway. He hasn’t been convicted, and maybe he won’t be.

But there’s nothing out of proportion here. The only thing different about this case than the case of some anonymous person who started using steroids in the gym or got hooked on Vicodin after surgery or an injury: Bonds’ trial made the newspapers.

– Jim Sweeney

11 Responses to “Nothing minor league about Bonds trial”

  1. Frank says:

    Did not Former Pres Clinton do the same thing
    ( i did Not have sexaul relation with that woman )

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  2. Joe says:

    Bonds has admitted that he did take them, but he is saying that he didn’t know that they were steroids, he thought it was flax seed oil, pure B.S., he knew and we all knew, look at his past photos and then look at him in recent photos, and MLB didn’t want to do anything because they where making millions on the HR races.
    I took them when I was younger, when I started taking them I weighed 155 lbs and was very thin, I packed on 30 lbs of muscle my first cycle and kept taking cycles until I got to be 230 of solid muscle. I have seen what they can do and how fast they do it, first hand, and I’m sure others have to. This trial is about perjury and he needs to pay for it.

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  3. Mitch Fowler says:

    The 1998 story is a good example of how journalism failed. McGuire’s first level of BS is simply accepted as true and reported as such.

    Where is the journalism? Where’s the obvious questions, i.e., “Mark I have your A’s rookie card right here. You’re a little guy. I’m looking at a Hulk version of you. You’re telling me a supplement anyone can buy at GNC transformed you into this? Will you take a urine test and give a hair sample just to show this record is on the up and up?”

    What about the questions as the big home run chase was going on? It was obvious cheating, yet that angle was just a rhetorical question that was never followed up on. It could have been, but the journalists who could didn’t.

    As far as Bonds immunity – how can he possibly be immunized from everything? From every sovereign? A state immunity does not cover Federal offenses and a Federal immunity doesn’t cover state offenses and neither of these covers a civil suit. And what’s the justification for asking an incriminating question to begin with? And if you deny you committed the crime they couldn’t prove you are a perjurer? And to prove he lied, they have to prove he used steroids. But if they can prove he used steroids, why not prosecute him for that? He’s going to beat it on a technicality. His alleged perjury isn’t relevant to the inquiry because there was no basis for the inquiry to begin with.

    We can haul baseball players before Congress and demand “justice” for supposed perjury, yet, we’re all racists for supporting Congress asking questions about Islamic terrorism?

    Journalism has failed miserably. Go cover Liz Taylor’s funeral okay? That’s the important thing. What has Charlie Sheen said today? You got plenty of ink for that. By any measure the Press Democrat has failed journalism 101 and this failure has seriously affected the quality of life in Sonoma County. Bonds is one glaring example. Just one.

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  4. no name says:

    I think it’s GREAT that the feds have $50 MILLION DOLLARS to blow on this stuff.

    It means they’ve solved all the OTHER CRIMES!

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  5. Jim Sweeney says:

    Did Bonds get the most attention? Sure. But did any of the others mount the same fight? No. But he’s Barry Bonds, the homerun champ, so he probably would have gotten more attention anyway.
    As for taking the Fifth, he was offered immunity. I don’t think you’re allowed to take the Fifth if you’re not in jeopardy of being charged with a crime. But I’d be curious if a lawyer out there could clarify that for us.
    And, finally, here’s a story that ran on the front page of The Press Democrat (and a whole lot of other papers) in 1998 talking about Mark McGwire and steroids …

    Saturday, August 22, 1998

    Edition: FINAL
    Section: MAIN
    Page: A1
    Byline: Steve Wilstein Associated Press
    Illustration: PHOTO: color by Associated Press


    Sitting on the top shelf of Mark McGwire’s locker, next to a can of Popeye spinach and packs of sugarless gum, is a brown bottle labeled Androstenedione.
    For more than a year, McGwire says, he has been using the testosterone-producing pill, which is perfectly legal in baseball but banned in the NFL, Olympics and NCAA.
    No one suggests McGwire wouldn’t be closing in on Roger Maris’ home run record without the over-the-counter drug. After all, he hit 49 homers without it as a rookie in 1987, and more than 50 each of the past two seasons.
    But the drug’s ability to raise levels of the male hormone, which builds lean muscle mass and promotes recovery after injury, is seen outside baseball as cheating and potentially dangerous.
    “Everything I’ve done is natural. Everybody that I know in the game of baseball uses the same stuff I use,” said McGwire, who also takes the popular muscle-builder Creatine, an amino acid powder.
    However, many other players insist they do not take Androstenedione (pronounced Andro-steen’-die-own), although the use of other supplements is common.
    Sammy Sosa, close to McGwire in the homer chase, uses Creatine after games to keep up his weight and strength. For energy before games he takes the Chinese herb ginseng.
    But Sosa said he doesn’t use Androstenedione or any other testosterone booster. Nor does Boston slugger Mo Vaughn.
    “Anything illegal is definitely wrong,” Vaughn said. “But if you get something over the counter and legal, guys in that power-hitter position are going to use them. Strength is the key to maintaining and gaining endurance for 162 games. The pitchers keep getting bigger and stronger.”
    Andres Galarraga, Atlanta’s top home run hitter, said he would be “scared” to take a drug like Androstenedione.
    “I do my weight (lifting) and take my vitamins. That’s it,” he said. “You have to be careful what you take. It could cause secondary problems with your body.”
    Shot putter Randy Barnes, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder, recently drew a lifetime ban for using Androstenedione. Barnes claimed he wasn’t told about the ban until after his out-of-competition drug test April 1. Barnes is appealing the decision.
    Baseball bans only illegal drugs as does the NBA, and the reason in both cases has nothing to do with competitive fairness or health. The players associations and management in both sports simply haven’t agreed on ways of dealing with the issue.
    “Obviously, if there’s more research and it’s shown that it’s harmful, we’ll make people aware,” baseball spokesman Rich Levin said of Androstenedione.
    Numerous studies suggest there are dangers associated with drugs that raise testosterone levels -even if there isn’t much research specifically on Androstenedione.
    “It’s just a fluke of the law that this is totally unstudied,” said Dr. John Lombardo of Ohio State University, the NFL’s adviser on steroids. “There are no adverse-effect studies. There are no efficacy studies. Because the people who produce it never had to do them, thanks to the (federal) supplement act of 1994. Androstenedione is no different than taking testosterone.
    “Androstenedione is a steroid,” he said. “It has anabolic qualities. Therefore it is an anabolic steroid.”
    Anabolic steroids have been associated with potentially fatal side effects, including heart attacks, cancers, liver dysfunction, and severe disorders of mood and mental function.
    “You can’t even buy testosterone with a regular prescription,” said Dr. Gary I. Wadler, an expert in supplement use and assistant professor of medicine at Cornell University Medical College. “You have to get a triplicate prescription. It’s a controlled substance by an act of Congress. The schizophrenia of all this is, product A, which is over the counter, becomes product B, which is a controlled substance.”
    Creatine, which the 34-year-old McGwire believes helps him recover faster from daily weightlifting, is purported to increase muscle energy and mass. Long-term effects of the powder are unknown. It has been known to lead to muscle tears and cramps due to dehydration.
    “I’ve been using Creatine for about four years,” said the 6-foot-5, 245-pound McGwire, who played for the U.S. baseball team at the 1984 Olympics. “It’s a good thing. It helps strength. It helps recovery.
    “I think Creatine is getting a bad rap now because people abuse it,” he said. “That’s the problem. It says to take one to two scoops a day. People started taking 15 or 20. If you abuse anything you’re going to hurt yourself. If you just use common sense, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s a form of eating red meat.”
    Chicago Cubs trainer David Tumbas said he doesn’t recommend Creatine but doesn’t tell players not to take it. He asked the players in spring training if they were using it or similar supplements, and about 10 said they were. He added, though, that he believes no one on the Cubs is taking Androstenedione.
    “Our belief is still rest, nutrition, plenty of hydration and exercise are all you need,” Tumbas said.
    The IOC added Androstenedione to its lengthy banned list last December after it found the pills and various steroids being hawked on the Internet by a company called Price’s Power International of Newport News, Va. The company, which offered the product for $49.95 a bottle and gave tips on how to avoid detection, claimed Androstenedione helps build lean muscle mass “faster than ever imagined.”
    But that’s hardly the only place where “Andro,” as it is popularly called, is available. Great Earth Vitamin stores, a chain of 138 franchises in 23 states, sell the drug over the counter and by mail order. It is bundled with several supplements in a packet called “Andro-Flav Stack.”
    “It’s very popular,” said Andrew Fischman, director of marketing for the Hicksville, N.Y.,-based chain. “The primary target of it is the 18- to 35-year-old muscle-head.
    “If you can support your body’s natural ability to produce testosterone and other hormones through diet, exercise and nutritional supplementation, that may lead to increased muscle mass and overall size,” he said. “That’s where the movement is.”
    San Diego conditioning coordinator Sam Gannelli said none of the Padres take Androstenedione, and he didn’t believe steroids were widely used in baseball.
    “Compared to every other sport, there’s no time to heal in baseball,” he said. “In football, you have six days off after every game. In basketball, it’s three or four days. These guys are going every day for six months. Steroids can really get you broken down. They can do a lot of harm in the long run.”

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  6. Common Sense says:

    To Jim Sweeney:
    If that is true then I stand corrected. However, I have honestly not seen, heard of or read one article or other piece of audio or written information regarding any of those alleged cases. So, maybe it’s just he media who has singled him out.

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  7. Mitch Fowler says:

    Cohn is right. How many cases have we seen in the news where someone is accused of some serious crime and questioned. Then, when the authorities can’t prove they did the crime, they’ll charge them with lying about something.

    The lesson here is take the 5th and say nothing. Sure you’ll look guilty in the public eye, but there’s nothing to stop you from going public and explaining why you are not making any statement. With all the high profile examples, the public will accept it.

    What good are rights if you have to give them up so easily? There is no point in going after Bonds. All of you in the media – Lowell Cohn included – knew darn well what was going on and you didn’t go after the story when it could have made a difference.

    If the newspapers had gone after Mark McGuire when he was such an obvious example, Bonds would never have gone down the road he took. His jealousy and envy of McGuire and Sosa need never have occurred.

    This issue is a huge media omission. Too bad the FBI can’t indict journalists for lying. You all knew what was going on and it was okay with you then.

    Bonds cheated. He knows the records he holds are not honestly achieved. He can never sleep the brave man’s sleep. Never. His conduct carries a lifetime punishment. We all know it as surely as he does.

    Why waste court resources on this? Isn’t there some $3400 campaign financing violation from ten years ago we need to focus on? Our justice system priorities are completely messed up. Write that story Press Democrat.

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  8. Dan Delgado says:

    My initial reaction was to agree with Cohn’s position. The whole things seems like a big media-frenzy waste of tax dollars. But, when I think about it more carefully, I concur with Jim. As unfortnate as this whole thing is, the prosecution must go on. If we’re not going to prosecute perjury cases for those who lie under oath, what’s the point of sworn testimony? We won’t be able to rely on anyone’s testimony.

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  9. Jim Sweeney says:

    Hang on, Common Sense. Roger Clemens is awaiting trial for lying to Congress. And I’m not sure this is a complete list but Dana Stubblefield (Raiders/49ers), Marion Jones (Olympic track medalist), track coach Trevor Graham and cyclist Tammy Thomas all have been convicted of lying to investigators in the Balco steroids case. So was Balco’s founder. I wouldn’t say Bonds was singled out.

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  10. Common Sense says:

    The evidence that he lied, as I understand it is minimal and open to many interpetations. So why single out Bonds, when so many were abusing it and lying in Congressional Hearings, Grand Jury’s and to all were asking? I say it’s because of who he is, not what he did, and while I may find him annoying and not have a whole lot of love for him, the pursuit of criminal charges against him seems purely political to me and a huge waste of our time and limited resources.

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  11. Cognitive Dissonance says:

    “I plead the 5th” is equivalent to “I’m guilty” in our country. Calling him before a grand jury had nothing to do with the “dealers” and had everything to do with discrediting a big name ball player. McGuire refused to answer, guilty. Sosa didn’t speak English, guilty. Everyone who was called in to testify was damned if they did, damned if they didn’t.

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