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