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Baseball Star Bonds Indicted over Steroids Probe

November 16, 2007 at 6:20 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: Next, the indictment of Barry Bonds. Jeffrey Brown has our story.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just three months ago, Barry Bonds became the all-time homerun king, surpassing Hank Aaron. But now that record and his future are in doubt.

After four years of investigation in a broader case about the use of steroids, Bonds was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Mark Fainaru-Wada broke the story about Bonds and the case while at the San Francisco Chronicle. He co-authored a book on the subject called “Game of Shadows.” He’s now an investigative reporter for ESPN and joins us now.

Mark, let’s explain the charges first. What’s he accused of lying about?

MARK FAINARU-WADA, Investigative Reporter, ESPN: Sure. There’s four counts of perjury, and essentially they stem from Bonds’ denials that he had used steroids or that he knew that he was taking steroids.

One of the charges also is specific about the use of human growth hormone and Bonds’ denials about taking that drug. And there’s another charge that relates to whether Bonds injected himself with drugs or whether his trainer provided him with drugs that could be injected.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, so he’s not charged with actually using the steroids, but the indictment says they seem to have evidence that he did so, or it refers to positive tests. Tell us about that.

MARK FAINARU-WADA: That’s exactly right. The case really with Bonds and many of the athletes has not been about whether they used the drugs. They were witnesses in what’s become known as the BALCO steroids case, a case driven and focused on distributors of the drugs.

The athletes were called to testify strictly as witnesses, provided immunity as long as they told the truth. In Bonds’ case, the government talks about having evidence, for example, a positive test.

This is material that was sort of driven by BALCO. BALCO would test the athletes’ urine and blood as a means of determining whether the drugs were showing up in their system. In Bonds’ case, the government seems to believe they have evidence of that clearly.

But the question is going to be, can they prove that Bonds knew exactly that these were steroids he was taking? And, again, can they prove that he was injecting the drugs?

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, explain that, because the key question — the key word is “knowingly,” right?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: Right, exactly. This really — the government has plenty of documentary evidence. And I don’t think anybody at this point has reached the conclusion that Bonds did not use steroids. Most reasonable people have come to that conclusion.

The issue now will be for the government in trying to make its case to have corroborating witnesses who can testify about whether they saw Bonds inject or whether they talked to Bonds about his knowing use of these drugs.

Response to charges

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, Bonds has always denied this strenuously. What has been the response since yesterday?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: It's been very much the same response. They've been very defiant. His lawyer was very aggressive in attacking the government. Michael Raines has said from the very beginning of the BALCO case that he believed it was a witch hunt and really about the U.S. government versus Barry Bonds, not about steroid distribution.

And that's the tact one would expect him to continue to take. He's going to attack potential witnesses. He's going to attack the investigators in the case and say that this was really much ado about going after Barry Bonds.

JEFFREY BROWN: There's another person involved, Greg Anderson, Bonds' friend and trainer who was held in jail for a year, apparently refused to talk about Bonds to federal prosecutors, and then was released yesterday. What's known about the connection there?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: Well, Anderson is released in really what's a procedural move. He was in jail because, as you said, he refused to testify before a grand jury. The government wanted him as a witness in the case against Bonds.

He, they believed, would have been an ironclad witness in trying to make a case, so they tried to force him to testify. When he refused, he went to jail. The grand jury completed its business on Bonds. It indicted, and thus there was no reason to hold Anderson anymore. There's no reason whatsoever to believe that Anderson is cooperating with the government.

JEFFREY BROWN: So it's not clear whether Anderson will, in fact, testify when there is a trial?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: Well, I don't think one would expect him to, although certainly the government could call him as a witness. He could again refuse to testify and then be forced to go back into jail for refusing the call to testify in the trial.

Looking toward Bonds' future

JEFFREY BROWN: What does happen next for Bonds legally? And what does he potentially face?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: Well, what's next, first, he's got to turn himself in for booking, which is expected to happen sometime early next week. He has an arraignment set for December the 7th, where he'll be in court, presumably to plead not guilty.

And then, you know, then we sort of head forth with the possibility of a trial. The maximum on this -- you know, the total maximum is 30 years, but that's not at all what we're really talking about. The sentencing guidelines look to be about 30 months maximum, probably in his case closer to 15.

JEFFREY BROWN: And Barry Bonds the ballplayer, he recently became a free agent when the club out there, the San Francisco Giants, decided not to try to keep him. What's the talk about the implications of the indictment for his future as a ballplayer?

MARK FAINARU-WADA: Well, there was already a lot of question about whether you have teams willing to take a chance on somebody like Bonds late in his career, obviously, bad knees, and then all of the sort of steroid swirl that went with him.

But now it's really, frankly, very difficult to imagine a team deciding to take a shot on Bonds. He's obviously going to have a lot of issues to deal with in court.

There's a looming investigation, a report that's about to be issued by former Senator George Mitchell on behalf of Major League Baseball into the steroids era. That presumably will not be good for Bonds, as well. I think most people believe that Bonds has played his last game.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Mark Fainaru-Wada, thank you very much.

MARK FAINARU-WADA: It's my pleasure. Thank you.