So let’s add up the score: After eight years of investigation and a total of around $120 million of taxpayer money blown – and that was the price tag in December before the start of the trial – the federal government has now scored its first and probably only victory in their war against performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
Federal prosecutors “nailed” Barry Bonds – that is, they got him on one of four counts, obstruction of justice. But what exactly did the feds win? For obstruction of justice — that is, for a long, rambling interior monologue on the question of whether or not he knew if the substances he took were illegal — Bonds will almost certainly do no jail time and will pay no financial penalty.
At worst, he will have to wear an ankle bracelet around his house for a few months, like a couple of cyclists who were convicted on similar charges.
And what will that bracelet do? Keep Bonds from going to Giants games? Keep him from making a contact with his dealer for PEDs to boost his performance in baseball games he will not longer be playing? (Or are they afraid Bonds will slip out of the country and play ball in the Mexican league under an assumed name?)
Oh, and let’s not forget that this one out of four conviction depends on the whole thing not being thrown out upon appeal, which could take a year and a half or longer. Which means that even if Bonds’ appeal fails, they can’t give him a bracelet until he’s sentenced, which will not be until 2012 and probably 2013.
So, our money paid for all this and what did we win?
Well, for one thing, we get to read Mike Lupica at his most pompous in today’s Daily News. (Is there some kind of drug sportswriters take to increase their pomposity level? Or does Lupica’s body naturally produce it?)
“So this is how it ends for Barry Bonds, at least for now, with the all-time home run king of baseball as a convicted felon, whether Bonds ends up doing time or not.” Well, Mike, this isn’t how it ends. The decision is under appeal and stands a good chance of being tossed out. No legal expert I’ve heard or read thinks Bonds is going to do any time, while the appeal process is going to take a long time and all observers believe there’s a very good chance his conviction will be thrown out.
” … the jurors understood the importance of the charges, saying no one dismissed them as a waste of time and money. ‘Perjury,’ Angela [one of the jurors] said, ‘is breaking the law.'” Angela neglected to mention that the only jurors selected were ones who felt that way. A great many people who were not selected might have been more inclined to ask why all this time and money was spent trying someone for perjury when no criminal activity has ever been attached to anything Barry Bonds did.
I wonder how everyone on that jury would have reacted if the question had been framed differently. Let’s ask it this way: If the federal government has no business asking you a question, do you have a right to lie when you answer? Most people, of course, are going to say no simply because they would be afraid to answer otherwise on a witness stand; the power of a federal courtroom can be terrifying.
But how many people, if they were being honest, would not say that they felt they have a perfect right to lie about something which nobody has any business asking them about in the first place?
That strikes me as the crux of the matter both here and in the upcoming Roger Clemens case. Why is the federal government wasting our time and money trying to force Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or anyone else into admitting they took substances which weren’t illegal at the time they allegedly took them? And why does the federal government even care which baseball player broke which record?
The substances under discussion in the Bonds case weren’t even banned by Major League Baseball until the 2004 agreement between the players and owners. So why, ultimately, should we give a shit?
The feds only care for one reason: they have to save face and show some justification for all this time, money and, in some cases, questionable behavior. (Last year a San Francisco district judge ruled that they had no business seizing the samples from drug testing conducted by MLB back in 2003, let alone leaking the names of players who tested positive to the press.)
Barry Bonds is the biggest asshole baseball has known since Ty Cobb. He took performance enhancing drugs, and whatever he took, they worked. So what? There isn’t a damn thing any of us can do about that. If Bonds to goes to prison for life, the record book would stand as it is. I loathe the fact that he broke Henry Aaron’s home run record. Again, so what? It’s time to wrap up this witch hunt even if there is a real witch at the center of it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 14, 2011