|Barry Bonds: On field records, off field problems [GALLO/GETTY] |
Major League Baseball's home run king, Barry Bonds, has been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice and could face a prison sentence for telling an American federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment, culminating a four-year investigation into doping by elite U.S. athletes, charged Bonds with four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Shortly after the indictment was handed up, Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was ordered released after spending most of the past year in prison for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
The 10-page report mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, at the centre of a steroid distribution ring.
It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
In August, when the 43-year-old Bonds passed Hank Aaron to become the MLB career home run leader, he flatly rejected any suggestion that the milestone was stained by steroids.
"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds said.
But while he chipped away at the record a grand jury worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on the long-rumoured indictment.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones.
She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
Free-agent, but free for much longer?
Bonds finished the year with 762 homers, seven more than Aaron, and is currently a free agent.
In 2001, he set the season record with 73 home runs.
The seven-time National League MVP has been told by the San Francisco Giants that he is unwanted next year.
Bonds is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on December 7.
Defence lawyer Mike Rains said he spoke briefly with Bonds but did not describe his reaction.
At a press conference, he read a statement accusing federal prosecutors of "unethical misconduct" and declined to take questions.
The indictment seemed to catch his lawyers off-guard.
"I'm surprised," said one of his lawyers, John Burris, "but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Anderson refused comment as he walked out of prison. His attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury.
"This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said.
"Frankly, I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."
No positive tests
|Barry Bonds had also had questioning fans|
Bonds has never been identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids.
The Giants, the players' union and even the White House called it a sad day for baseball.
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, "The president is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
MLB commissioner Bud Selig withheld judgment, saying, "I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely."
Bonds was charged in the indictment with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson.
Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected.
"He knows I'm against that stuff."
Prosecutors promised Bonds they wouldn't charge him with any drug-related counts if he testified truthfully.
But according to the indictment, Bonds repeatedly denied taking any steroids or performance-enhancing drugs despite evidence to the contrary.
For example, investigators seized an apparent "doping calendar" labelled "BB" during a raid of Anderson's house.
"He could know other BBs," Bonds replied when shown the calendar during his testimony.
Asked directly if Anderson supplied him with steroids, Bonds answered, "Not that I know of."
Bonds even denied taking steroids when he was shown documents revealing a positive steroids test for a player named Barry B.
The indictment does not explain where prosecutors obtained those results, but they likely were conducted at BALCO.
Bonds first visited BALCO in November 2000 and submitted to the series of urine and drug tests conducted by BALCO founder Victor Conte on every athlete who went through the lab.
Bonds said that at the end of the 2003 season Anderson rubbed some cream on his arm that the trainer said would help him recover.
Anderson also gave him something he called "flax seed oil", Bonds claimed.
Bonds then testified that prior to the 2003 season, he never took anything supplied by Anderson, which the indictment alleges was a lie because the doping calendars seized from Anderson's house were dated 2001.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, Barry broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he had bulked up to more than 109 kilograms, his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger.
His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year.