A federal grand jury indicts Barry Bonds on five felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, charges that could result in a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if he's convicted. The indictment culminates a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes. Just three months ago, the former San Francisco Giants star angrily defended himself against steroid allegations on the night he surpassed Hank Aaron to become baseball's home run king.
"This record is not tainted at all — period," he said the night he broke the record.
Bonds finished the season with 762 home runs.
Word of the Bonds indictment raced through the popular hangout Double Play, probably San Francisco's oldest sports bar.
Joe Tuhtan was among those who waved off the news: "You know what? Everybody cheats in baseball. Barry, yeah, he lied, he cheated. Do I feel bad or good about it? Not really. He just got caught. He'll get busted for it. He still set the record."
Another fan, Pat McMillan, was less forgiving: "I think the rules are the rules and he had a choice. He could have told the truth. He could have played by the rules. He didn't."
Outside the Double Play, Mitchell Reiff summed up the ambivalence many San Franciscans feel about Bonds.
"He used illegal things to get as good as he was and if he weren't on the Giants I probably wouldn't like him."
But Bonds is no longer a Giant. The team declined to pick up his contract near the end of the season. And the next time his fans are likely to see him is Dec. 7, at his first scheduled court appearance.
Bonds Faces Perjury Charges in Steroids Case
Larry Williams, co-author of Game of Shadows, talks with Robert Siegel
Baseball superstar Barry Bonds was charged Thursday with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment, unsealed Thursday by federal prosecutors in San Francisco, is the culmination of a four-year federal probe into whether he lied under oath to a grand jury investigating steroid use by elite athletes.
"It is a surprise," said NPR's Tom Goldman, who has been following the case. "The grand jury term had expired at least once, and Greg Anderson (Bonds' longtime trainer) has been languishing in jail while refusing to testify against Bonds."
Goldman noted that Bonds' legal team has long challenged prosecutors to make their case.
"They said: 'If you have evidence, bring it on and indict us,'" Goldman said. "And the grand jury did."
The indictment comes three months after the 43-year-old Bonds, one of the biggest names in professional sports, passed Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home-run leader, his sport's most hallowed record. Bonds, who parted ways with the San Francisco Giants at the end of last season and has yet to sign with another team, also holds the game's single-season home run record of 73.
While Bonds was chasing Aaron amid the adulation of San Franciscans and the scorn of baseball fans almost everywhere else, due to his notoriously prickly personality and nagging steroid allegations, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on the long-rumored indictment.
"I'm surprised," said John Burris, one of Bonds' attorneys. "I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he said that he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson.
He also denied taking steroids at any time in 2001 when he was pursuing the single season home-run record.
"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment reads.
He is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."
A long-awaited report by former Sen. George Mitchell on steroid use in baseball is due at the end of the year, NPR's Goldman said, adding that the report is expected to name several high-profile players as steroid users.