Barry Bonds Indictment Scenarios

Posted: July 18, 2006 in Uncategorized

“Would I lie to you?”
Photo from AP/Sports Illustrated.

The Washington Post is reporting that Major League Baseball is weighing possible courses of disciplinary action to take against San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds if he is indicted by a federal grand jury on potential tax evasion, money laundering, and/or perjury charges.

Anyone who knows the American legal system will tell you that Bonds is innocent until proven guilty, and an indictment in and of itself is not an admission or conviction of wrongdoing on Bonds’ part.

The Post cites an anonymous source saying that he believes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig “believes he may be empowered by baseball’s collective bargaining agreement to suspend him.” They also cite another anonymous source saying that because of a mechanism in the collective bargaining agreement where players can challenge a suspension, “Bonds, with the union’s backing, almost certainly would file a grievance in this case, according to a source familiar with the union’s discussions.”

The Post also points out “No precedent is known to exist for an athlete to be suspended successfully following an indictment.”

Regardless of whether Bonds is or is not indicted, or if he is conclusively proven innocent or guilty of any of the accusations, his personal and professional reputation might as well be flushed down the toilet. Even if he breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record, I think the fans, media, and his peers will either consciously or subconsciously view the accomplishment with a giant asterisk.

There will always be questions of whether or not he was on performance enhancing drugs while he was in his home run-hitting heyday, and those questions will continue to swirl around him for the rest of his career, if not his life. Want proof? Exhibit A: Mark McGwire.

As a witness during last spring’s baseball steroids abuse hearing by the House Government Reform Committee, McGwire destroyed his own reputation and legacy through comments like these in his opening statement:

“Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras will not solve the problem. If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed. If a player answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations. My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself. I intend to follow their advice.”

His response to a question by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) on whether he would plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination:

“I’m not here to talk about the past. I’m here to be positive about this subject.”

His response to other questions from the Committee, as reported by CBS News:

Asked whether use of steroids was cheating, McGwire said: “That’s not for me to determine.”

To a couple of other questions, all he would say is: “I’m retired.”

Don’t forget about Rafael Palmeiro, whose Clinton-esque “I did not have sexual relations with that steroid” denial in his opening statement resulted in the Committee investigating him for possibly lying under oath.

As a final observation, I think it would be safe to say Bonds should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t subpoenaed to testify at the steroids hearing last year. Regardless of what does or does not happen, Bonds is undergoing a PR death by a thousand cuts, and unless he does something drastic to change public perception of him and try to improve his image, he’s screwed in the court of public opinion.

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