The latest news that the Barry Bonds perjury trial has been postponed to at least July and possibly beyond has left me with the nagging realization that the whole enterprise has been ill conceived, ill directed and ill considered in its entirety. And the other thing I realized is that I have enormous respect (potentially qualified) for Bonds’ former personal trainer, Greg Anderson. There, I’ve said it, er, blogged it.
Bonds is a victim, and a scapegoat of the first order. If it wasn’t always apparent – and it should have been – the period covering much of the 1990s and first few years of this millennium was clearly plagued by widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs. Widespread.
What pushed me over the hump finally was the release of Alex Rodriguez’s name from a list of 104 that was supposed to be kept confidential. Once that got out, almost nobody complained about the unfairness of one guy being singled and pilloried for the sins of so many.
And I don’t care a hoot about the technicality that Bonds’ is supposedly being pursued for perjury rather than the alleged steroid use. His Fifth Amendment rights were violated by the whole process when he was essentially compelled to give testimony against his own best interests. And don’t tell me he could have exerted those rights; ask Mark McGwire how well it works to even informally decline to offer self-incriminating testimony to the 536 hypocrites on the hill.
Even if you want to insist that Bonds needs to be punished for what he did, isn't it pretty clear that he's already been punished enough? He has presumably spent many millions of dollars defending himself against a federal behemoth run amok. He has presumably surrendered at least a year of his baseball career and the many millions that would have meant, and he may even have torpedoed his chances at enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Does that sound like a suitable spanking for a "crime" that is being ignored for so many of his peers?
If you don’t think the injustice of the whole prosecution is reason enough to urge its termination, then give up on it for practical reasons of expense. Ultimately, the federal government will end up spending tens of millions of our tax dollars to convict someone of doing something that more than 100 other people also did at a time when his own employer (MLB) was willing to wink at what was clearly a financial boon to just about everybody involved.
And Anderson is probably more of a victim than Bonds, having already paid for his initial crime as dictated by a plea agreement with the government, then hounded for the next several years because of his refusal to toss Bonds over the side.
Though I concede I can’t possibly know if the motivations are any more complicated than what they seem, but Anderson has already spent more than a year in prison for refusing to rat on a friend about something that never should have aroused the interest of the Feds in the first place. If you can get past the icky nature of the basic enterprise, it ought to occur to us that Anderson's refusal to testify – at great risk to his own freedom and well being – would be applauded in other circumstances. Plus I hate that the Feds are also bullying his family as well in an effort to turn the screws on him. Uncle Sammy needs to get a grip on something other than Anderson's neck.
Leaving aside everybody’s hysterical reaction to the steroid boogeyman, this has been 21st-century McCarthyism gussied up to look like something more noble. It isn’t.