Past Event

Barry Bonds: Headed to the Hall of Fame or Prison?

Recently, Barry Bonds accepted an invitation from the San Francisco Giants to attend a ceremony honoring the team’s finest outfielders as part of a 50th anniversary celebration. Since Bonds is currently involved in litigation around charges of steroid use during his time with the team, many speculated that he might not have shown up for the ceremony. Bonds received a thunderous welcome by fans when he made his appearance at the ceremony. But he nevertheless faces up to thirty years in prison for allegedly lying under oath to a federal grand jury about his steroid use.

Although Bonds has never been identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids, in November 2007, he was indicted with four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice for lying while under oath. The indictment by the Department of Justice reads as follows: "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." According to political sportswriter Dave Zirin, the DOJ’s language is vague: "What is a ‘performance enhancer’?" Zirin asks. "That’s not even a legal or medical term; it’s sports radio shorthand. The cortisone shot into Curt Schilling’s ankle in the 2005 playoffs was a performance enhancer."

Bonds’ indictment follows a three-year investigation that cost citizens millions of dollars. An official Major League Baseball report, released last year, reported on the widespread use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. Former Senator George Mitchell, who headed the twenty-month investigation, estimated hundreds of thousands of high school students currently use steroids. In the case of Rob Garibaldi, who suffered from anabolic steroid-induced depression, suicide was the ultimate cost of steroid use.

For some, the notion of spending so much time and money on investigating Bonds for using steroids, when he never tested positive for the illegal substance, is an inappropriate use of government resources. But then who should investigate steroid use in professional sports? And who should be responsible for curbing it? Why are so many athletes turning to steroid use to enhance their performance? How does the competitive and commercial nature of professional sports today contribute to the use of steroids by athletes? And is society safer or better off if Bonds goes to prison?

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