No charges against Bonds, just doubts

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: Time now for the business of sports. The San Francisco Giants are on the road tonight. They'll play the Padres down in San Diego. Ordinarily not a game that would draw undue attention, but Barry Bonds plays for the Giants. Federal prosecutors announced today they're not going to indict Bonds for perjury and tax evasion. But the story isn't really about taxes, it's about steroids and whether Bonds has used them. Marketplace's Business of Sports analyst Ed Derse has more. Hey Ed.

ED DERSE: Hi Kai.

RYSSDAL: If Barry Bonds didn't have 721 homeruns would you and I be sitting here right now?

DERSE: I certainly don't think so. And if he was in a different sport and about to break the all-time record, I don't think we'd be here either. He's about to break, or he's in pursuit of, Henry Aaron's all-time home run record of 755 home runs in the sport of baseball and baseball is America's pastime. So to have a guy who many people believe, and for whom there is a lot of evidence to suggest that he was using steroids and performance enhancing drugs during a significant period of that pursuit, doesn't really look very good for baseball.

RYSSDAL: And yet they're not going after him for steroid use per se, it's about perjury and tax evasion.

DERSE: Exactly. Perjury and tax evasion are the charges upon which people expect or think that he might be indicted. December of 2003, in front of the grand jury investigating the Balco scandal, he testified that he had never used or knowingly never used steroids and that is the point on which they're trying to nail him. And also the tax evasion charge has to do with unreported income deriving from sales of sports memorabilia that he signed.

RYSSDAL: This is a little bit like people walking around saying 'I'm shocked, shocked to find out there's gambling going on.' I mean, yes it's Barry Bonds but steroids have been in baseball for a while now.

DERSE: Well, as we have now found out through testimony in front of Congress, Major League Baseball has been under a lot of pressure. This is the other side of the Faustian bargain that Major League Baseball struck in order to become popular again. So they let these guys juice up, hid their heads in the sand, watched all those homeruns fly out of the parks and now it's coming home to roost because the guy who may just break the all-time homerun record looks like he probably was a juicer.

RYSSDAL: What's going to happen to Barry Bonds? Bud Selig said the other day he would consider suspending him if he were indicted.

DERSE: Well it's a little bit more complicated. Indictment probably is not enough to suspend him. They tried to do that in baseball with Ferguson Jenkins back in 1980 and suspended him because he brought the game into disrepute. Well that was overturned by an arbitration panel. Major League Baseball's player association is a very, very strong union and basically they can't just sort of unilaterally impose these work rules. If he was convicted, however, of these other charges, then you could say well he's convicted of criminal actions and you could stand on that.

RYSSDAL: Let me get back to the grand jury for a second. They did not indict today but the term was extended. Why?

DERSE: Well you know federal prosecutors love to extend the term — think of Valerie Plame and the whole CIA case there — they love to extend the term when they think they're onto something but they just don't quite have enough to lock it down. What might lock it down is a guy named Greg Anderson, who was Barry Bonds' childhood friend and personal trainer, who has spent the last week or so in jail because he refused to testify in front of the grand jury. By extending the term, they can call him back in front of the grand jury and if he refuses again they might be able to keep him in jail a bit longer and maybe persuade him to change his mind. Although if you had a friend, a lifelong friend who was worth gazillions of dollars, you might be willing to sit in the can for a little while.

RYSSDAL: Before I let you go, do you think this will take steroids out of baseball somehow?

DERSE: You know, steroids out of baseball is a much different matter. Certainly baseball is paying greater attention to it than they have in the past. But as long as there are ways to cheat and there are ways to make money from cheating, it's something that's going to plague the sport.

RYSSDAL: Alright Ed, thanks a lot

DERSE: Thank you, Kai

RYSSDAL: Ed Derse does sports for us. He's also the Director of Interactive Media for Fox Sports International.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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