It has been more than seven years since the word “BALCO” entered the sports lexicon, more than six years since Barry Bonds’s grand jury testimony in that case was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, some 3 ½ years since Bonds broke the all-time career home run record with a blast off Washington Nationals left Mike Bacsik, about 40 months since Bonds was indicted for perjury.
And finally, today in San Francisco, Bonds’s trial gets underway with jury selection. Over the next several weeks, Bonds, now 46, will watch a parade of former baseball players and other witnesses, including his one-time mistress, Kimberly Bell, called as witnesses, as the government tries to prove he not only used steroids, but knew he used steroids.
Bonds is not on trial for steroids use, but for allegedly lying about it when he appeared before the BALCO grand jury in December 2003. Still, he becomes the first superstar of the steroids era to face a criminal trial.
If the opening of the Bonds trial doesn’t have as much juice (pardon the pun) as we might have once expected, there are several reasons why. Most significantly, so much time has passed since the steroids scandal exploded, it simply doesn’t resonate the way it used to. Call it steroids fatigue. Without Congress parading players in front of television cameras, and with baseball’s testing program apparently doing its intended job, we just don’t care as much anymore.
But there is also a belief within the legal community that the prosecution’s case against Bonds is seriously flawed – owing mainly to the fact the most significant witness, former personal trainer Greg Anderson, has refused to testify – and that Bonds is likely to prevail. This stands in contrast to the similar-but-different trial of Roger Clemens, which is scheduled to begin in July in D.C., and which legal experts believe holds a greater chance of conviction.
Still, don’t lose sight of the significance: The greatest home run hitter of all-time stands accused of lying under oath before a grand jury, and given the unpredictable nature of juries there remains the possibility of a conviction and jail time. Maybe only then it would get our full attention again.