From: San Jose Mercury News
Perhaps Barry Bonds should be more concerned about facing a perjury charge than major league pitching next season. A turn of events Thursday in the Balco Laboratory case sent a chilling message to athletes connected to the inquiry: Anyone who allegedly lied to a federal grand jury investigating the use of drugs in sports could find themselves in a legal bind.
Former world-class cyclist Tammy Thomas, now a law student in Michigan, became the first athlete indicted in the Balco scandal when she was charged Thursday with three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
“A third stage has begun,” U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan said in a statement. Thomas, who was banned for life in 2002 after testing positive for the steroid norbolethone, didn’t immediately return calls or e-mails.
She has denied using illegal drugs in past interviews with the Mercury News. The action in the 4 1/2-year-old case is not expected to be the government’s last.
“If this is phase three, why not indict Barry?” Bonds’ attorney Michael Rains said Thursday. “The simple answer — they need the testimony of Greg Anderson.” Bonds’ trainer, who pleaded guilty to distributing steroids and laundering money, is in prison on a contempt charge because he has refused to testify against the Giants slugger.
Bonds, 42, is being investigated for lying under oath in 2003 when he testified that he believed the substances he took were flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm. Prosecutors believe those substances were “the clear” and “the cream,” performance-enhancing drugs distributed by Balco. Investigators confiscated calendars and ledgers allegedly showing drug schedules and payments for Bonds and other baseball players from Anderson’s home.
“Barry maintains he told the grand jury the truth to the extent that he knows the truth,” Rains said. “They hit him with documents he had never seen before.”
Bonds could also face charges for failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in income from the sale of memorabilia. Rains dismissed the possibility, saying the government’s evidence is weak.
Another possible target for perjury is Marion Jones, an Olympic gold-medal sprinter who also testified in 2003. If she denied using performance-enhancing drugs, Jones might have a problem because her ex-husband, C.J. Hunter, said under oath that he gave the sprinter banned drugs and saw Jones inject herself. At least two other grand jury witnesses who worked with her former coach, Trevor Graham, have testified in the case. Also, Balco mastermind Victor Conte Jr. has said in interviews with the Mercury News and others that he supplied Jones with performance-enhancing drugs.
Jones repeatedly has denied all allegations. Graham, Jones’ coach when she won five medals at the 2000 Olympics, was charged last month for giving false statements to Balco investigators. He has pleaded not guilty.