For all the worry about hype on the Internet, lawyers in the perjury trial of home run king Barry Bonds (left) selected a jury Monday that is ambivalent about the former Giants superstar and relatively oblivious to the BALCO steroids scandal. It is a panel with a few baseball fans, just a couple who favor the San Francisco Giants, but no one who would paint their faces black and orange … Bonds' trial gets under way with opening statements and the first witnesses, and he will be judged by a jury of eight women and four men, many of whom are East Bay residents, with a few from Marin and San Francisco. The two alternates are women. The jury also is predominantly white; two of the 12- seated jurors are African-American women. Bonds, who arrived in court Monday with his mother, friends, family and bodyguards, faces three counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury in December 2003 about using steroids. He will get his first glimpse at the government's witnesses Tuesday, although the first witness will be his former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who is expected to continue to refuse to testify and be jailed immediately for contempt by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston. – Mercury News
Dominant Social Theme: Get this guy. He damaged himself. He damaged sports. He damaged baseball. He probably damaged the security of the United States.
Free-Market Analysis: Who knows how much the eight-year investigation into whether or not Barry Bonds knowingly ingested steroids has cost? Surely millions, perhaps tens of millions. In an article yesterday, we discussed the institutionalized insanity of the Anglo-American "war on drugs" and suggested that only the United States, with its ability to print endless amounts of reserve dollars would have been able to afford such a patently invasive boondoggle – one that it funds for other countries as well as the US. The current Barry Bonds trial, just beginning, (see article excerpt above) provides us with yet another example of the West's wasteful preoccupation with the ingestion of "banned" substances by prominent athletes.
The Barry Bonds steroid examination has already yielded significant pop-culture highlights, including FBI agents sorting through dumpsters (every week for a year!) to collect evidence against Bonds and the year-long imprisonment of Bonds' close friend and former trainer Greg Anderson who was hit with contempt-of-court charges for his unwillingness to testify against the baseball star. Anderson is headed back to jail yet again, despite a plea from the judge to let "truth" prevail. He was unwilling.
The current trial (how many more millions are yet to be spent?) is not actually about truth in our view so much as pursuing and perhaps convicting the biggest name in baseball – Barry Bonds, the all-time Home-Run King. At least some who follow the sport believe his record to be tarnished because of his admitted ingestion of steroids. Yet the trial does not revolve around whether Bonds took banned substances or not; the question yet to be resolved is whether Bonds KNOWINGLY ingested steroids. Perhaps only Greg Anderson can provide the level of legal assurance (and certainty) necessary to convict Bonds, even if logic dictates Bonds must have known.
Thus there will surely be fireworks, or at least absurdities. The trial judge has allowed the testimony of Bonds' alienated former girlfriend Kimberly Bell who will apparently testify about the shrinkage of Bonds' testacles due to steroid abuse and the swelling of his skull as well. Both testicular reduction and cranial enlargement are said to be known side effects of the drug. Presumably the argument will be made that Bonds knew – or should have known – that he was experiencing the side effects of steroid ingestion and that therefore his denials are not to be seen as credible.
There are problems with this approach. Avid trial observers have speculated that the cross-examination of Kimberly Bell is apt to be brutal and include questions about how she knew for sure that Bonds testicles were shrinking. Did she have, in other words, the experience to make comparisons? How did she derive that experience? Was she in the habit of comparing the testicular girth of her boyfriends on a regular basis? Had she had other boyfriends at the time? (Her reported Playboy pictorial spread will surely be dragged in as well.)
Modern "justice" in America apparently demands the unearthing of answers to such lascivious inanities. While it is true that major-league baseball is a private enterprise and can set behavioral parameters for its players, it also clear (surely) that those running the sport would not have subjected Bonds to an eight-year criminal ordeal if given the choice. This trial, the entire spectacle in fact, is being driven by a distorted and increasingly perverse system of jurisprudence with its emphasis on drug abuse and its fixation of "sending a message" to those who self-medicate.
Yet the ingesting of performance-enhancing agents by athletes is not going to end anytime soon, no matter what happens to Bonds. The amount of money very successful athletes can make is astonishing, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars over a career (and perhaps in the case of basketball star Lebron James, even a seemingly impossible one-billion-plus inclusive of endorsements). With such high stakes, top athletes are always going to have the temptation to take advantage of whatever training regime will provide them with a maximum advantage.
The biggest names have the money and expertise to avail themselves of the most advanced training and drugs; and detection techniques will always lag the latest procedures. It is for this reason that athletes will continue to take drugs and law enforcement, if it chooses to continue to make performance enhancing drugs a criminal priority, will continue to pursue them with a good deal of futility alongside any potential success.
The sport and its enforcers are therefore locked into a kind of bizarre ritual that demands ever-more invasive testing and endless headlines speculating about which athletes are "dirty" and apt to be investigated. The war on drugs, which has never proven to be effective, has claimed another victim: athletics. The criminalization of the most inspiring physical performances is to be ongoing and pervasive.
It is actually impossible to regulate what people put in their bodies short of placing them under 24-hour-a-day surveillance. We have reported on natural law in the past – the idea that promulgators of Western justice should seek to respect logical parameters when passing legislation and enforcing it. One can pass a law for example forbidding people to eat and drink; yet people shall continue to buy food and water no matter the penalities. Likewise, the incentives to use performance-enhancing substances are overwhelming.
Rather than seeking to ban such practices (leading to eight-year-long persecutions of major stars), the powers-that-be might be better advised to take a step back, to reconsider and seek more sensible alternatives. We suggested legalization of recreational drugs yesterday. The same solution could apply to performance-enhancing ones. Legalizing such practices would reduce the dangers inherent in illicit composition and ingestion and eliminate sports' largest growth industry, which is the endless, lurid reporting of drug-related activities and athletic "suspects."
Perhaps Bonds may end up declared guilty (which would certainly result in an appeal) but the larger issues are not likely to be resolved no matter what happens to Bonds. Athletes lured by the prospects of millions are going to continue to seek physical and psychological resources to help achieve their goals, and it would be far healthier for all concerned were performance enhancing drugs regulated (the best that can be hoped for) rather than criminalized.
Of course in the current environment even this is probably too much to ask. Instead, unless we avert our collective gaze, we shall be privileged learn a great deal about the girth of Barry Bonds' genitals and the manner in which his girlfriend determined their shrinkage. This is what sports has come to.