Nineteen little lies. The government says that's how many Barry Bonds told during his grand-jury testimony four years ago, the one that prompted Thursday's indictment on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
One big lie. That sums up the prime of baseball's home run king.
Even if the charges don't stick or Bonds escapes without jail time, the unsealing of the indictment revealed to the public the true breadth of Bonds' arrogance – and appears to have confirmed, once and for all, that he had tested positive for steroids.
"During the criminal investigation," the indictment read, "evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other professional athletes."
From there, the government lays out seven full pages of alleged lies, ending its four-year investigation into the former San Francisco Giants star that started with a raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), a small company located in a humdrum building in Burlingame, Calif., that was the nerve center for performance-enhancing drug use in American sports.
As BALCO's honchos fell and Bonds' friend and trainer Greg Anderson went to jail, Bonds kept swinging, kept mashing home runs, seemingly impervious to pressure and prosecution. He affected the same attitude with the government that he did as a player: strong and defiant and sweating arrogance.
"Let them investigate," Bonds said Feb. 20, the day Giants position players reported to spring training. "Let 'em. They've been doing it this long."
He didn't stop.
"Do I look concerned?" Bonds asked July 21.
A little more than two weeks later, he hit career home run No. 756, passing Hank Aaron and vaulting himself into baseball history. Already he had secured himself a place in ignominy, the specter of steroids trailing him after the BALCO investigation, the book "Game of Shadows" and the physical changes that took him from a wiry rookie to a puffed-up beast.
When the government called him to the witness stand Dec. 4, 2003, it offered Bonds an Order of Immunity, so long as he didn't perjure himself.
The government says he did, again and again and again, and so baseball's biggest star, a seven-time Most Valuable Player, now could stand trial for having violated Title 18, United States Code, Section 1623(a).
On that day, Bonds repeatedly answered no to questions about his alleged steroid use, and in the indictment, the government underlined 19 instances in which it alleges he lied.
Did he take steroids?
Anything like that at all?
"No, I wasn't at all."
Did anyone other than physicians stick needles in him?
Did he talk with Anderson about or receive human growth hormone from him?
And then comes the fourth count, when Bonds was asked about his dates of steroid usage. He first claims that he got the Cream, one of BALCO's designer steroids that at the time was undetectable, in 2003, then talks about having gotten it late in 2002, and in the end, even he seems a bit confused by it.
Any 10-year-old knows it's not easy to keep lies straight.
All this led to the final count, Obstruction of Justice, for giving "false statements" and "evasive and misleading testimony." The indictment was signed by U.S. Attorney Scott N. Schools, unsealed by the court Thursday and delivered to a public that for so long had wondered whether Bonds would skate.
Finally, the innocent-until-proven-guilty dictum is applicable. Bonds' apologists have trotted it out for years now, as though using something from the criminal-justice system was the only way to defend him.
Even if a jury finds him not guilty, though, the damage has been done. Bonds tested positive, and the grand-jury questioning alluded to a specific time: November 2000. Perhaps investigators found a sample from BALCO, or maybe from somewhere else. Whatever the case, they were confident enough to put it into evidence, the smoking gun that could confirm perjury.
Deduce what you will from it. Steroids do more than build muscle. They help in recovery, can improve hand-eye coordination, increase fast-twitch-muscle speed. Patrick Arnold, the chemist who created the Clear – another of BALCO's steroids – and later was sentenced to four months in jail, said his performance-enhancing drugs really did enhance performance.
Now, Bonds will move on to his new uniform, a bespoke suit, which he will wear into the courtroom if he doesn't cop a plea. No team is likely to touch him, not with the indictment hanging over his head and 43 years of wear and tear hanging on his body. He very well may be finished with 762 home runs, a record that could be broken at the beginning of the next decade by Alex Rodriguez, from whom Bonds stole the headlines one last time.
So for the next five or six years, the sport of the Black Sox and Pete Rose must endure the shame of having a cheater holding its most hallowed record. And then, hopefully, Bonds will be gone, off to the faraway parking lot of second place, a big, fat lie that the game can pretend never was told.
- Barry Bonds