Barry Bonds could have much more to worry about than the sanctity of his statistics.
The San Francisco Giants slugger could face perjury and obstruction of justice charges after a new book, "Game of Shadows," alleged that Bonds engaged in heavy steroid use, a leading attorney said.
Preston Burton, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and currently a white-collar criminal defense attorney for the San Francisco-based firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, said investigators would target Bonds if confronted with evidence that he lied to a federal grand jury when testifying for the BALCO case.
"If they think they have a case to make, they will make it," Burton said Tuesday. "If they could get a high-profile person, they would want to make an example out of him, so long as they can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt."
Obstruction of justice charges, generally brought when a witness lies, carry up to 20 years in prison in some cases. Perjury charges have a maximum five-year sentence.
The book, due out March 27, said Bonds started taking steroids in 1998 with stanozolol, the same powerful drug Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for in August. In his grand-jury testimony, Bonds admitted to using two designer steroids but said he did so unknowingly, according to previous stories from the authors, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams.
How any potential investigation against the 41-year-old Bonds proceeds will depend on the veracity of the testimony, Burton said, and whether witnesses can support the damning details "Game of Shadows" seems to provide. Burton said prosecutors likely have interviewed the sources in the book and would have brought charges if they saw fit to do so, but the New York Daily News reported that the investigation into Bonds is ongoing.
In addition to going after Bonds for lying, the government could charge him for omitting details, Burton said, though it's a far tougher case.
"The most difficult thing to prove is intent," Burton said, "which is why charges never came against Palmeiro." In August, five months after denying he ever took steroids in front of Congress, Palmeiro tested positive. He is no longer in baseball.
Bonds, on the other hand, is as ubiquitous as ever. After missing most of last season following three knee surgeries, he has practiced with the Giants and is expected early in the season to surpass Babe Ruth for No. 2 on the all-time home run list. With 48 home runs this season, Bonds would pass Hank Aaron's 755 homers.
The single-season record of 73 is already Bonds', though "Game of Shadows" casts serious doubts on it. For five seasons, including the record-setting year of 2001, according to the book, Bonds used a large cocktail of steroids, spurred on initially by his jealousy of former single-season home run king Mark McGwire, also an alleged steroid user.