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Feds Whiff

Barry Bonds walks

LAST WEEK THE federal government announced it would not challenge a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the lone charge—obstruction of justice—for which Barry Bonds was convicted in the long-running BALCO scandal. The box score for prosecuting ballplayers suspected of using steroids is now complete: 10 criminal charges were brought, and zero resulted in a lasting conviction. It doesn't take a sabermetrician to see that spending tens of millions of tax dollars prosecuting Bonds and Roger Clemens for their alleged crimes during baseball's Steroid Era was an inefficient use of time and resources.

Why did prosecutors strike out against two ballplayers whom many firmly believe used PEDs? Remember, Bonds and Clemens were not prosecuted for drug use. The cases were instead built on a theory that they knowingly lied under oath about their use. This distinction proved crucial. Bonds's personal trainer, Greg Anderson, went to jail in 2006 to avoid testifying against him, leaving the government without its best witness. Brian McNamee, Clemens's former trainer and chief accuser, had his own believability issues stemming from his inconsistent testimony.

The feds thus found out what opposing teams knew for over 20 years: It's not easy to beat Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.