The $50 million federal crusade to imprison Barry Bonds is running short of courts, time and cash.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court decision in the Bonds perjury case that ruled alleged records of drug tests inadmissible. Whether you love or hate the former slugger, it's time to let this one go.
The federal prosecutors who filed this desperate appeal had no stomach for battle in March of 2009, when they folded their briefcases on the eve of trial. If they didn't feel they could win then - how can they possibly be confident today?
The past few years have produced far too many celebrity-dazed prosecutors who have taken their eyes off serious crimes -- the high-level financial schemes that have cost us our economy and future. When this age's history is finally written, some may note that at the very moment that Congress, the Justice Department, and even the president should have been protecting our Treasury, they were distracted by a boy's game.
Politicians and prosecutors blathered on about the dangers of cheating in sport just as cheats of the highest order stole untold billions and plunged our nation into economic crisis.
While today sports writers continue to quibble over whether Bonds will one day be convicted, lost in the analysis are the facts. Everyone knows that the majority of baseball players took performance-enhancing drugs for a long time. Major League Baseball officials looked the other way for years because it was good for business (more steroids meant more home runs). There were no penalties for taking steroids, and that remains the central problem in this case.
The earliest Barry Bonds could conceivably be tried for allegedly lying before a 2003 grand jury about things he may or may not have done almost a decade ago would be 2011. This case is staler than a three-day-old fish. While Bonds has been away from the game the past three years, a parade of other baseball stars have been exposed as having lied about steroid use. Not only did they not spend a single day in court, some were even crowned heroes.
Fans can be fickle.
Murder is not the charge against Bonds. Nor should we forget that this detour in federally enforced sportsmanship comes with a price tag. Estimates of the cost of the eight-year-old BALCO investigation top $50 million. A Barry Bonds trial would likely add several million more to that mounting debt.
The word fan is short for fanatic, and that is what has gotten us into this mess. Jeff Novitzky, the former IRS agent who hated Bonds with a passion and aggressively launched this unusual inquiry, was himself a former athlete and fervent sports fan. Agent Novitzky brought zeal to his crusade because he believed Bonds had cheated.
We too have been cheated. Last year, Major League Baseball had revenues of $6.2 billion. Professional baseball is controlled by absurdly rich owners with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in assets. Even the players rake in millions or tens of millions every year.
We have paid dearly for these BALCO misadventures. Fanatical investigators, prosecutors, and politicians diverted our attention from real issues and volunteered our public tax dollars to "clean up" a boy's game.
To throw more millions down that corrupt celebrity-clogged rat hole--now that would be worse than a crime.
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