Barry Bonds Steroid Case Is Officially Over

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Barry Bonds during an appearance at the San Francisco Giants 2015 spring training. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Federal prosecutors' long, long legal pursuit of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is officially over.

Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, filed a brief notice with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday morning that the government won't attempt to take its case to the Supreme Court.

Bonds was convicted in 2011 of obstruction of justice in connection with a probe into his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The conviction was first upheld by a three-judge 9th Circuit panel, then struck down by an en banc panel of 11 judges. It's that last decision the Justice Department has decided not to appeal to the high court.

Prosecutors investigating BALCO, a Peninsula sports lab that had distributed banned substances to elite athletes, had charged Major League Baseball's all-time home-run record holder with perjury and obstruction in connection with his 2003 testimony to a federal grand jury in San Francisco. They said Bonds had lied when he denied using steroids and had tried to mislead the grand jury with an evasive answer about his drug use.

The jury failed to reach a verdict on three perjury counts, but convicted him on the obstruction charge because of his "I was a celebrity child" response to a question about whether he'd used injected substances. The key exchange:

Q: Did Greg [Anderson, Bonds' trainer] ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?

A: I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others’ personal lives. We’re friends, but I don’t — we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want — don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?

Q: Right.

A: That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that — you know, that — I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see.

The 11-judge panel ruled 10-1 that the statement did not constitute obstruction of justice.

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What still remains to be decided for Bonds is his standing a) in the court of public opinion and b) with professional baseball writers, the latter of which hold the power to deny him entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bonds probably never needed to be rehabilitated in the eyes of Giants fans. He became the dominant power hitter of baseball's Steroid Era, ending with 762 career home runs, and was welcomed to the team's spring training this year as a hitting coach.

But his reputation elsewhere is controversial. Baseball writers have blocked Bonds and other figures from the Steroid Era, notably pitcher Roger Clemens and former Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, from getting into the Hall of Fame.

And here's a reminder of the suspicions Bonds must still overcome: When prosecutors questioned him in front of that 2003 grand jury, they detailed a long list of pharmaceuticals they alleged Bonds had taken. Here's how the San Francisco Chronicle summarized that laundry list -- and Bonds' partial response, when the panel's transcripts were released in 2008:

The unsealed transcript gives a detailed account of Bonds' Dec. 4, 2003, appearance before a grand jury that was investigating both BALCO officials and Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, on suspicion of distributing undetectable steroids called "the cream" and "the clear."

In sworn testimony, Bonds acknowledged receiving clear and cream substances from Anderson but said his trainer described them as flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis.

During Bonds' three hours on the witness stand, prosecutors confronted the slugger with what they said were incriminating documents seized in raids on BALCO and on Anderson's home in Burlingame in September 2003.

Prosecutors said the documents detailed Bonds' use of a long list of drugs: human growth hormone, Depo-Testosterone, "the cream" and "the clear," insulin and even Clomid, a female fertility drug. The documents, many with Bonds' name or initials on them, are dated from 2001 through 2003. Prosecutors queried Bonds closely about them, but he denied using the drugs and said he had never seen the documents before.

At one point, prosecutor Jeff Nedrow showed Bonds the results of a steroid screen ordered in November 2000 by BALCO's founder, Victor Conte. Nedrow said the tested urine sample belonged to Bonds, and he noted that the report showed Bonds had elevated levels for the injectable steroid nadrolone and for methenolone, a steroid available in both injectable and oral form.

"I got to ask, Mr. Bonds," the prosecutor said. "There's this number on a document with your name ... and it does have these two listed anabolic steroids as testing positive in connection with it. Do you follow my question?"
Bonds replied, "I follow where you're going, yeah."

The prosecutor continued, "I guess I got to ask the question again. I mean, did you take steroids? And specifically this test is in November of 2000. So I'm going to ask you in the weeks and months leading up to November, 2000, were you taking steroids?"

"No," Bonds replied.