Barry Bonds vs. the Feds; Marty Lurie, Super Bowl; Raiders Finances
by Glenn Dickey
Jan 21, 2009

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS have been pursuing Barry Bonds on charges of perjury in his 2003 grand jury testimony, but new evidence, revealed in columns on Yahoo.com, cast serious doubt about their case. Reader Mark Raines alerted me to these columns.

The judge in the case lifted a protective order in November that had prevented about 30,000 pages of documents in the BALCO case from becoming public.

The first Yahoo column, by Jonathan Littman, examined grand jury testimony given by drug-testing expert Dr. Donald Catlin in 2003 and BALCO lead investigator Jeff Novitzky in 2004. Both men testified that “The Clear,” whose technical name is tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), was not defined as a steroid by the Justice Department until January, 2005, long after the BALCO laboratory was closed. Novitzky further testified that there have never been any studies to show whether THG actually promotes muscle growth.

Bonds testified that he did not knowingly take steroids, If he took “The Clear” and it was not classified as a steroid at the time, it would seem that he was truthful.

The second question, raised in a column by Josh Peter, was about the chain of evidence with a urine sample provided by Bonds which allegedly tested positive for steroids. Peter made the following points:

--No one saw Bonds urinate into a container.

--Bonds neveer signed anything that said the urine samples were his.

--The Federal protocol to protect samples from tampering was not followed. There are even suspicions the sample was sent through the mail, a real no-no.

This is just a cursory overview of these columns. If you want to read them, they both appeared on January 14.

There is o question of the motive of Federal prosecutors: They love to get a conviction of a high-level person – remember Martha Stewart? – for the publicity value. Bonds has been projected by the media as the public face of the steroids era. But the prosecutors have looked more and more like The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. The judge in the case has thrown out several indictments and ordered them to re-write others. Now, it appears even their basic case may be flawed.

The bigger question, though, is this: Why are they spending our tax money on what is basically a frivolous prosecution? Are there no more important issues out there for them? Are all the career criminals caught? Are all the drug lords who are poisoning the inner city youth caught?

Even in sports themselves, the steroids issue has been surrounded by hypocrisy. The NFL has had a policy in effect for more than 20 years – though anybody walking through locker rooms has to wonder whether it is really all that effective -–but baseball people largely ignored it until very recently.

A retired player told me that the leaders of the Players Association just told players to get a doctor’s prescription, because steroids were legal if subscribed by a doctor. Commissioner Bud Selig looked the other way until the public/media outcry got too loud. Then, he commissioned the Mitchell Report, which was largely a waste of time. The only players identified in the report are those who confessed themselves, those who were ratted out by one-time friends or the Latino players who probably didn’t under stand what they were taking.

Now, supposedly, baseball has stopped the widespread use of steroids, and if you believe that, I have a bridge for sale. In fact, anybody who spends much time around baseball knows that players are just getting smarter about disguising their steroids use. With baseball salaries hitting the stratosphere, players have the money to keep ahead of the testers.

This only bothers the moralizers, who preach a purity of sport that has never existed, except in their imaginations. The fact is that athletes have always looked for an edge - –the concept of “cheating” exists only in the minds of fans and media members blinded by their own sense of importance – and if that means taking a drug, so be it. Having lived through eras when athletes brought a premature end to their careers and sometimes their lives by abusing alcohol or the socalled recreational drugs, I prefer this era. At least, athletes are taking drugs in hopes of improving their performance, not worsening it.

For some time, I have advocated allowing athletes to take whatever they want – but only if they register everything they’re taking. That way, we could truly monitor the longterm effects of these drugs, instead of relying on questionable anecdotal information.

I have no hope that this kind of program will ever be enacted, though. The moralizers among fans and media prefer the hypocritical approach we have now.

In the meantime, I hope Bonds beats the perjury rap, as it certainly appears it will. I think he has been unfairly characterized by media people who dislike him and want to bring him down. For myself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching him play for the Giants and will vote for him as soon as he is eligible for the Hall of Fame.

RIGHT OFF THE BAT: Marty Lurie's popular "Right off the Bat" show will again precede A's games this next season, which will now be broadcast on KTRB, 860 AM. Lurie's show features interviews with future Hall of Fame players, media people and broadcasters, and also presents a preview of the upcoming game. His lifelong love of baseball shows clearly in his presentation, and he provides a wealth of information.

NFL PLAYOFFS: I thoroughly enjoyed the NFC Championship game, especially with the Cinderella aspect of the Arizona Cardinals finally getting to the Super Bowl. We thought 49er fans had a long wait before getting to the ultimate game after the 1981 season, but it was nothing like the dry spell for the Cardinals, who are playing in their third city. And the winning drive, led by Kurt Warner, was a classic.

But the AFC Championship game…well, my tolerance for hard-nosed defensive struggles in cold weather cities has gone down over the years. I TIVO everything, and I caught up with the live action in that game about midway through the second quarter and decided I didn’t want to be bored any more.

My Super Bowl pick would be Pittsburgh, though. I remember covering the Steelers when they started their Super Bowl run in January, 1975, when they gave up just onme touchdown, on a blocked punt, to the Minnesota Vikings. I had the feeling that, if they’d played for a week, the Vikings would still not be able to score another touchdown. This Pittsburgh defense is in the same class.

RAIDERS FINANCES: When three businessmen invested $150 million in November, 2007 to become minority partners in the Raiders, I assumed they must have a right to buy the team at a future date, because that traditionally has been the way these deals have been structured.

But I ignored a basic economic fact: The value of NFL franchises does not go down. Even though the Raiders are horribly mismanaged, their value is going up. So, it was a good investment – and it looks much better now with the collapse of the financial markets.

It’s unfortunate, though, that Al Davis went through the money without getting any value: DeAngelo Hall, released at midseason; Javon Walker, never a factor and on the injured list by the end of the season; Tommy Kelly, who occcupied space in the middle but did nothing; and Gibril Wilson, who the Giants probably would have downgraded to a nickel back if he’d stayed and distinguished himself as a Raider mostly by missing tackles.

And, the beat goes on.




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