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Let Barry Bonds Be!


Greg Anderson, the government’s key witness against baseball great Barry Bonds, refused to testify in court this week landing him in jail for the fifth time. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston found Bond’s personal trainer in contempt of court. His lawyer says Anderson will not testify leaving the governments case against Bonds very weak. In my view Anderson is a hero and a true stand up guy who is willing to sacrifice his own freedom to stop the imprisonment of Bonds for putting a substance in his body.

Bonds returned to the same courthouse where he told a grand jury in December 2003, that he had never knowingly taken performance-enhancing substances. His lawyer confirmed this by suggesting in court that Bonds never lied to a grand jury and even admitted that he may have unwittingly used steroids.

Let’s face it, Bond’s indictment for lying to a grand jury may be the legal basis of the government wanting to put the baseball legend in prison, but the real underlying reason for this federal indictment 8 years after the BALCO investigation is their failure to get Bonds to admit he had used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs. In that case, Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) was alleged to have distributed illegal performance -enhancing drugs, triggering investigations by several governmental agencies. This resulted in a huge scandal which involved many major league baseball players and led to Major League Baseball initiating penalties for players caught using steroids in 2004.

Bonds is facing prison time if convicted. Anti-doping advocates are hoping this will happen and use Bonds as an example to those calling for jail time for baseball players who use steroids. Many say that it may be the only effective deterrent for curbing illegal use.

The government is willing to take down Bonds and in doing so blemish baseball so they can push their personal zero-tolerance agenda for drug use. They are set to call on Barry Bonds’ former teammates to testify along with other retired Major League Baseball players in order to nail Bonds to a cross. What’s next ? Maybe exhuming the buried bones of all-star Ken Caminiti who died of a heart attack at age 41 after admitting taking steroids to boost his career.

Jailing Bonds will not solve baseball’s problem or curb drug use in America. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. It has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, with more than 2.4 million citizens sitting behind bars. Many of them have been rotting away in prison for years. One prisoner in particular I have come to know is former race car driver Randy Lanier who is in prison serving a life sentence for marijuana. He is in his 23rd year of incarceration and is currently seeking clemency from President Obama. Despite all of the incarceration, drug use and drug availability are as prevalent as ever.

For the sake of argument, what if Bonds did use steroids? Does he belong in prison? He is not the first athlete to use them and he will not be the last. The pursuit for athletic superiority through the use of chemicals has been around a long time. Before steroids were officially banned in the early 1970s, almost 70 percent of all Olympic athletes had used them.

Is it ethical and morally right to sentence someone to a lengthy prison term for putting substances in their own body? The premise for prosecuting the other war with no exit strategy – the drug war — has slowly but surely infiltrated the public’s eye through different vehicles. Now the feds attempt to bring their message through the sport of baseball.

Because of the governments stance against the use of drugs Barry Bonds has joined the ranks of those demonized. This includes medical marijuana users, pain sufferers and their doctors who prescribe opioid analgesics, and students who are forced to urinate in cups. All of this in the name of a drug-free America without concern for individuals’ rights. The war on drugs is a war on people. Let Barry Bonds be!

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at:



Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

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