Barry Bonds claimed that he thought he was taking flax seed oil and arthritis cream when his personal trainer gave him steroids, a claim that a federal prosecutor says is “ridiculous and unbelievable.”
Assistant U.S. attorney Matt Parrella delivered the opening statement Tuesday for federal prosecutors in Bonds’ long-awaited perjury trial. Seven years ago, Bonds told a grand jury investigating sports doping that he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
But Parrella said Bonds lied to the grand jury, even though the government promised not to prosecute him for drug use if he testified truthfully.
“All he had to do was tell the truth,” Parrella said. “That’s all, but he couldn’t do it.”
Bonds has pleaded not guilty to charges — originally filed in 2007 — of making false statements to the grand jury and one count of obstruction.
Dressed in a dark suit with a light blue shirt, Bonds sat slouched in his chair, his long legs crossed at the ankles and poking out the other side of the defense table, while watching Parrella tell jurors that a childhood friend of Bonds will discuss watching him inject steroids. Parrella promised other witnesses will discuss conversations they had with Bonds about his steroid use.
Bonds’ lawyers objected to the “ridiculous and unbelievable” characterization of the former slugger’s defense.
When it was their turn for an opening statement, Allen Ruby, Bonds’ lead attorney and a former professional wrestling announcer, acknowledged in a deep baritone that Bonds did take two designer steroids called the “cream” and the “clear.” But Bonds did so unwittingly, Ruby said.
“Barry answered every question,” the attorney said. “He told the truth. He did his best.”
As a star for the Pittsburgh Pirates and then the San Francisco Giants, Bonds hit 762 home runs, a career record. He also holds the mark for home runs in a single season, with 73 in 2001.
Now 46, Bonds hasn’t played since 2007. He was indicted shortly after the season.
After opening statements were finished and the jury had been excused for lunch, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston found Bonds’ former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, in contempt and ordered him held in custody until he testifies or the trial ends, which could be as long as four weeks.
Prosecutors allege Anderson provided Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs and detailed instructions on how to use them. His refusal to testify has undercut a significant portion of the government’s case against Bonds because the judge has ruled much of the evidence tied to Anderson is off limits.
Anderson served more than a year in prison for refusing to testify in 2006 before the grand jury investigating the home-run record holder. He also served three months in prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to steroid distribution and money laundering.
Bonds and Anderson were often together during Bonds’ heyday. On Tuesday, Bonds looked away as Anderson passed him in the courtroom.
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