Barry Bonds was indicted Thursday for perjury and obstruction of justice, charged with lying when he told a federal grand jury that he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
If convicted on all five counts, baseball's home run king could go to prison for up to 30 years.
“During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes,” the indictment read.
In August, the 43-year-old Bonds passed Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home run leader. Late in the season, the San Francisco Giants told the seven-time National League MVP they didn't want him back next year.
Bonds finished the year with 762 homers, seven more than Aaron, and is currently a free agent. In 2001, he set the season record with 73 home runs.
The indictment culminated a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.
John Burris, one of Bonds' attorneys, did not know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press. He said he would immediately call Bonds to notify him.
“I'm surprised,” Burris said, “but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before.”
Bonds has repeatedly denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. He has never been identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive.
The White House quickly weighed in on the indictment. President Bush is a former owner of the Texas Rangers.
“The president is very disappointed to hear this,” Bush spokesman Tony Fratto said. “As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball.”
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is investigating drug use in baseball, declined comment.
The Hall of Fame currently has an exhibit dedicated to Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run.
“As a historic museum, we have no intention of taking the exhibit down,” Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said.
Bonds was charged with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. He was cited for lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by his personal trainer and longtime friend, Greg Anderson. Bonds also was charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
“Greg wouldn't do that,” Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. “He knows I'm against that stuff.”
Bonds became the highest-profile figure caught up in the government investigation launched in 2002 with the raid of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), the Burlingame-based supplements lab at the center of a steroids distribution ring.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, Barry broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he'd bulked up to more than 240 pounds – his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger. His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year.
In July 2006, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco took the unusual step of going public with the investigation. After the previous panel's 18-month term expired, he announced he was handing it off to a new grand jury.
Anderson was at the center of the investigation. He spent most of the past year in a federal detention center for refusing to testify to the grand jury.
According to testimony obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds testified in 2003 that he took two substances given to him by Anderson – which he called “the cream” and “the clear” – to soothe aches and pains and help him better recover from injuries.
The substances fit the description of steroids distributed by BALCO founder Victor Conte. But when questioned under oath by investigators, Bonds said he believed Anderson had given him flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm.
Investigators and the public had their doubts.
Aiming to prove Bonds a liar, prosecutors tried to compel Anderson to testify. When he refused, they jailed him for contempt.
Bonds joins several defendants tied to BALCO. Anderson served three months in prison and three months of home detention after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering.
Conte also served three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to steroids distribution.
Patrick Arnold, the rogue chemist who created the designer steroid THG, BALCO vice president James Valente and track coach Remi Korchemny all also pleaded guilty. Korchemny and Valente were sentenced to probation and Arnold sent to prison for four months.
Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant, pleaded guilty April 27 to drug and money laundering charges.
Elite cyclist Tammy Thomas and track coach Trevor Graham have each pleaded not guilty to lying to a grand jury and federal investigators about their involvement with steroids.
Dozens of other prominent athletes have been connected to BALCO, including New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi who told the grand jury he injected steroids purchased at BALCO and Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield who testified that Bonds introduced him to BALCO.