- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2011

When Barry Bonds walked into the federal courthouse in San Francisco on Dec. 4, 2003, his career total stood at 658 home runs, baseball had yet to institute drug testing with penalties and the Giants were nearly a half-century removed from their last World Series title.

Much has changed since the brawny, contentious slugger spent 2 hours, 53 minutes answering questions from a pair of assistant U.S. attorneys and grand jurors examining drug use in sports.

Baseball’s Steroids Era receded somewhat as players and owners started mandatory testing and then toughened the rules three times. Bonds won his seventh MVP award in 2004 and broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record in 2007.

And then on Nov. 15, 2007, exactly 50 days since he took his final big league swing and 100 after topping Aaron, Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to the grand jury when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. Even though he wanted to continue playing, all 30 major league teams shunned him. And without Bonds, the Giants last year won their first title since 1954.

Starting Monday, a jury will be selected in the very same court house where Bonds testified all those years ago to determine whether he broke the law with four short answers totaling nine words: “Not that I know of,” “No, no,” “No,” and “Right.”

Each of the charges _ four counts of making false statements to the grand jury and one count of obstruction _ carry a possible sentence of up to 10 years, although federal guidelines make a total of 15 to 21 months more probable if Bonds is convicted.

Prosecutors claim he lied to protect the legacy of a career in which he hit home runs at an unprecedented pace, especially for someone his age. Bonds was 43 when he his 762nd, and last, home run.

His apparent defense?

He was truthful when told the grand jury he didn’t know the substances he used were steroids, so even if they were performance-enhancing drugs, that isn’t relevant to the charges against Bonds.

“If you look at the cases of athletes internationally over the years, the defenses of those athletes has been, ‘I didn’t know,’” said Dr. Gary Wadler, former chairman of the committee that determines the banned substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency. “They clearly know. The question is: In a hearing, can you prove it? But they know. Of course, they know.”

Even if that is the case here, prosecutors may trouble convincing jurors.

Much of the government’s case has been gutted by the refusal of Greg Anderson to testify. Bonds‘ personal trainer and childhood friend was sentenced in 2005 to three months in prison and three months home confinement after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering for his role in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) case. He is likely to be jailed again next week because he is refusing to testify at Bonds‘ trial.

Without Anderson to authenticate key evidence, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered that prosecutors couldn’t present three positive drug tests seized from BALCO and so-called doping calendars maintained by the trainer at the trial. Prosecutors tried and failed to get her decision overturned. The appeal delayed the trial by two years, but the government lost in a 2-1 vote by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prosecutors allege Bonds lied to the grand jury when he said he didn’t take steroids Anderson gave him, never received human growth hormone from Anderson, never took anything Anderson asked him to take before the 2003 season other than vitamins, and never allowed anyone to inject him other than physicians.

Bonds testified to the grand jury he was told by Anderson he was taking “flax seed oil,” which the government alleges was a then-undetectable steroid later determined to be Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), developed by Patrick Arnold for BALCO and known as “the clear.” Bonds also testified he used a lotion that Anderson told him was a balm for pain relief, which the government claims was a testosterone-based substance known as “the cream.”

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