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The Costs of the Steroid Witch Hunt

[ 46 ] December 21, 2011 |

It would be easier to stomach the federal government intervening into the Greatest Scandal There Absolutely Ever Was if it was just empty posturing, but alas in addition we have to light tens of millions of dollars on fire.

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  • I’m still not understanding the logic behind a Congressional investigation of steroids. I mean, ok, interstate commerce + anti-trust exemption sort of leaves Congress in the position of an ubercommissioner, but couldn’t they just appoint a couple of retired judges to hold the hearings under criminal statute (if you really feel the need to clean house)?

    • Scott Lemieux

      Alternatively, we could focus on issues that are more important, which is essentially all of them.

    • mark f

      Which congressmen does that get on tv?

    • c u n d gulag

      Maybe this was a diversion created by the new Democratic Congress to take away from the fact that, as promised, they wouldn’t be looking into impeaching ‘Little Boots and the Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight,’ and fixed its eye on Baseball instead?

      In other words, I don’t know wtf they were thinking!
      And I suspect they don’t either.

      And then, they screw up the investigation 9 ways to Sunday, and make Barry Bonds, who, by the end of his career was only a slightly more sympathetic figure than Dick Cheney, look like the victim in a witch hunt!

      And we spent $50 million – for this?!?!

      You know, maybe we should be thankful they didn’t decide to try to impeach Bush, because, based on this, they’d probably be blasting Roosevelt off right now, and putting up W in his place at Mr. Rushmore.
      OY!

    • JMP

      And why do they only care about steroids in baseball? Athletes in all other sports use them, particularly football (and even more pro wrestling, if you use a looser definition of sport) and yet nobody cares. Just baseball.

      • Actually, in 2009, Stephanie McMahon of the WWE was dragged in front of the government oversight committee to testify on PEDs

        • rea

          Did she throw a chair?

          • No, but her husband, Triple H, put Waxman in a headlock.

      • Halloween Jack
        • Halloween Jack

          Which brings up a point: have the bloggers here ever expressed concern over the prosecution/persecution of non-baseball athletic stars on similar grounds? Because searching for “marion jones”, “floyd landis” and “lance armstrong” isn’t turning up anything for me.

          • I actually did a piece at my blog during the Tour last year (maybe it was 2009) about Contador and comparing how harshly Armstrong (who is under current Federal investigation, under the guise of having ridden on the US Postal Service team while juicing) was treated v. Alberto’s rather minimal “Oh, it was in my food” alibi being accepted like a bribe.

    • Timb

      Well, there is the advantage of being a public scold toward odious creatures who have no public support and being told how wonderful you for doing by the groupthink moral scolds in the press. It’s win-win

  • LosGatosCA

    But the prosecutor pointed out he had mistresses while he was married, dontchano?

    • IMPEACH BONDS!

    • R Johnston

      The prosecutor desperately needs to be disbarred. The prosecution itself was bad enough, but that was surreal in its complete rejection of ethical standards.

  • Njorl

    As far as the congressional investigation, it is silly.

    For the criminal prosecution, it’s different. If you’re going to spend a little money to prosecute poorer people, who can’t afford a strong defense, for using steroids then you have to be willing to spend a lot to prosecute rich people who can afford it. If the expense of a prosecution is due to the wealth of the defendant, then the expense can not be a deterrant to prosecution.

    If the argument is that the law should be changed, that is reasonable. If adults are making informed decisions about using drugs with minimal societal impact, it should not be a crime.

    • L2P

      Well, OK.

      But when we prosecute drug crimes, we rarely go after a poor person who:

      (a) is only being charged with (at best) possession,

      (b) doesn’t actually possess any drugs when we arrest them, and

      (c) doesn’t have a prior record.

      That’s Bonds. He was only being investigated because the government had evidence he was associating with drug dealers (basically), we had indirect evidence of use of drugs, and the government though he was lying to them about using drugs in the past. Wooo. If everybody how lied about using drugs in the past was hooked up, we’d all be in trouble, eh?

      If prosecutors were randomly going for possession charges against anybody who was hanging out with drug dealers and
      “looked” like a drug user, then I’d buy that the Bonds trial was just going after a rich guy. But we don’t. This was bullshit

      • Njorl

        That’s a good point.

    • Josh G.

      We shouldn’t be prosecuting anyone for using steroids.

    • Well the central problem with this argument is that the prosecution more or less knew they didn’t have enough to convict Bonds, at least without Greg Anderson testifying. Especially once they started losing hearing after hearing on the evidence.

      So while I appreciate your point in general, in this particular instance it really doesn’t hold water.

  • BradP

    You know it is possible to believe that the MLB should take a strong stance against steroids and that we should be very careful to convey awards upon steroid users without supporting immensely wasteful and unethical government intrusion into the affair.

    Congress didn’t just start taking on immensely wasteful and unethical activities like this when steroids became a popular issue, either.

    Government absurdity is really easy to defend when you blame it on opinions you don’t agree with.

  • rea

    Jeez, a jury actually convicted Bonds of obstruction of justice based on giving an initial unresponsive answer to a question he answered a minute or two later? Just bizarre. I had not realized that virtually every witness I’ve ever cross-examined obstructed justice.

    • L2P

      They weren’t Barry “the World’s Greatest Monster” Bonds.

    • Rob

      My guess is that the jury “compromised” by throwing out the perjury charges and getting everyone to agree to a nonsensical obstruction charge that still punishes Bonds.

  • Josh G.

    It’s clear that Bonds should have taken the Fifth during this hearing, and not said anything at all. Any idea why he didn’t? Was he not represented by counsel, or did he not listen to their advice, or were they grossly incompetent and failed to tell him this?

    • rea

      It’s clear that Bonds should have taken the Fifth during this hearing, and not said anything at all.

      That isn’t what got him convicted. What got him convicted was answering a question too slowly. He didn’t get convicted of saying anything untrue.

    • mpowell

      My understanding is that the grand jury process is a way of evading the 5th, but I’m a little confused on this point.

      • Anonymous

        Did they give him immunity?

      • Richard

        No. You can invoke the 5th at a Grand Jury and its routinely done. I’m close to positive that his lawyers told him to do so but Bonds, being the arrogant jerk that he is, chose to testify.

        He was clearly guilty of perjury but, given that the main witness against him refused to testify, the government couldn’t prove its case and the jury chose a compromise verdict of obstruction of justice.

        • rea

          I’m close to positive that his lawyers told him to do so

          You do know, don’t you, that the lawyers are alowed in the room when the client testifies before the grand jury?

          • rea

            Sorry about my typing . the lawyers are NOT allowed in the room . .

            • Richard

              I know that. What most likely happened is that they told him to take the fifth and he said he wouldn’t do that. If you’re client insists on testifying, ain’t nothing you can do

              • rea

                But you cn’t take the 5th in general–you can’t say, “don’t ask me about anything.” So the grand jury procedure leaves the client alone in a room with the prosecutor and the jurors, having to make the decision whether or not to take the 5th in response to specific questions on his own.

      • Josh G.

        That only applies if the witness has been granted immunity.

        • Richard

          Not true. Defense lawyers are not allowed in grand jury room, immunity or not.

  • jncc

    Hey some guy wrote that somebody he doesn’t identify says that it cost 50 million dollars, so it must be true.

    Cue the outrage!

    • Richard

      I know something about legal budgets. This prosecution didn’t cost 50 million or anything close to that

    • Njorl

      I was considering that the $50 million figure might include the entirety of federal spending on steroids in baseball, but that would be about 1% of Congress’ annual budget. It used only a fraction of congressional resources for about 5 weeks.

      The congressional hearings probably cost $100,000-$200,000 per day, or about $2.5 to $5 million. I have no idea at all how much the investigations and prosecutions of BALCO and Bonds cost. If you add in the costs of those investigated, then you might get to $50 million.

    • I’ve heard its more like $70 million or five times what the 9/11 commission spent

      My suspicion is that this figure is for the entire BALCO investigation, which spanned numerous athletes and sports (this is the same investigation that netted Marion Jones, as an example) and took over five years (2002-2007) just to hand up the Bonds indictment.

  • Jim Lynch

    I think it all began when GW Bush condemned steroid abuse in his State of the Union speech. Bush wanted to be named baseball commissioner after he left the White Office, a fact republican careerists took to heart. It was to have been a win-win. Bush as a sheriff who cleaned up Dodge even before being offered the job, and a big gold star in republican party circles for the attorney’s who actually did the dirty work. As was typical of virtually everything the man touched while President, the plan was bungled, that’s all.

    • Josh G.

      Everyone (probably including Bush himself) would have been better off if he had been named baseball commissioner before he ENTERED the White House in the first place. It was the job he wanted for most of his life, and he would probably have actually been fairly good at it. And he would never even have considered leaving it to go back into politics.
      So, in a way, the Bush administration was all Bud Selig’s fault.

      • c u n d gulag

        God, the rest of his tenure’s been bad enough, but now, to blame poor Selig for Little Boots?

        I think that’s going a bit beyond the pale!

        Probably true – but uncalled for.

        And, think about it – Bush might have invaded the MLS because he felt a threat from the NFL.

        • rea

          By all accounts, Bush was far, far more sensible than his fellow baseball owners during the last strike

  • Why worry about children dying from lack of affordable health insurance and well subsidized health insurance for the poor or being brain damaged for life from mixing pesticides when we can spend our tax dollars worrying about professional baseball players taking steroids? This is what matters to the important men. Children will benefit indirectly by seeing what the important men are and are not concerned about.

    • On the other hand, one could make the case that if role models are taking dangerous medications for performance enhancement, this encourages the same drugs to be abused by kids.

      That doesn’t justify $50 million or so, but it does justify some involvement.

      • Can it not be delegated to a lesser body?