Will Barry Bonds Get Off the Low Road?

Indicted slugger Barry Bonds has a choice to make.

He can continue along the low road, or move up to the high road.

The low road is the path blazed by our disgraced former president, Bill Clinton.  Nobody ever accused Clinton of using steroids (Viagra isn't a steroid, is it?) But Clinton faced the very same legal charges now faced by Bonds – perjury and obstruction of justice.  

After the infamous stained blue dress proved beyond doubt that Clinton had lied under oath to a grand jury, he should have admitted guilt and resigned.  Instead, Bill Clinton chose to place self above nation, and defended himself by lying, denying and stonewalling.  In the end he put America through two years of impeachment hell.

Now Barry Bonds has been indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a grand jury.  Bonds has denied for years, even under oath, that he used steroids, or at least used them “knowingly.”  Unfortunately for Bonds, he has been confronted by the equivalent of the blue dress: federal officials have leaked that Bonds failed a steroid test.

The high road is the path taken by another famous athlete embroiled in the BALCO steroids scandal, disgraced Olympic champion Marion Jones. The track star won five medals at the 2000 Sydney games, including three golds.  Like Bonds, Jones didn't begin on the high road – she denied the allegations for years, and even sued BALCO founder Victor Conte for defamation after he outed her as a user in 2004 – but in the end she came clean. Jones confessed on October 5 that she took steroids before the 2000 Olympic Games and lied to federal investigators. 

At her press conference, Jones tearfully acknowledged, “I am responsible fully for my actions.  I have no one to blame but myself for what I have done.” Jones specifically apologized to “my young supporters,” and asked for forgiveness from family, friends, fans and God. Jones retired from track and field, surrendered her Olympic medals, and faces a six-month jail sentence.

Bonds can't do as much damage to the nation as Bill Clinton did, but he has broken many more American hearts than Marion Jones.  Asked to comment on the Bonds indictment, Fox Sports baseball announcer Joe Buck reportedly said,” I think fans have accepted by now that they have to be skeptical, at the very least, of any star that they're rooting for.”  Former pitcher Ken Sanders is a master of understatement: “Unfortunately, this hurts the game.”  And it hurts a lot of young fans.

If he follows Jones onto the high road, Barry Bonds can still redeem himself. By admitting guilt and paying the consequences, Bonds could regain the respect of his fans and the nation.  Perhaps, after he pays the piper, Bonds could reach out to kids across the nation, visiting schools to warn about the dangers of steroids, and of perjury.

Does Barry Bonds have the courage of Marion Jones?  We'll find out soon enough.

Brian Fitzpatrick is Senior Editor of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.