COMMENTS: Second Sports Celebrity on Steroids

For the second straight day both ABC and CBS led with Barry Bonds. The baseball slugger was indicted yesterday for perjury about using dope to boost his home run totals. Today's coverage assessed the federal prosecutor's prospects for winning a conviction. While Bonds was the Story of the Day, NBC decided to lead instead with the latest statistics from the Pentagon. In the past year almost 5,000 soldiers have deserted the army, a 42% increase over the previous twelve months.

Bonds allegedly obtained his steroids from BALCO, the San Francisco Bay laboratory that supplied sprinter Marion Jones when she, too, became Story of the Day last month (text link), after she pled guilty to lying about cheating with steroids. Bonds, by contrast, "the onetime beanpole turned behemoth," as ABC's John Berman characterized him, intends to maintain his innocence.

CBS' Armen Keteyian predicted that Bonds' defense will accuse prosecutors of "misconduct" and "falsifying documents," specifically impeaching the evidence of a federal agent named Jeff Novitzky: "In 2004, the government conducted an investigation into whether the agent's credibility would be an issue if the case against Bonds went to trial." Also, Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, continues to refuse to testify against his former client, even allowing himself to be imprisoned for his silence. Anderson was released as soon as Bonds was indicted. NBC's George Lewis quoted Victor Conti, BALCO's owner, undercutting the validity of Bonds' doping tests: "There are a lot of other legal substances that could have been consumed that could have caused a positive test result." Lewis added that the trial will take place in San Francisco where Bonds "is regarded as a local hero." On ABC, Jim Avila (subscription required) countered that incriminating evidence against Bonds includes Anderson's "doping calendar, a schedule of steroids use, with Bonds' initials on it" and hinted that the prosecution may call Bonds' former mistress to testify that "the slugger told her he used steroids and beat her during steroid rages."

As for the national pastime itself, ABC's Berman previewed the Mitchell Report, which was commissioned to "determine just how thoroughly steroids have saturated the game." Berman intimated that the report, authored by George Mitchell the former senator, "is going to be scathing" naming "big, popular players." So far, all this talk of cheating has hardly harmed the popularity of the major leagues, however: "Baseball has set attendance records four years in a row."


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