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article imageBaseball's 'tainted' homer king cleared of lying to drug probe

By Nathan Salant     Apr 23, 2015 in Sports
San Francisco - Baseball star Barry Bonds was cleared Wednesday of criminally misleading his sport's 2003 drug probe when a federal appeals court ruled that a “rambling, nonresponsive answer” he gave to a grand jury was not obstruction of justice.
The 10-1 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that evidence against Bonds was insufficient to support an obstruction charge clears baseball's retired home run king of his only criminal conviction stemming from the performance-enhancing drugs scandal that roiled the sport in the 1990s and 2000s.
Bonds, 50, cannot be retried on the same charge unless the decision is reviewed and altered by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the reversal increases the likelihood that he eventually will be inducted in the baseball Hall of Fame — the sport's highest honor.
“Today's news is something that I have long hoped for," Bonds said in a written statement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
"I am humbled and truly thankful for the outcome as well as the opportunity our judicial system affords to all individuals to seek justice,” he said.
"An enormous weight has been lifted from his body and soul,” agreed Bonds’ lawyer, Dennis Riordan of San Francisco, who also said the prosecution had “ruined (Bonds’) career.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, which prosecuted Bonds, declined to comment on the appeals court decision, the newspaper said.
Bonds was an outfielder with the San Francisco Giants when he broke one of baseball's most-revered records — lifetime home runs — in 2007.
Bonds had previously set the record for home runs in a single season with 73 in 2001
Bonds did not play another game after the 2007 season.
But allegations that Bonds had been taking performance-enhancing drugs to magnify his athletic abilities tarnished his reputation as a slugger, just as it lessened the reputations of many of his baseball contemporaries, including Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Raphael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez.
Bonds has consistently maintained his innocence.
“This has been a long and strenuous period in my life; I very much look forward to moving beyond it," Bonds' statement said. "I do so without ill will toward anyone.”
Persistent rumors about Bonds and steroids use turned to allegations made public in 2004 with a scandal around performance drugs being distributed by Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative of Burlingame, Calif.
BALCO's chief executive Victor Conte and Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, eventually went to prison for drug distribution.
Prosecutors said Bonds had tested positive for steroids, but Bonds testified that had only taken flaxseed oil and arthritis balm recommended by Anderson.
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