Second, the athletes were not initially targets of the BALCO probe, which started in the summer of 2002 after local agencies were tipped off about the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs to elite athletes, according to court records. Prosecutors first went after the dealers, ultimately indicting four men in 2004, and plea deals were not struck until 2005. Next, the focus shifted to any witnesses (athletes, coaches, trainers) the government believed had lied and essentially obstructed justice in the case. Bonds was on that list, but as mentioned above, he was not the only one.
Third, the case dragged for internal reasons. Among those, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, Kevin Ryan, was forced from office in February, creating uncertainty in the office. At the same time, then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez came under fire and ultimately left his post, presenting an additional leadership vacuum.
Fourth, the feds had other cases to pursue. BALCO wasn't the only investigation based in the busy Northern District of California.
And while all of this was going on, the government was willing to take whatever time it needed to coax Anderson to testify about his client. Anderson refused, and he ultimately languished in jail for 413 days on contempt charges.
"There was nothing unusual about the timing," said Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department official with knowledge of the BALCO case.
How significant is it that the government says it has positive tests demonstrating Bonds used steroids?
It's hard to say, but it's possible it isn't significant at all. Certainly the government will need to prove Bonds actually used steroids to make its case, but there appears to be ample evidence of that in the form of documents, testimony, statements to federal investigators and even an audio recording in which Anderson discusses providing Bonds with a steroid designed to evade detection.
So, the focus on the importance of the positive tests and whether they could be problematic because of "chain-of-custody" issues seems to be a red herring. The case will not be about proving Bonds used, but rather about trying to prove he knew what he was using and that he injected some of the drugs, which he explicitly denied doing. If it turns out the government can prove Bonds was aware of the test results, that could be compelling evidence he knew what he was doing.
Is this case definitely going to trial?
There has been rampant speculation that because Bonds' criminal attorney Michael Rains has blasted the government repeatedly, there is no way Bonds will agree to a plea bargain. As Bonds looks to expand his legal team to include a veteran of the federal criminal justice system -- he reportedly hired Cristina Arguedas and Allan Ruby, both of whom are familiar with federal cases, Thursday night -- he still hasn't seen the evidence against him, however. Whatever the government has probably will be turned over within the coming week as part of the discovery process. When that happens, Team Bonds might decide the evidence is overwhelming and he would be better off settling. Or Bonds and his team could decide the government's case is flimsy and worth fighting in court.
Whatever the case, however, Bonds is looking at a maximum of 30 months, not 30 years. Sentencing guidelines allow for 30 years, but that would apply to Bonds only if he had a long criminal history, which he does not.
Who are the witnesses?