Jumat, 07 Desember 2007

Bonds pleads not guilty to perjury (AFP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - US baseball home run king Barry Bonds pleaded not guilty here on Friday to perjury charges relating to the investigation into the BALCO doping scandal.

Bonds, 43, etched his name into the record books this year by breaking Hank Aarons long-standing all-time home run record. He is accused of lying to investigators probing the steroid distribution case that rocked the sports world.

Along with Olympic sprinter Marion Jones -- who tearfully confessed to using illegal performance enhancing drugs in October and has admitted similar charges -- Bonds is the highest profile athlete to have been caught in the scandal.

If convicted on four charges of perjury and one of obstruction of justice for lying to grand jury investigators, Bonds faces up to 30 years in prison.

His bail was set at 500,000 dollars.

A bevy of media greeted Bonds when he arrived at the Phillip Burton Federal Building, accompanied by his wife, Liz.

Bonds, dressed in a sober suit, waved to the reporters and other onlookers before disappearing into the building.

The arraignment in US District Court was Bonds first public appearance since he was indicted on November 15.

The indictment marked a dismal end to what should have been a triumphant year for Bonds, who passed Aaron to become baseballs all-time home run leader on August 7.

The Giants slugger finished the 2007 season with 762 career homers, seven more than Aaron.

Bonds also set the one-season record of 73 homers in 2001. But his links to the BALCO case had cast a dope cheat cloud over the achievements even as he denied any wrongdoing.

According to the indictment, Bonds allegedly lied when he claimed he did not knowingly take steroids issued to him by his personal trainer Greg Anderson, one of the men convicted in the BALCO case.

Publication by the San Francisco Chronicle of Bonds grand jury testimony, which was to have remained secret, and of the book "Game of Shadows", outlining Bonds drug use, made him a pariah with fans even as he made baseball history.

Major League Baseball did not test for steroids during much of Bonds career but toughened testing programs under pressure from US lawmakers, who looked at imposing much stricter World Anti-Doping Agency standards upon US leagues.

Despite the welter of evidence linking Bonds to steroid use, legal experts say his case will by no means be "a slam-dunk" for prosecutors when it eventually comes to trial sometime next year.

"Perjury traditionally has been a very difficult charge to prove for prosecutors because it usually relies on he-said, she-said type testimony," said New York-based former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney Brad Simon.

"Its not a slam-dunk for the prosecution in any sense," added Simon, who has followed the Bonds case closely.

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