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Saturday, December 15, 2007
Bonds and Clemens, Distinctions and Differences
I have not yet written about the Mitchell Report at length; I am working on a longer piece for FindLaw for next week (in between showing my daughter her first snowfall) and will link to that. I did want to jump in quickly on the comparisons between Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. The two now are inextricably linked forever in baseball history--the greatest pitcher and the greatest hitter of this generation both used performance-enhancing drugs. And both experienced similar late-career resurgences and high-level performances past the age of 40--although we now have evidence that both were drug-enhanced.
Michael noted a post by Paul Butler at BlackProf arguing that the charges against Bonds should be dropped, in light of the revelations about Clemens, that this is another example of racial inequality in the way the criminal justice system handles drug crimes. And the disparity of treatment between Bonds and Clemens has been a recurring theme in the blogosphere.
I want to disagree up to a point.
I agree that we (the press, the fans, etc.) were much more suspicious of Bonds's late-career revival and body changes than Clemens's--whether for reasons of race, non-New-England-based love of Clemens, dislike of Bonds personally, or a combination of all four.
But I reject the notion that the federal government is acting in a racially biased fashion if it continues to prosecute Bonds in light of the revelations about Clemens. Bonds is not being prosecuted for using steroids. He is being prosecuted because, having (allegedly) used steroids, he was a material witness to a grand jury investigation of the producers of PEDs (BALCO) and, testifying under a grant of immunity, he lied to the grand jury about his steroid use.
This is not a distinction without a difference. If Brian McNamee (Clemens's former trainer and his purported steroids source) is prosecuted for distributing steroids, Clemens testifies and denies using steroids in the face of what we now know, and the government does not, at least, investigate Clemens for perjury and obstruction of justice--then I will agree that something might be amiss. On the other hand, if MLB punishes Bonds for using steroids and does not punish Clemens, it might suggest some racial bias. Failing either of those two situations, Clemens and Bonds are not similarly situated.