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Keeping baseball legal

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An Indianapolis sports law attorney who was on the prosecution’s legal team at the start of the baseball steroid case against Barry Bonds recently witnessed the final “at bat” for the prosecution and defense in a California courtroom.

Attorney William Bock III of Kroger Gardis & Regas traveled to the Northern District of California in San Francisco in March for the trial of the 46-year-old baseball player accused of lying to a grand jury about whether he used steroids or growth hormone during his career.

bock-william-bondsstory-15col.jpg Attorney William Bock III in Indianapolis serves as general counsel for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He traveled to California for part of the recent steroid-use trial against baseball player Barry Bonds. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

A seven-time most valuable player in Major League Baseball’s National League, Bonds last played for the San Francisco Giants in 2007 and broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record with 762. But this federal case has tarnished his career and helped dub the last decade as the steroid era in sports.

“This all brought a lot of attention to the problem of drugs in sports and has led to more resolve in the profession and sports generally,” said Bock.

The three-week trial in March concluded a long process by federal prosecutors working to prove that Bonds used steroids during his baseball career and then lied about it under oath.

Prosecutors obtained one conviction on obstruction of justice, the result of Bonds giving intentionally evasive, false, or misleading statements while testifying before a grand jury investigating the performance-enhancing drug use in 2003. Jurors determined that Bonds went out of his way to avoid answering the question of whether his personal trainer at the time had ever injected him.

U.S. Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial on the other three counts Bonds faced that alleged he lied to a grand jury when he said he never used drugs. Bonds faces a possible sentence of 10 years in federal prison, but he is expected to receive a lighter penalty. A sentencing hearing will be held later this year.

No decision has been made on retrying Bonds on those other counts.

“This case is about upholding one of the most fundamental principles in our system of justice — the obligation of every witness to provide truthful and direct testimony in judicial proceedings,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco said in a statement about the case. “In the United States, taking an oath and promising to testify truthfully is a serious matter. We cannot ignore those who choose instead to obstruct justice.”

Bock’s involvement stemmed from his role as general counsel for the Colorado-based U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, where he has served as general counsel since September 2007. The USADA is an independent entity that investigates and prosecutes drug use cases in Olympic and Paralympic sports. Bock has represented the agency when athletes have been accused of violating sport drug testing rules.

Bock’s work put him in the pages of a best-selling non-fiction book published in March 2006 – “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports.” The authors, two San Francisco Chronicle sport reporters, interviewed Bock for the book.

“Bill is well-schooled on what this is all about and was critical in getting this to where we are today,” said Mark Fainaru-Wada, one of the book’s two authors who covered the Bonds trial and met with Bock while he was in California. “He has the vantage point that others don’t and knows all the players and strategy at the heart of these cases.”

Specifically, Bock represented Dr. Larry Bowers, one of the prosecution’s early key witnesses who testified about the drugs at issue in the case. Bowers was asked as a private citizen to go on the raid that was a precursor to the trial, and the government has relied on his expertise through the years.

“My role was to prepare him and anticipate the questions he might get while on the stand, and I basically got a sense of where the case was headed based on the sorts of questions being asked,” Bock said.

The case started strong, with his client’s testimony being one of the key points closing out that first week, Bock said. But some conflicting testimony later in the proceedings from the defense proved to be a difficult hurdle to overcome, leading to the judge’s mistrial ruling on three of the counts.

Bock said he found one of the most interesting parts of the trial to be the discussion about a side effect of steroid use on a person’s temperament, known as “Roid” Rage – a condition that had been associated with Bonds. The lead defense attorney wanted Bowers to testify that it is difficult to be clear about correlation the data shows between when episodes of anger occurred and when Bonds took the drugs. That, however, proved counterproductive. Instead, Bock’s client testified that there is a correlation between those periods.

“That was a situation where the cross examiner just wished he hadn’t asked the question, because he got an answer he didn’t expect,” Bock said. “That was one of the moments where you just have to smile.”

Bock said that some reporters attending the trial told him it seemed more like biology class than a courtroom baseball legal drama, but they agreed that his client held his own while on the stand.

“He laid the framework for the government to prove its case later on,” he said.

The Bonds trial was the last case in a long line of litigation related to the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative that Bock has been involved with through the USADA. Overall, the USADA was involved in litigation involving 24 athletes. The last of the USADA BALCO cases ended in mid-March, when track and field coach and agent Mark Block received a 10-year USADA suspension from all coaching and representation of athletes for violating anti-doping rules by administering and supplying what’s known as “the clear” and “the cream.”

Bock has been involved in cases that haven’t included lab-result evidence, and the USADA had to use photo or non-scientific information to prove its cases – setting new legal ground. But the Bonds case, he said, was the most high profile and interesting, in part, because of its unique approach.

“This differed from our cases on the standpoint that many of the athletes we’ve dealt with were involved firsthand, not like Bonds who was insulated through someone else. That made his case more difficult to prosecute,” Bock said. “From our perspective, this is a great victory for clean sports. Hopefully, it’s another example that if a federal agent asks you questions, you’d better be truthful. This all brought a lot of attention to the problem of drugs in sports, and has led to more resolve in the profession and sports generally.”•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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