A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the felony conviction of baseball home run king Barry Bonds for obstruction of justice over his testimony to a grand jury probing the sale of steroids.
Bonds had testified in 2003 under a grant of immunity and denied knowingly using steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) provided by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, better known as BALCO, or by his trainer Greg Anderson.
In answering a question about whether Anderson gave him self-injectable substances, the former San Francisco Giants slugger had answered with statements about his childhood. The appeals court said Bonds' answer was "evasive and misleading."
Bonds, a son of former baseball star Bobby Bonds, had testified: "I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see."
In its decision on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said there was enough evidence to sustain the April 2011 conviction for obstruction of justice.
Writing for a three-judge appeals court panel, Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder said the response had nothing to do with the question and could have influenced the grand jury into minimizing Anderson's role in the distribution of illegal steroids and PEDs.
"The statement served to divert the grand jury's attention away from the relevant inquiry of the investigation, which was Anderson and BALCO's distribution of steroids and PEDs," she wrote. "The statement was therefore evasive."
Dennis Riordan, who argued Bonds' appeal, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco did not immediately respond to a similar request.
Bonds, 49, retired after the 2007 season as Major League Baseball's all-time, regular season home run leader with 762. He also holds the single-season record with 73 in 2001, and won the National League's Most Valuable Player award a record seven times.
But suspicions over illegal drugs tarnished his reputation, and voters in January denied him and former star pitcher Roger Clemens entry to baseball's Hall of Fame, in what was seen as a referendum on sport's so-called Steroids Era. It was Bonds' and Clemens' first year of eligibility.
Bonds was sentenced to two years of probation and 30 days of home confinement following his conviction but the punishment was put on hold pending the appeal. His jury deadlocked on three perjury counts.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Vicki Allen and Jim Loney)