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Why Did Barry Bonds Go To Prison?


Barry Bonds is one of the most accomplished baseball players of all time, holding the Major League Baseball records for most career home runs, most home runs in a single season, and most career walks. However, in recent years, Bonds has become just as well known for his legal troubles as his baseball achievements. In 2011, Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice related to his testimony about using performance-enhancing drugs. This conviction ultimately led to Bonds being sentenced to prison time in 2015 at age 51, marking a dramatic fall for the former MVP and All-Star.

Bonds’ Questionable Actions

While he was still an active player in the early 2000s, many began questioning whether Bonds’ outstanding late-career numbers were fueled by steroids and other PEDs. Some key events that raised suspicions around Bonds include:

  • 1999-2000 Offseason – Bonds added significant muscle mass before having the best statistical seasons of his career in his mid-to-late 30s.
  • 2003 Grand Jury Testimony – Bonds testified he unknowingly used PEDs provided by trainer Greg Anderson. He said he believed them to be flaxseed oil and arthritis cream.
  • 2003 Best Season – At age 38, Bonds hit a MLB-record 73 home runs with a .341 batting average and 45 intentional walks.
  • 2005 Leaks – Anonymous sources leaked Bonds’ 2003 grand jury testimony about unknowingly using PEDs. This contradicted his public denials about ever using steroids.

Investigations and Indictments

In light of the strong evidence that Bonds used PEDs, the federal government began investigating him for perjury and tax evasion in 2007.

After Bonds testified at the grand jury hearing that he unknowingly took PEDs, the government believed this was a false statement constituting perjury. Prosecutors also thought Bonds evaded taxes by failing to pay taxes on memorabilia and other income.

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In November 2007, Bonds was indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice related to the 2003 grand jury testimony. The indictment also included a charge for evading taxes on $80,000 of merchandise Bonds signed.

The Trial and Conviction

While the tax evasion charges against Bonds were dropped in 2009, his trial related to lying about steroids began in March 2011. The allegations focused on Bonds lying about ever knowingly taking steroids and lying about receiving HGH injections from Anderson.

Key Trial Events and Evidence

  • Former Girlfriends – Kimberly Bell and Cathy Hoskins testified about changes in Bonds’ appearance throughout their relationships, providing observations to suggest he used steroids.
  • Audio Recording – Jurors heard a 2003 secret recording of Anderson telling Bonds he was undetectable for steroids because he was using “the clear.”
  • Positive Test – A positive steroids test from 2000 matching Bonds’ samples was introduced but with the names blocked out.
  • Baseball Note – A note in the locker of Jason Giambi saying “BB” used a steroid was presented as evidence linking Bonds to PEDs.

After a month-long trial and 8 days of jury deliberations, in April 2011 the jury found Bonds guilty of obstruction of justice. However, the jury failed to reach verdicts on the other three perjury counts.

Sentencing and Imprisonment

Although Bonds’ conviction only carried a possible sentence of 15 months in prison, the conviction stood as the government’s only victory in prosecuting top athletes linked to steroids and other PEDs.

In December 2011, Bonds was sentenced to just 2 years probation and 250 hours community service. Prosecutors then appealed the short sentence.

In April 2015, a federal appeals court overturned the probation-only sentence and said Bonds must serve prison time. The court said probation was inappropriate given the severity of the crime.

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Later in 2015, at age 51, Bonds began serving his sentence. After a year in prison, Bonds was released to serve the remaining 10 months under house arrest.

Barry Bonds’ Prison Sentence

ConvictionPrison TermRelease
Obstruction of Justice1 year and 1 dayDecember 2016

“I have 30 years in this game, only thing I’ll miss is competing against players. I still have family, I still have children.” – Bonds after his 2015 sentencing.

While on house arrest for the final months, Bonds expressed regret about the impact of the legal issues on his family but never admitted to using PEDs. He said he avoided discussing steroids because “anything I say will be turned against me.”

Why Did Bonds Go to Prison?

In the end, several key factors led Barry Bonds to serve over a year in prison in his 50s, marking an unexpected fall for the home run king:

  • Overwhelming evidence suggested Bonds lied about unknowingly using steroids.
  • Bonds’ testimony obstructing the government’s steroid investigation crossed the line regardless of his celebrity status.
  • Prosecutors wanted to set an example that high-profile athletes could not obstruct justice without consequences.
  • The appeals court believed probation was far too light for such a serious conviction.

While Bonds still adamantly claims he never knowingly used PEDs, his conviction made clear that obstructing a federal probe would lead to prison time regardless of fame or previous achievements. Going forward, Bonds’ legacy will always be tainted by both PEDs and his conviction for lying about their use.

Here are answers to 5 common questions about Barry Bonds going to prison:

Why was Barry Bonds convicted if he was never proven to use PEDs?

Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for lying during his testimony. The conviction was specifically for saying he never knowingly used steroids. While the jury deadlocked on other perjury charges, this conviction was for impeding the grand jury’s work.

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Did Barry Bonds only get convicted because of his fame?

While Bonds’ celebrity likely played a role in the decision to prosecute him, the appeals court specifically upheld the conviction because obstruction of justice merits prison even for well-known figures. His fame brought the scrutiny but did not solely cause the conviction.

How much time did Barry Bonds serve in prison?

Bonds was initially sentenced to 2 years probation but served over 1 year in prison after an appeal. He then finished his sentence confined to his home for about 10 more months.

Where was Barry Bonds imprisoned?

Bonds served his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California. This minimum security federal prison is located near San Francisco, not far from Bonds’ home.

Did Barry Bonds express regret over his conviction and prison sentence?

While Bonds said he regretted the impact on his family, he avoided directly admitting steroid use or lying about it. Bonds maintained that he truthfully testified to a grand jury about not knowingly taking steroids provided by Greg Anderson.


Barry Bonds completing a year in federal prison marked an unexpected fall from grace for one of baseball’s all-time greats. While Bonds still proclaims innocence about using PEDs, his conviction for obstruction of justice related to a federal steroids probe proved no athlete is above the law. Bonds’ prison stint indelibly stained his legacy and served as a warning that lying under oath carries consequences regardless of fame, wealth, or past achievements. Despite holding the MLB career home run record, Bonds will forever be connected as much to steroids and obstruction of justice as his on-field accomplishments.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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