SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Barry Bonds was indicted Thursday for perjury and obstruction of justice, charged with lying when he told a federal grand jury that he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment, unsealed Thursday by federal prosecutors in San Francisco, is the culmination of a four-year federal probe into whether he lied under oath to a grand jury investigating steroid use by elite athletes.
The indictment comes three months after the 43-year-old Bonds, one of the biggest names in professional sports, passed Hank Aaron to become baseball's career home run leader, his sport's most hallowed record. Bonds, who parted ways with the San Francisco Giants at the end of last season and has yet to sign with another team, also holds the game's single-season home run record of 73.
While Bonds was chasing Aaron amid the adulation of San Franciscans and the scorn of baseball fans almost everywhere else, due to his notoriously prickly personality and nagging steroid allegations, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on the long-rumored indictment.
"I'm surprised," said John Burris, one of Bonds' attorneys, "but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Burris did not know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press. He said he would immediately call Bonds to notify him.
The indictment charges Bonds with lying when he said that he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by his personal trainer Greg Anderson. He also denied taking steroids at anytime in 2001 when he was pursuing the single season home-run record.
"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment reads.
He is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified in December 2003 when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the wide-ranging government steroids investigation launched in 2002 with the raid of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative -- now infamously known as BALCO -- the Burlingame-based supplements lab at the center of a large steroids distribution ring.
Allegations of steroid use long have dogged Bonds, the son of an ex-Major Leaguer who broke into baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder. By the late 1990s he'd grown to more than 240 pounds, with his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger.
Bonds' physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge. During the 2001 season he broke Mark McGwire's single-season home run crown, and by 2006, he'd passed Babe Ruth to move into second-place among the sport's most prolific power hitters. He will soon in all likelihood surpass Aaron's career mark of 755 homers.
Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year. In July 2006, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, who led the investigation, took the unusual step of going public with the probe by announcing he was handing it off to a new grand jury when the previous panel's 18-month term expired. Prosecutors are typically secretive about grand jury proceedings.
At the center of the investigation is Bonds' childhood friend and personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who spent most of the past year in a federal detention center for refusing to testify to the grand jury investigating Bonds' alleged perjury.
According to testimony obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds testified in 2003 that he took two substances given to him by Anderson -- which he called "the cream" and "the clear" -- to soothe aches and pains and help him better recover from injuries.
The substances fit the description of steroids peddled by BALCO founder Victor Conte. But when questioned under oath by investigators, Bonds famously said he believed Anderson had given him flaxseed oil and an arthritic balm.
Investigators and the public had their doubts.
Aiming to prove Bonds a liar, prosecutors tried to compel Anderson to testify. When he refused, they jailed him for contempt.
Bonds joins a parade of defendants tied to the BALCO investigation, including Anderson, who served three months in prison and three months of home detention after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering.
Conte also served three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to steroids distribution.
Patrick Arnold, the rogue chemist who created the designer steroid THG, BALCO vice president James Valente and track coach Remi Korchemny also all also pleaded guilty. Korchemny and Valente were sentenced to probation and Arnold sent to prison for four months.
Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant, pleaded guilty April 27 to drug and money laundering charges after federal officials said he became Major League Baseball's biggest steroids dealer after BALCO shut down.
Elite cyclist Tammy Thomas and track coach Trevor Graham have each pleaded not guilty to lying to a grand jury and federal investigators about their involvement with steroids.
Troy Ellerman, a defense attorney who represented two of the BALCO figures, pleaded guilty to leaking confidential grand jury transcripts to the San Francisco Chronicle and then denying he was the leak in court documents filed under penalty of perjury.
Dozens of other prominent athletes have been connected to BALCO, including New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi who told the grand jury he injected steroids purchased at BALCO and Detroit Tigers outfielder Gary Sheffield who testified that Bonds introduced him to BALCO.