US baseball home run king Barry Bonds was indicted on Thursday for lying to investigators about using steroids, justice officials said after laying charges that can send Bonds to prison for 30 years.
The controversial slugger faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges for statements made during a grand jury hearing into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) scandal, the California Department of Justice said.
Without detailing the evidence they plan to present, justice officials for the first time said Bonds has tested positive for anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances.
That could lead to Bonds being stripped of the US home run milestone he set earlier this year, although Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig gave no hint about that prospect in a statement.
"I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely," Selig said. "It is important that the facts regarding steroid use in baseball be known."
The 43-year-old outfielder broke Major League Baseball's all-time homer mark 100 days ago, hitting his 756th homer to pass Hank Aaron before finishing on 762 after a chase that saw Bonds jeered everywhere but his home ballpark.
Critics said the milestone was tainted because of the doping allegations hanging over Bonds and the San Francisco Giants would not offer Bonds a contract for next season, leaving him a free agent when the indictments came.
"This is a very sad day," the Giants said in a statement.
"For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law," it said.
Bonds now faces four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to investigators in the BALCO case.
Bonds will have a plea hearing on Dec. 7, when potentially a trial date will be set for a legal case next year that could become the blockbuster trial BALCO never had thanks to plea deals for those deepest involved the case.
"Bonds is charged with knowingly and willfully making false material statements, regarding his use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances while under oath," the state Justice Department said.
The maximum sentence for perjury is five years on each charge while the maximum term for obstruction of justice is 10 years.
An interesting dynamic of a trial would be how a jury of San Franciscans would regard Bonds, who was a hero to some and villain to many.
Bonds had immunity from prosecution for everything except perjury when he testified to the BALCO grand jury on Dec. 4, 2003. He allegedly lied to investigators several times by denying he took performance-enhancing drugs.
The BALCO scandal has already implicated several top athletes in baseball and track including US sprint stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery and baseball stars Jason Giambi and Garry Sheffield.
Bonds, who has denied knowingly taking steroids, also set a single-season mark of 73 homers in 2001, before the major leagues began testing for steroids.
"There has been an effort to get Barry for a long time," Bonds attorney Michael Rains said.
"I'm curious to see what evidence they have now that they didn't have before. It goes without saying that we look forward to rebutting these charges in court," he said.