Record-breaker Bonds indicted on perjury charge by grand jury

A federal grand jury last night indicted baseball superstar Barry Bonds on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, culmination of the government's four-year investigation into the use of steroids by top track and field athletes, baseball and American football players.

The long expected indictment, handed down in San Francisco, came just four months after Bonds had captured the all-time career home runs record, arguably the most glamorous mark in American sport. But his march to the record had been accompanied by mounting evidence that the 43-year-old player had used illicit drugs, supplied by the BALCO nutritional supplement company.

In leaked testimony to a grand jury, Bonds claimed he had never knowingly taken steroids from his personal trainer Greg Anderson. He also specifically denied taking steroids in 2001, when he set a single season home run record of 73.

For baseball at least, the charges represent the most serious development yet in the steroid scandal which has clouded the sport for almost a decade. The BALCO scandal has already claimed, among others, the scalps of the Olympic champion Marion Jones and Britain's Dwain Chambers.

As early as 2003, BALCO's founder Victor Conte alleged that Bonds had used the designer steroid THG, known as "the clear" which he said he thought was flaxseed oil. The San Francisco Giants released Bonds at the end of the 2007 season.

Bonds supporters maintain he has been victim of a witch-hunt. "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."