Nov 25

Did A-Rod Take an Intentional Walk to Prevent Perjury Risk?

Last Wednesday, November 20th, Alex Rodriguez, widely considered one of baseball’s greats, walked out of his arbitration proceeding challenging his 211 game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug (“PED”) policy.  If the suspension is upheld, A-Rod’s will be the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history.

Rodriguez’s reason for walking out, as he told Mike Francesa’s radio show on the FAN, was outrage over what he called the arbitrator’s “disgusting” decision to excuse MLB Commissioner Bud Selig from testifying.  Nevertheless, his table-banging and briefcase-kicking tantrum and refusal to participate in his own arbitration also results in a convenient excuse for Rodriguez to avoid testifying under oath and risk a potential perjury charge should he testify “willfully and contrary to such oath” concerning “any material matter which he does not believe to be true.”  18 U.S.C. § 1621(a).  Or, in other words, testify falsely concerning his use of PEDs.

One need not look far from A-Rod’s perch at fifth on the all-time home run list to find the very real application of federal perjury and obstruction charges for evading questions regarding PEDs:  all-time home run king Barry Bonds was prosecuted and convicted for obstruction of justice stemming from his grand jury testimony.  Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit affirmed Bonds’ conviction, holding that Bonds’ “misleading and evasive” — albeit factual true — statements “prevent[ed] the grand jury from obtaining truthful and responsive answers.”  Bonds, of course, is not alone in being prosecuted for statements made about PEDs, as fellow baseball legend Roger Clemens was acquitted of charges that he lied to Congress about the use of PEDs.

Avoiding potentially problematic testimony is not an uncommon tactic.  Also last week, doping and cyclist legend Lance Armstrong settled a lawsuit brought by Acceptance Insurance, which sought reimbursement for bonuses Armstrong earned for his now-stripped 1999-2001 Tour de France titles.  The settlement was reached just hours before Armstrong was set to be deposed about his doping history.

Of course, we may never know why A-Rod stormed out of his arbitration.  But what is known is that the federal perjury and obstruction statutes are powerful tools that prosecutors have not been shy in using against baseball legends, among others.

One Response

  1. This is so eerily similar to Lance Armstrong, it’s almost too hard to believe … and we all know how that turned out.

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