MADRID, Spain (AP) -American anti-doping officials hailed Barry Bonds' indictment as an example of how far the United States has come in the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.
``This is just another story related to the big picture that Americans don't like cheaters,'' Scott Burns, deputy director of White House drug policy, told The Associated Press at the world anti-doping summit in Madrid.
Bonds, who surpassed Hank Aaron to become the home run king, was charged Thursday with four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice after a four-year investigation by federal prosecutors into doping by elite U.S. athletes involved with BALCO. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.
``It shows from the evidence that the U.S. government is committed to healthy sport,'' U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart said.
Burns and Tygart were among 1,500 national government, sports federation and anti-doping officials attending the Third World Conference of Doping in Sport. The delegates are scheduled to approve a revised code of global anti-doping rules Saturday.
The American officials said Bonds' indictment shows how the U.S. view toward performance-enhancing substances has shifted in recent years.
``I asked around to see who were the biggest cheats in the world and they said, 'You are. The United States are perceived as the biggest cheaters in the world,''' Burns said. ``Five years later, I often get questions, 'Are we too good (in anti-doping efforts)? Have we gone too far?'''
``I'll take that criticism any day,'' he said.
World Anti-Doping Agency leader Dick Pound had another take.
``It's not fair that some goon who can hit a ball that's still rising as it leaves the county gets paid 12 times as much as I do, and I'm a shortstop that's at least as skillful as this other guy,'' Pound said. ``There's a fraud on the public, a fraud on the players. It just makes the game not real.''
And he considers the baseball players' union part of the problem.
``They approach these whole things like a steel town union,'' he said. ``I've always found it hard to believe that the folks who reportedly speak for the athletes and professional players associations actually do.''
Perhaps the Bonds case will pressure leagues in the U.S. to move closer to the international anti-doping code.
``If (players) think the only penalty when they get caught is a four-game or a 50-game penalty, it's not much of a penalty,'' Tygart said. ``But you suddenly put in jail time and felony conviction, and it's a dramatic difference in the deterrent effect. And we're thrilled.''
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