Sally Jenkins of Washington Post Critical of Overcriminalization of Steroids

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As the first week of the Barry Bonds perjury trial comes to an end, increasing number of newspaper columnists have started criticizing the government for its witch-hunt of Bonds. The pursuit of Barry Bonds is not only a colossal waste of taxpayer funds but also fundamentally misguided in its pursuit of so-called justice.

Sally Jenkins, of the Washington Post, is one of the few journalists who has consistently been critical of the steroid hysteria that has permeated American culture over the past decade. She has been an outspoken critique of the government’s witch-hunt and its pursuit of celebrity athletes. Jenkins recently penned an article that not only condemned the prosecution of Barry Bonds but also the “overcriminalization” of steroid laws.

Jenkins begins by suggesting that criminal law should be reserved for serious crimes not offenses like the personal use of anabolic steroids. “Overcriminalizing” such minor offenses makes a mockery of justice. She is highly critical of a government that abuses criminal law simply to make an example out of someone. She believes this is exactly what the government is doing when it comes to Barry Bonds. Furthermore, she questions the role of the federal government in ensuring fair play in sports. Finally, she condemns the Anabolic Steroid Control Acts of 1990 and 2004 as a prime example of a law that “overcriminalizes” trivial acts like steroid use that could be more effectively handled with civil or administrative penalties rather than time in prison.

The government’s role in ”cleaning up steroids” should be limited to how it handles any other controlled substance.Thus Bonds should be treated like anyone else who uses steroids without a prescription. From a criminal standpoint, how was his act any worse than some guy at the neighborhood Gold’s Gym using to look big on the beach?

The only difference is in what he achieved while using them, but the government has no business getting involved in ensuring fair competition. If it starts trying, will federal reviews of referees and umpires be next?

Lately we punish all sorts of relatively trivial acts as crimes, with nearly 4,500 criminal laws on the books. A good deal of them are fairly recent, including the Anabolic Steroid Acts of 1990 and 2004. Reformers such as Dick Thornburgh, the former U.S. Attorney General, suggests countless offenses could be handled more effectively with civil, regulatory, or administrative penalties such as fines, or other sanctions short of criminal.

The entire Jenkins article is a must-read: “Barry Bonds probably lied about steroids, but is proving that worth federal dollars?”

Sally Jenkins

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