The government's priorities were on stark display in October when lead Internal Revenue Service BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky—a man who, according to a damning May 2004 Playboy magazine profile, had lobbied various federal agencies for years to launch a steroids sting, "always with Bonds as the lure"—squeezed a plea deal out of track and field superstar Marion Jones. "To extract her confession," the New York Times wrote in a mostly flattering profile of Novitzky last month, "he used the leverage of a more serious charge from an unrelated check-fraud scheme." Getting Jones to weepily admit in public that she'd been lying all along about steroids, it seems, was more important than ferreting out her role in "a scheme to defraud numerous banks out of millions of dollars by laundering stolen, altered and counterfeit checks."--Matt Welch, Reason.
The use of a felony check-kiting charge to induce a confession out of Marion Jones, who it should be remembered, had never failed a drug test, will always taint the veracity of her mea culpa and surrender of her Olympic records. Since her "confession" is the only supporting evidence against her, there is nothing that will prevent her from retracting it a few years down the line
There has always been more than a hint of racism in the investigation surrounding Bonds, and the rather trivial nature of the convictions so far secured in the BALCO trials indicates indicates that Welch's basic charge, that the government has been more focused on the "public shaming of athletes" than the prosecution of actual crimes, is true. And as we saw during the interminable investigation of President Clinton's relationship with an intern, that really isn't a proper purpose for government.