It’s difficult not to balk at ‘Game of Shadows’ case

What’s in a name?

For Game of Shadows authors and San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, possibly a year and a half in prison. For San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, immortality.

On Sept. 22, the authors were sentenced to an 18-month jail term for refusing to reveal the sources of grand jury testimonies published inGame of Shadows. In the book, the pair printed testimonies given by a number of athletes – including Bonds – regarding steroid use in conjunction with a federal probe of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. The BALCO probe is central to Game of Shadows, which provides some of the most damning evidence yet of the width and breadth of steroid use in professional sports. Praise for the book has come from no less than President George W. Bush, who commended the reporters for their public service.

On Sept. 23, Barry Bonds hit home run No. 734*, passing baseball demigod Hank Aaron’s National League home run record and putting himself in better position to overtake Aaron’s all-time record of 755.

The Game of Shadows case will likely prove to be the purest test yet of the rights journalists have – or don’t have – to protect sources when ordered by a court to reveal them. Unlike the case involving New York Times reporter Judith Miller, the motives of Williams and Fainaru-Wada are far less suspect and national security isn’t an issue. Regardless of the case’s outcome, for the time being the authors are staring down the barrel of what more closely resembles bad karma than justice.

“The law in this circuit and I believe, in this country, is clear that reporters do not have a privilege (to protect their sources),” said Jeffrey White, the U.S. District Court judge that handed down the sentences. “No one is above the law. Every citizen has to answer the questions of a grand jury.”

Meanwhile, Bonds continues to sock dingers for Giants. He will undoubtedly surpass – and perhaps eclipse – Aaron’s home run record. His name will be synonymous with greatness. Rather than chasing, he will be chased.

Anabolic steroids are covered under the Controlled Substances Act. More specifically, they’re Schedule III drugs, a classification that places them alongside substances such as codeine and ketamine.

No one is above the law. Keep that in mind.