I don't love Barry Bonds. He isn't one of my favorite players. I don't tune into Giants games on MLB.tv or within the Extra Innings package. But I do like watching him play. I enjoy watching his dugout interviews on ESPN. I guess I've always enjoyed the public persona of Barry Bonds even if I didn't grow to love him the way I have other baseball players. The one thing I want to make clear is my love, like, hate or indifference to Barry Bonds has absolutely nothing to do with steroids, the use of them or the effects of them on Barry Bonds, baseball or any other player. I wish that were the case with everyone else but the plain facts lead me to believe that I'm either in the minority or that the media is desperate to rip Barry Bonds from his supposed pedestal.
I think it truly irks many members of the media and obviously a large number of fans that despite the seeming best efforts of those in power at MLB and reporters with investigative juice, Barry Bonds has yet to fail a drug test. You can easily hear all sorts of explanations for the lack of a positive test from Barry Bonds. Some say he buys drugs that are ahead of the testing curve, others say that MLB refuses to test him despite the supposedly random nature of the tests. The lack of a positive test has done little to prevent the public slamming Bonds receives almost daily.
The Barry Bonds and steroids issue is once again relevant because of a story appearing in the next issue of Sports Illustrated. The story is actually an excerpt from a new book called Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Fainaru-Wada and Williams are the two San Francisco Chronicle reporters that leaked Grand Jury testimony during the Balco steroid ordeal. If you followed the story when it first broke you won't find much that is new. The book seems timed to hurt Bonds with maximum effectiveness. If the article on sportsillustrated.com is as reliable as it seems the key difference between the book and the stories that appeared in the Chronicle is the naming of sources and the display of documents that was once evidence in the Balco trials.
The most disturbing thing about this story is that the key evidence the book seems to have against Bonds is that every other player who admits to working with Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson also admits to receiving and using steroids. Barry Bonds continues to deny using steroids. In fact he has often implied that if he used anything illegal during his time working with
"I never asked. When he said it was flaxseed oil, I just said, 'Whatever.' It was in the ballpark ... in front of everybody. I mean, all the reporters, my teammates, I mean they all saw it. I didn't hide it."
Maybe it’s naive to continue to take a man at his word when so many others seem determined to prove him a liar. I guess I've just been accused of enough wrong doing (wrongly accused) that I refuse to believe Bonds has knowingly used steroids until he either admits it or fails a drug test. If he admits to knowingly using steroids I'll be disappointed and probably a little angry that I've stuck up for him for so long. If he fails a drug test at this point I'll be suspicious. Suspicious that the failed test is an attempt above and beyond the normally random testing to bring down Bonds once and for all. Even with all the talk in the Sports Illustrated article of Bonds being in a steroid frenzy and unable to go two weeks between cycles a failed drug test would make Bonds seem like an idiot and Barry Bonds is not a stupid man.
The evidence that this book presents, which you can see here, is all of the type that makes Barry Bonds look bad but doesn't actually prove anything. We'll go through the categories one by one:
- Statements provided to federal agents. A guy (BALCO's James Valente) trying to avoid as much jail time as possible says that Barry Bonds was brought to Balco by Greg Anderson. He further testifies that
collected drugs for Bonds. This looks bad for Bonds but still there is no direct connection. The only drugs this guy handed out were to Anderson not to Barry Bonds. Anderson
- A statement attributed to Victor Conte. The article claims that Conte confirmed Valente's statement. Victor Conte denies ever saying any such thing. The article presents the fact that Conte didn't use an opportunity in court to confront Valente about his statement as evidence that he actually said it. Huh? I'm no lawyer but I've seen enough episodes of Law and Order to know that if you don't want something used against you in court you don't bring it up at all. It would be insane for Conte and his lawyers to deny a making a statement and thereby make the jury hear the statement over and over again.
- Greg Anderson admits to giving steroids to many of his baseball clients but denies that he ever gave any to Barry Bonds. This is evidence against Bonds?
admitted in court to selling and administering steroids and other drugs but throughout the entire ordeal he refused to say that he ever gave, sold or administered any drugs to Barry Bonds. Anderson
- In the summer of 2004 the former Olympic shot putter C. J. Hunter told agent Novitzky that Conte had confided to him that Bonds was using the Clear. Then once again the statement is denied by Hunter and his lawyers. This is not convincing evidence. If I'm on a jury and all these statements are presented but denied by every single one of the people supposedly making the statements even as they admit to various other crimes and wrongdoings I'm going to find the denials more compelling.
- Grand Jury Testimony by various people who never saw Bonds receive or use a steroid. All these people are repeating what they supposedly heard from others. This is not evidence, its hearsay. Now if this were a book written to convince the world of Greg Anderson's guilt they might have something. Oh. but that book wouldn't sell would it?
- Documents containing doping schedules and calendars of drug use by Bonds. This seems like the most damning evidence. I guess I'd have to see the book to know exactly what a calendar of drug use contains. If this is just a schedule that says things like "BB - start cycle" I'll still have my doubts. If it says "Barry Bonds 1st shot of Winstrol" I'll give it much more weight.
- Circumstantial Evidence such as the weight and percentage of body fat claimed by Bonds and his trainer as well as photographic evidence of an increase in size. The article basically suggests that because Bonds had a body fat index better than that of a former body builder that he must have used steroids to achieve it. As if that wasn't ridiculous enough when presented as evidence they then give you a link to twelve pages of photos of Barry Bonds through the years. Find me a forty-year old man who hasn't changed his body dramatically since he was nineteen years old and I'll show you a freak. All men gain weight as they get older. It doesn't matter how much you work out or stay in shape or control your eating habits.
I may purchase the copy of Sports Illustrated that presents the excerpts that this article is trying to sell us. I won't be buying the book. The book regardless of your opinion of Barry Bonds and his use of steroid is designed to drag a man down and stomp on him. I just can't support that.