The Non-Debate about Bonds

April 26, 2015



I can understand how people can get really confused sometimes. There is so much chatter on the internet that it’s easy to get spun around and get the wrong idea about something, especially in a highly-reactive, instant-response world.


So I thought I could do a public service and clear up one topic of discussion that won’t seem to go away: Barry Bonds and steroids.


For example, when the federal appeals court ruled recently to overturn his conviction of obstructing justice, they were not exonerating him from his steroid use. The fact that he used has not been in dispute for more than a decade. To be clear…


Barry Bonds used steroids. He admitted to using steroids under oath in a court of law. 


For those that don’t remember, it happened in December of 2004 in the BALCO trial when Victor Conte was accused of illegally supplying steroids to athletes. By the way, Conte pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and served time in prison for it.  The substance of Bonds testimony was that, a) he said he didn't know he was using steroids, b) he said he only used them for one year (2003), and c) he said he didn't think they affected his performance. It was for these statements that the government later put him on trial for perjury. It was not for using steroids. He had already been given immunity from that charge in exchange for his testimony at the BALCO hearings.


However, for us to believe Bonds' statement that he only began using steroids in 2003 and even then he did so unknowingly, we'd have to believe that the written schedules that show Bonds taking HGH, Depo-Testosterone, Clomid, Modafinil, Trenbolone, insulin and EPO (along with the pricing information) beginning in 2001 that were found in Greg Anderson's (Bonds personal trainer) possession were falsified, and that Anderson would deliberately jeopardize his relationship by lying to his client while secretly giving him steroids. 


Additionally, Bonds had an incentive to admit to using steroids in 2003 because that was the year of MLB’s survey testing and Bonds was one of the 104 players who returned a positive test. Had he claimed to have never used, the government prosecutors could have used the testing results to show conclusively that he was lying. Ironically, the government prosecutors did execute a warrant to recover the testing results and the specimens but the MLB Player’s Association – an organization Bonds opted out of for licensing reasons before his late-career offensive onslaught – filed a motion for return of that property to the testing labs. The even greater irony is that in 2004, Judge Susan Illston twice ruled in favor of those MLBPA motions against the government investigation. Her decisions were overturned in 2006 by an appellate court but that didn’t stop her from being the judge who presided over Bonds’ perjury trial.   


Every baseball player who was called to testify in the BALCO case was linked to Anderson, and only because they had approached him about getting whatever it was that Bonds was taking.  In Jason Giambi's testimony, he plainly stated that Anderson specified everything that he gave him in 2003 was what Bonds had been using and that both had acknowledged that each product was a steroid.  


More incredibly is the fact that ‘the Clear’, one of the steroids that Bonds admitted to taking, can only be administered under the tongue and according to its inventor/designer, it tastes like, well, as awful as something could possibly taste. It strains credibility that someone would ingest something repeatedly for at least a year, as Bonds testified, that tasted so horrible if it didn’t give him any kind of positive outcome.


Unfortunately those written schedules were thrown out as evidence in the perjury trial by Judge Susan Illston because Greg Anderson refused to testify. As a result, Anderson was ruled in contempt of court and held in prison for nearly two years. She also threw out four positive drug tests for nandrolone and methenelone attributed to Bonds because Anderson had handled the samples and there was the possibility that he could have tampered with them. Nevermind the fact that at the time of the tests (in 2000 and 2001), Anderson’s only client was Bonds and had absolutely no motive to pollute the samples with substances that would curtail the career of his only income source.


One of the key witnesses in the trial was Arthur Ting, an orthopedic surgeon who has had his license to practice revoked and has been twice reprimanded by the California state medical authorities for prescribing controlled substances and falsifying the records of their use to patients. He had performed elbow and knee surgeries as well as other treatments for Bonds since 1998. Both of Ting’s sons had been kicked off the USC football team for allegedly using steroids. One of Bonds’ former business partners, Steve Hoskins, reportedly had met with Ting at least fifty times regarding Bonds and played a recording of a conversation with him in which Ting said that Bonds should stop using steroids. The recording was ruled inadmissible. Ting’s actual testimony in court was that he had spoken to Hoskins once and never about Bonds or steroids.


Hoskins also played a tape of a conversation he had with Greg Anderson in which Anderson discussed steroid shots he had given Bonds. However, Anderson’s attorney claimed he couldn’t identify his client’s voice in the recording and denied Anderson would ever say such things. Illston punctuated that by noting that the transcript of the conversation that the jury requested could not be used in evidence, only the recording could. Yes, that clears it up, thanks.


Before this trial I thought Clarence Thomas set the bar particularly low to becoming a federal judge with his profound lack of judicial acumen, but Illston certainly met the challenge.


For those who insist that Bonds has never tested positive for anything, they are conveniently forgetting that his was one of the names released in the Mitchell Report as having tested positive (for THG) in MLB’s first survey testing, and he tested positive for amphetamines in 2006 (the first year in which MLB began testing for them) which was later reported in January of 2007. Under the rules of that time, no suspensions were handed out for a first positive test for amphetamines. Incidentally, Bonds blamed his team mate Mark Sweeney, saying it was something he took from Sweeney’s locker.


So here it is in a nutshell, so that there is no confusion:


1)      Bonds admitted to using steroids under oath.

2)      He has tested positive for both steroids and amphetamines.

3)      He was the subject of a trial over whether he lied about knowing he was taking the drugs he tested positive for.

4)      The judge in the trial basically threw out all the evidence against him.

5)      Despite this, he still wasn’t found not guilty. He was found guilty of obstruction (later upheld on appeal, then appealed again where it was overturned). On the perjury counts it was declared a mistrial because the jurors were deadlocked, although on one count the vote was 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict.


For those that say Bonds was nothing more than the victim of a witch hunt regarding his PED use, I would reply that the witches didn’t do what they were accused of; Bonds did. Neither was Bonds a victim of institutionalized racism. He was the spokesman for a company that provided steroids to Olympic athletes (another fact that is not in dispute), and he openly challenged the media on numerous occasions. One doesn’t have to be a high-profiled athlete to understand that if you do that you will eventually attract unwanted attention; and if laws were broken, government involvement.  


Say what you will about the greatness of his performance and records. That will be the subject of many debates for years to come. What there should be no debate about is that Bonds used steroids and amphetamines. Here’s the greatest irony: Bonds tested positive for nandrolone and methenelone in 2000, and again in 2001, then tested positive for THG and clomid in 2003 and then again for amphetamines in 2006, making Bonds the record holder for most positive tests for PEDs in history. Major League Baseball has instituted a lifetime ban for any player who tests positive for PEDs three times. So what is it for seven?