Investigations

Barry Bonds' Upcoming Trial May Have Eyewitness Accounts of Baseball’s Steroid Subculture

Bonds' legal team is trying to ban the other players from testifying.

Baseball’s home run king wants to head off that reunion of the "BALCO All-Stars" scheduled for the end of spring training, 2011.

On March 22, former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is set to go to trial on perjury charges in U.S. District Court. He’s accused of lying to a federal grand jury about his use of an array of banned drugs from the BALCO steroids mill.

The drugs helped him win the most storied record in American sports, the career home run title, according to the accusations.

In terms of the status of the player on trial and the case’s implication for his sport, it could be the biggest trial in baseball since eight members of the Chicago White Sox were prosecuted for throwing the 1919 World Series.

The Bonds trial also holds out the prospect that the jury – and thus, the public – will get eyewitness accounts of life in baseball’s steroid subculture from six former major drug users.

The players – they include former American League Most Valuable Player Jason Giambi and onetime National League Rookie of the Year Benito Santiago – all say they got BALCO drugs from Greg Anderson, Bonds’ weight trainer. They’re easily the most recognizable names on the government’s witness list – guaranteed courtroom drama.

But in a flurry of pre-Christmas filings, Bonds’ legal team asked U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to take another weed whacker to the government’s evidence in the case – and this time around, to ban all the other athletes from testifying.

In 2009, at Bonds' urging, the judge barred the government from using the results of some private steroid tests that seemed to prove, once and for all, that Bonds was a juicer.

But the tested blood and urine was delivered to BALCO not by Bonds, but by the trainer, Anderson, whom Bonds once called "my best friend." And unless Anderson testifies that he got the bodily fluids from Bonds, the evidence is off-limits, the judge ruled. Anderson, of course, spent more than a year in federal prison for contempt of court because he refused to testify about Bonds and drugs before a federal grand jury. He’s said he will go back to jail rather than testify at Bonds’ trial, court records show.

In their Dec. 17 pleadings, Bonds’ legal team argued that the other athletes shouldn’t be allowed to testify because their link to the case is through the trainer. The judge’s ruling barring the steroid tests, which was upheld by an appellate court, makes their testimony irrelevant, the defense says.

The government hasn’t yet filed a response. Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of the what the players would say.

Jason Giambi

The former Oakland A’s and New York Yankees first baseman met Bonds and Anderson on a barnstorming trip to Japan in 2001. He told the grand jury investigating BALCO that Anderson set him up with BALCO drugs and human growth hormone. A highlight of his grand jury testimony: At one point, Giambi hiked up his shirt and showed the panel how to inject growth hormone into belly fat. The only one of the six still in baseball, Giambi played last season with the Colorado Rockies.

Jeremy Giambi

Jason’s brother, a slow-footed outfielder for the A’s and Boston Red Sox, told the grand jury he too got banned drugs from Anderson, including the BALCO undetectable steroids, “the cream” and “the clear.” Anderson shipped drugs to his home in Arizona, and Jeremy Giambi said he felt confident the substances were safe to use: “I didn’t think the guy would send me something that was, you know, Drano or something,” he testified.

Benito Santiago

As Mark Fainaru-Wada and I wrote in our book Game of Shadows, the former Giants catcher initially balked at giving a urine sample for Major League Baseball’s steroid-testing program in 2003. But later, he relented, telling Giants personnel, “It’s OK – I’m taking the same s*** as Barry.”

Armando Rios

After he was traded from the Giants to Pittsburgh in 2001, the outfielder said Anderson sent him growth hormone and injectable testosterone. “One you use in your stomach, and one you use in your butt,” he told the grand jury.

Marvin Benard and Randy Velarde

The former Giants outfielder and the former A's infielder separately told federal agents that they got undetectable BALCO steroids from Anderson.

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