Barry Bonds is a contact hitter who seems on his way to eclipsing Hank Aaron's career home-run record of 755. But it is Bonds' confirmed contact with illegal steroids that sent runners into motion last week to confront the biggest drug scandal in baseball history. Suddenly the most open secret in the sport was out, and it implicated baseball's biggest star and the titanic records he had accumulated. "I will leave no stone unturned in accomplishing our goal of zero tolerance by the start of spring training," vowed Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig in New York City. But that won't be soon enough for Senator John McCain, who upped the outrage meter by vowing that if players and owners can't agree on a stricter testing standard, he will seek to impose one legislatively in January.
How did Bonds get ensnared? The San Francisco Chronicle last week published secret grand jury testimony in which the Giants' star outfielder admitted he had used two substances that federal prosecutors have identified as steroids--called "the clear" and "the cream"--supplied by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, in 2003. But Bonds denied knowing they were performance-enhancing drugs. He said he eventually stopped using the cream, which he took to relieve arthritis pain, and the clear, which he took for fatigue, because they weren't doing anything for him.
That was not the case with New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, whose vivid description to the same jury of the outlaw apothecary available to athletes also made its way into the Chronicle. Unlike Bonds, Giambi said he knew what he was taking and told of injecting the steroid Deca Durabolin in 2001. Giambi said Anderson had provided him with the clear, or THG (tetrahydrogestrinone), a then undetectable synthetic steroid that's absorbed with a few drops under the tongue. Anderson also gave him the cream, a mixture of testosterone and epitestosterone that's rubbed into the skin. Giambi also described injecting human growth hormone (HGH) into the fat in his stomach. Steroids and HGH are used to promote muscle mass, increase strength and shorten recovery time.
The ballplayers' testimony was part of a case being built against Anderson and Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), who have been charged with supplying the illegal drugs to athletes and with money laundering. Both have pleaded not guilty. Dozens of élite athletes have been paraded before the grand jury to discuss BALCO's steroid program, which included detailed schedules for taking the banned substances, plus blood and urine tests to help avoid detection.
Bonds said he had never asked Anderson, a longtime friend, what was in the potions Anderson had given him: "When he said it was flaxseed oil, I just said, 'Whatever,'" the Chronicle reported. "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." Yet it is also uncharacteristic behavior for Bonds, a meticulous man known to be a perfectionist about training and diet.