Analysis: Bonds tries to eliminate stigma

By RON COLBERT  |  Dec. 7, 2003 at 2:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Despite his insistence that he has not used steroids, a lot of people in baseball still are holding their collective breaths about Barry Bonds.

The grand jury before whom he appeared is investigating a ring suspected of steroid distribution which may or may not be involve his personal weight trainer, Greg Anderson, and Victor Conte, his nutritionist and founder of the supplements company BALCO.

Bonds appeared before a grand jury this week. Grand jury testimony always is sealed, so the public likely will never know what he said, but Bonds, the most feared slugger in the game, has always contended that he does not use steroids or any other performance enhancer.

Dennis Gilbert, his agent until 1999, told reporters this week that Bonds' work ethic was responsible.

"Barry worked out anywhere from three to six hours a day in the off-season,'' Gilbert said. "He's a machine. You should see the workout room he built. It's incredible. I certainly never saw him take anything."

Federal agents raided both BALCO and Anderson's residence in September as part of a probe into the use of THG, a designer steroid which tests have shown has been used by a handful of prominent athletes in football and track and field.

The Bonds situation has drawn the wary eyes of major league officials because the results of recent steroid tests indicated that at least 5 percent of baseball players tested positive for illegal steroid use. Many skeptics have contended that the number is far higher and former player Ken Caminiti has said the percentage could be 50.

It is not known whether THG was discovered in those tests, and baseball's testing policy still is considered the weakest in sports, but prominent baseball executives are hoping that Bonds was truthful about his alleged steroid usage.

"I visit BALCO every three to six months," he told Muscle and Fitness magazine earlier this year. "They check my blood to make sure my levels are where they should be. Maybe I need to eat more broccoli than I normally do. Maybe my zinc and magnesium intakes need to increase."

As a rookie in 1986, Bonds, an admitted BALCO customer, was listed at 185 pounds. He was listed at 228 pounds in the team's media guide and his cut physique is imposing. In 2001, Bonds hit a record setting 73 home runs, and that year allegations that he was using steroids had long since passed the whispers stage. Before that year, he had never hit more than 50.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that sources familiar with aspects of the case say Conte and Anderson are suspected of having supplied elite athletes with illegal performance-enhancing drugs intended to make them bigger, stronger and faster.

Bonds, who has credited BALCO with his development, is one of a number of marquee athletes that have been subpoenaed to testify. Others include Marion Jones (track and field), Bill Romanowski, Dana Stubblefield, Barret Robbins, and Tyrone Wheatley (football), and Jason Giambi (baseball).

For now, Bonds is done with his testimony and there is no indication that he will be recalled, but in terms of his alleged steroid use he may have been given an "alibi" by David Cornwell, the lawyer of former teammate Benito Santiago.

"My only concern is that there seems to be almost an undercurrent that stigmatizes these guys, which I think is inappropriate."

No matter what, his appearance before the grand jury may make the stigma for Bonds last long after this episode concludes.

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