The San Francisco Chronicle has been doing the best reporting in the country on the ongoing BALCO case, and this morning, they come up with a very carefully worded bombshell: Authorities Were Told that Bonds Got Steroids.

San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, New York Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield and three other major-league baseball players received steroids from a Burlingame nutritional supplement lab, federal investigators were told.

The baseball stars allegedly got the illegal performance-enhancing drugs from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative through Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal weight trainer and longtime friend, according to information furnished the government and shared with The Chronicle.

In addition to Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield, the other baseball players said to have received steroids from BALCO via Anderson were two former Giants, outfielder Marvin Benard and catcher Benito Santiago, and a former A's second baseman, Randy Velarde.

It's surprising to me that it's taken this long for this sort of leak from the federal investigation into steroid use--I would have imagined this sort of story appearing months ago. You know the Chron waited until they felt like they had it nailed, and you'll notice that they aren't actually reporting that Bonds et al. used steroids. They're reporting that investigators were told that they received steroids, which isn't the same thing at all.

Later in the story, we get some details of how and what federal agents where told:

Internal Revenue Service investigator Jeff Novitzky wrote that while agents were searching Anderson's home on Sept. 3, the trainer allegedly told them the names of the ballplayers to whom he had provided illegal performance- enhancing substances.

"Anderson admitted that he had given steroids to several professional baseball players whose names I was familiar with from my review of other documents in this case," Novitzky wrote. Another IRS investigator, Brian Watson, wrote that Conte, the BALCO president, had made a "confession" to illegal steroid dealing to elite athletes. That also came on Sept. 3, after agents had raided BALCO and Conte's San Mateo home.

I'm guessing that the Chronicle has these documents in hand, and has at least two investigators confirming the names that they've run with--that's the minimum I'd want to run this story.

All along, federal investigators have insisted that this case isn't about trying to get athletes, but those who deal in steroids. But there's no way that this case is going to move forward without some serious impact on athletes. They might have been granted immunity for their grand jury testimony, but that's not going to help them with their sport, or in the court of public opinion.

I still think that sometime soon, we'll see one of these players come forward and say that they might have taken steroids, but that they didn't know what they were being given by Conte and the other BALCO defendants. Admittedly, that stance is getting harder and harder to imagine, especially as Bonds, Giambi, and Sheffield have all vehemently denied using steroids. It should be a hell of a day in Tampa and Scottsdale, that's for sure.

AuthorMark McClusky