Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Case Against Barry Bonds

I just finished reading the book Game of Shadows and I thought the best way to take a look at this book would be to evaluate the case the authors, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, make that Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids, which will likely be at the heart of any perjury charges Bonds faces. Here is the evidence that they lay out against Bonds:
  • Drug calendars seized during the raids at BALCO and Greg Anderson's home which show what days Bonds was to take the steroids like the Clear, human growth hormone, EPO, etc.
  • Records seized at Greg Anderson's home reflecting payments for drugs for Bonds.
  • A secret recording of Greg Anderson in which Anderson acknowledged that Bonds was using an undetectable steroid in 2003 to beat baseball's drug tests.
  • The grand jury testimony of Kimberly Bell, Bonds' former girlfriend. She testified that Bonds confided to her that he was using steroids. She also testified that she saw signs of Bonds' steroid use such as acne on his back, violent mood swings (including leaving threatening messages on her answering machine), and his testicles shrinking.
  • The statement of BALCO vice president Jim Valente, who told IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky on the date of the BALCO raid that Bonds has received steroids from him after Anderson asked for steroids that would not show up on drug tests.
  • The statement of Victor Conte on the date of the BALCO raid to Novitzky, who gave an account similar to Valente. However, it should be noted that Conte later changed his story and claimed that Novitzky fabricated some of his statements.
Now will this evidence alone be enough to convict Barry Bonds of perjury? Probably not because there's problems with all of this evidence. Outside of the grand jury testimony of Kimberly Bell, the evidence I've listed above does not show that Bonds knowingly took steroids. It only shows that Anderson, Conte and Valente knew that they were providing Bonds with steroids. And the prosecution is going to need a whole lot more than Kimberly Bell to convict Bonds of perjury. Bell has the huge credibility problem of being the jilted ex-lover and a good defense attorney will paint her as someone who is trying to get back at Bonds.

I see two ways the prosecution can strengthen their case and get around the problems listed above. One, find additional witnesses who Bonds told that he was using steroids, and in the book it sounds like those witnesses are out there. Citing an anonymous source, Fainaru-Wada and Williams claim that Bonds sought third party medical advice on steroids like Winstrol and then ignored that medical advice when doctors told him that steroids like Winstrol will reek havoc on his body. They also cite an anonymous source who claims that after Gary Sheffield stopped working out with Bonds, but still wanted steroids like the Cream and the Clear, Bonds called BALCO and offered Conte $100,000 if he would refuse to give Sheffield any more of "the shit". As to the credibility of these anonymous source(s), who the hell knows. But finding witnesses who can corroborate Bell will significantly strengthen the prosecution's case. Another way the prosecution can strengthen their case is to present testimony on Bonds' controlling nature which would cast significant doubt on Bonds' defense that he just took whatever substance Anderson or Conte or Valente gave him. There are a number of incidents described in Game of Shadows that show Bonds' controlling nature. For example, before a game in 2001, Bonds was napping and his stretching coach, Harvey Shields, was standing around with nothing to do. Shields saw Willie Mays in the clubhouse and began showing him some stretches. Bonds woke up and when he couldn't find Shields right away, Bonds went off, telling Shields, "What the fuck are you doing?"

Now as I say all this, it would not surprise me in the least that the smart people in the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco have already thought of this and have presented such witnesses in their grand jury investigation. And if they have, Bonds is in a whole lot of trouble.