I've been following the BALCO steroid scandal with great interest, because Barry Bonds has long been a favorite of my mind. In light of Jason Giambi's grand jury testimony, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday, it looked like the hammer might finally strike a direct blow to Barry's claims of not having knowingly taken steroids and other banned performance-enhancing substances. Reading today's story of the testimony that he gave the grand jury, however, I'm not so sure. If this is an accurate representation of what he said, Bonds may yet sidestep the ignominy of being caught in an outright lie. For one thing, his responses seem remarkably laid back. For another, they can be downright funny:
Bonds said he began using the cream and the clear substance at a time when he was aching with arthritis and was distraught over the terminal illness of his father, former Giants All-Star Bobby Bonds, who died Aug. 23, 2003.
"I have bad arthritis, I've played 18 years, bad knees, surgeries and so on," Bonds testified, adding that he wanted a product that would "take the arthritis pain away that I feel in the mornings when it's super cold ...
"I was battling with the problems with my father and the -- just the lack of sleep, lack of everything."
But Bonds said he got little help from Anderson's products.
"And I was like, to me, it didn't even work," he told the grand jury. "You know me, I'm 39 years old. I'm dealing with pain. All I want is the pain relief, you know? And you know, to recover, you know, night games to day games. That's it.
"And I didn't think the stuff worked. I was like, 'Dude, whatever,' but he's my friend."
Eventually, Bonds said he stopped using the products, telling the grand jury, "If it's a steroid, it's not working." Bonds insisted he never paid Anderson for drugs or supplements, but acknowledged paying him $15,000 in 2003 for weight training.
"I paid him in cash," Bonds said. "I make $17 million."
In answers that sometimes rambled, Bonds sought to vouch for his trainer as a good and honest person who would never traffic in illegal drugs.
"Greg is a good guy, you know this kid is a great kid. He has a child," Bonds said. At another point, he told the grand jury:
"Greg has nothing, man. ... Guy lives in his car half the time, he lives with his girlfriend, rents a room so he can be with his kid, you know?
"... This is the same guy that goes over to our friend's mom's house and massages her leg because she has cancer and she swells up every night for months. Spends time next to my dad, rubbing his feet every night."
Bonds told the grand jurors that he gave Anderson a $20,000 bonus and bought him a ring after the 73-home run season. He also bought the trainer a ring to commemorate the Giants' 2002 World Series appearance. When a juror asked why the wealthy ballplayer didn't buy "a mansion" for his trainer to live in, Bonds answered:
"One, I'm black, and I'm keeping my money. And there's not too many rich black people in this world. There's more wealthy Asian people and Caucasian and white. And I ain't giving my money up."
"Dude, whatever: I'm black and I'm keeping my money." At this point they should give Barry an award for rhetorical savvy to go along with his seven MVPs.