In May 2003, before a game against the old Montreal Expos, an acquaintance approached Barry Bonds' weight trainer in the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse and struck up a conversation.
In the nine minutes that followed, trainer Greg Anderson described the undetectable steroids he said he was providing to the Giants' slugger to help Bonds elude Major League Baseball’s drug tests.
“The whole thing is, everything that I’ve been doing at this point, it’s all undetectable,” Anderson said.
“See, the stuff I have, we created it, and you can’t buy it anywhere else, can’t get it anywhere else, but you can take it the day of (a drug test), pee and it comes up perfect.”
At another point, Anderson said of the drugs: “It’s the same stuff that they went to the Olympics with, and they test (Olympic athletes) every f---ing week at the Olympics, so that’s why I know it works, so that’s why I’m not even tripping.”
Anderson, it turned out, was describing the BALCO designer steroids called “The Cream” and “the Clear”: drugs that track superstar Marion Jones had used to beat the Olympic Movement’s state-of-the-art drug testing protocol, according to court records.
Unbeknownst to Anderson, his acquaintance was secretly recording their conversation. Mark Fainaru-Wada and I first reported on the secret recording for the San Francisco Chronicle, and later in our book, "Game of Shadows."
Since then federal prosecutors have gotten their hands on the recording, and they want to play it for the jury at Bonds’ March 21 trial on perjury charges. It’s compelling evidence that Bonds was knowingly using banned drugs during the years when he broke baseball’s home run record, prosecutors say.
But in a recent plea, Bonds’ defense team asked Judge Susan Illston to put the recording off limits. Bonds essentially admitted using banned BALCO steroids in the 2003 grand jury testimony that is at issue in his case, the defense says.
The question for the jury will be whether Bonds was unaware that the substances were steroids, as he claims, or whether he knew they were steroids and lied about using them, the defense lawyers say. The recording of Anderson is “irrelevant” to the question and shouldn’t be put in evidence, they argue. The judge will have a hearing on the issue Feb. 11.
Whatever its legal status, the recording gives an unvarnished view of big-league steroid dealing. Anderson, who pleaded guilty to steroid dealing in the BALCO scandal, described his own expertise with the drugs – and the infections and other problems that can afflict inexperienced users.
"People don't know what the f--- they're doing," he said, "That's the problem. No, I've seen all kinds of ugly s---. It's just unbelievable."
Sometimes, he said, novice users mishandle their injections. "What happens is they put too much in one area and, what it does, it will actually ball up and puddle,” Anderson said. “And what happens is it actually will eat away and make an indentation and it's a cyst ... and you have to drain it. Oh yeah, it's gnarly."
Anderson also professed confidence that Bonds would beat baseball’s drug testing program, then in its first year.
He was sure the drugs were undetectable, he said. In addition, Anderson said he had a mole who would tip him off before Bonds was asked to give a urine sample for the tests.
"Do we know when they're gonna do it? Oh, I have an idea. See, the lab that does this stuff is the lab that does . . ." Anderson said, his voice trailing off. "I'll know like probably a week in advance or two weeks in advance before they're going to do it.”
In the final portion of the recording, Anderson discussed Bonds' slow start in the 2003 season.
"What his problem is, he thinks the magic's gone and he doesn't have it anymore," Anderson said.
Another issue: Bonds had "been way too nice" to sportswriters and fans, Anderson said
"Be an ---hole again,” Anderson said he had advised Bonds. “Every time he's an ---hole, it f---ing works. He f---ing plays good because he's just being himself."
After that slow start, Bonds went on to hit .341 with 45 home runs, leading the Giants to the National League West Division title.
In court records, the government has said that Bonds’ former business manager, Steve Hoskins, made the recording. Hoskins planned to play it for Bobby Bonds, the former Giants All-Star and Barry Bonds’ father, the government has said: Hoskins was trying to dissuade Barry Bonds from using banned drugs, and hoped Bonds’ father would intervene.
If the recording is allowed in evidence, it will likely be the only time Bonds’ jury hears Anderson’s voice. The trainer has been subpoenaed as a government witness, but has said he will refused to testify against Bonds, his best client and longtime friend.
Anderson already has served more than a year in prison for contempt of court because he refused to testify before a grand jury that was investigating Bonds.