Federal Scrutiny of Baseball's Barry Bonds Continues

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Barry Bonds committed perjury when he testified in 2003 that he never used steroids. The San Francisco Giants' head athletic trainer, Stan Conte, has been subpoenaed to testify. Steve Inskeep speaks with San Francisco Chronicle Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal about his paper's latest story on the case.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We're learning a little more this morning about a grand jury investigating Barry Bonds. He is the San Francisco Giants baseball star who has been denying any accusations of steroid use. And today we've learned that the federal grand jury subpoenaed the head athletic trainer for the San Francisco Giants.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports today that Stan Conte is scheduled to appear before that grand jury later this month. The grand jury is trying to determine whether Bonds committed perjury in previous testimony. To learn more about this case, we have called the managing editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, Robert J. Rosenthal. Good morning.

Mr. ROBERT J. ROSENTHAL (Managing Editor, San Francisco Chronicle): Good morning.

INSKEEP: Let's explain first off who Stan Conte is.

Mr. ROSENTHAL: Stan Conte is the Giants head athletic trainer. He has been with the Giants 15 seasons, and he basically deals with all the aches and pains of the Giants.

INSKEEP: And there's no accusation here that he, himself, would have provided steroids to Bonds, right?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: That's correct.

INSKEEP: But what is known about him?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: Well, as the trainer of the Giants, I guess federal authorities are concerned about what he might know about whether Barry Bonds ever used steroids. We found out he has been subpoenaed. This means that this investigation is going, for the first time, into club officials. And again, you're absolutely correct, it does not mean that he has had any involvement with this in terms of distribution or anything like that, but the federal authorities must want to know what he knows.

INSKEEP: Your story in today's San Francisco Chronicle quotes a source who says that Conte knew about or knew something about Bonds' alleged steroid use years before the public did.

Mr. ROSENTHAL: I just want to make clear this is Stan Conte, not Victor Conte, who was the owner and the head of the Balco Laboratory, which is at the heart of this scandal. But you're correct; our story says that as early as 2000, Stan Conte was concerned about some of the people--the personal trainer around Barry Bonds, and suggested to Giant officials that one of these people be banned from the clubhouse.

INSKEEP: And did the Giants do anything?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: According to our story, they did not.

INSKEEP: Now, you mentioned Balco, of course; that is the firm that is alleged to have distributed these steroids and other substances to players. Now, we mentioned a perjury investigation involving Barry Bonds. What would the statements be that Barry Bonds made under oath that someone would now be questioning?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: Well, Barry Bonds testified, according to the earlier reports in the Chronicle, that he took some nutritional enhancements, that he did not know they were steroids, and he was given these nutritional enhancements by his trainer who received them from Balco Laboratories, according to the testimony.

INSKEEP: Is there any documentation suggesting that he did know, suggesting in an affirmative way that whatever happened, he knew what was happening?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: There are other people who, as we have reported, have said that he knew what he was doing--concluding someone who has testified before the grand jury, a former girlfriend. And there were other players who have acknowledged to the grand jury, at least one, that he was a steroid user; that was Jason Giambi, New York Yankees. And he said that he was introduced to his source through who was the personal trainer of Barry Bonds.

INSKEEP: Mr. Rosenthal, are you a baseball fan?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: Yes.

INSKEEP: How are people in San Francisco taking this news as it unfolds at the same time as the baseball season begins?

Mr. ROSENTHAL: It's mixed. I think if you're a Giants fan, it's a very difficult time. There are people here who have admired and watched Barry Bonds as a ballplayer for more than a decade. On the road, obviously, he is being booed, but here in San Francisco on opening day, for example, he got a long standing ovation.

INSKEEP: Robert J. Rosenthal is managing editor and vice president of the San Francisco Chronicle. And we want to mention that you can read their entire story in today's paper at sfgate.com. Thanks very much.

Mr. ROSENTHAL: Thank you.

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