Bonds' Record Shadowed by Steroid Allegations San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds marched into the baseball record books this week, with allegations of steroid use following close behind. Those allegations began with reporting from journalist Lance Williams.
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Bonds' Record Shadowed by Steroid Allegations

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Bonds' Record Shadowed by Steroid Allegations

Bonds' Record Shadowed by Steroid Allegations

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From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Cheryl Corley, in for Farai Chideya.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Announcer: Bonds 632 again. He's just (unintelligible) fly ball right center field. Back it goes. Racing back. While they're jumping up on that ball, he is gone. Number 756.

CORLEY: When Barry Bonds broke one of the most sacred records in all of sports Tuesday night, one of the most anticipated moments had finally come to a close. Bonds had broken Hank Aaron's 33-year homerun reign.

The fanfare may be over, but the controversy over Bonds' possible use of steroids is not. It is a saga that has deep implications for both Bonds and baseball, especially that steroid use has become more of a rule than the exception.

Our sports guru Bill Rhoden will join us. But first, Lance Williams is the co-author of "Game of Shadows." That book introduced the first compelling evidence that Bonds may have used steroids. And it's publication sent the game into an immediate tailspin. And Lance joins us now. Hi, Lance.

Mr. LANCE WILLIAMS (Co-author, "Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports"): How are you?

CORLEY: I am fine. Well, why don't you paint a picture for us, based on all of your research, how widespread is steroid use in baseball? How far back does it really go?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, Jose Canseco claims to be the Typhoid Mary of baseball steroids. And he dated the era from the mid '80s.

Ken Caminiti, a former MVP of the National League, in 2002, thought that half of the players were on steroids. The first time baseball tested, the equivalent of an entire full team tested pos, even though the test was noticed and weighed in advance. So the use of the drug is extensive. Baseball is trying to lasso it and has made some strides in terms of toughening policies. But you can't test for growth hormone, and that's the other issue for the game.

CORLEY: Well, unless I'm mistaken - when much of this using was going on, it may have been unethical - but it wasn't necessarily a violation of Major League Baseball rules. You talked about the league having a policy now. What is that?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, they test more than once. And if you're caught, you get suspended. I think it's a 50-game suspension the first time. So it's much better than what they had. Well, they had nothing until 2003. In 2003, the initial testing had no penalties and was anonymous. So it's a different model.

You know, it is true, baseball didn't outlaw steroids, but it's been a violation of state and federal laws for decades to possess or use the drugs without a doctor's prescription.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Well, Bonds - Barry Bonds specifically has never tested positive for steroids. Given that, why has he had been convicted in the court of public opinion? You've written about him a lot.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, Barry was hooked up with the BALCO drug lab. The whole point of BALCO was undetectable steroids and - so you wouldn't expect a positive test when you're using drugs. As his own trainer said on a tape recording we have possession of - something that we know that we can't get caught using because they use it in the Olympics and they are tested all the time, and they never get caught.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. The former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, of course, was hired by the baseball commissioner to investigate steroids in baseball. That was back in March of 2006. What's happened to that report?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, we're 17 months and counting. If I can do my calendar math right, he had trouble early on because the players won't talk to him, and the BALCO case witnesses were put off limits by the federal prosecutors. More recently, we've heard he's making some progress, and he's trying to create a serious report that addresses not only Bonds - which was the sort of the flash point for commissioning a report to begin with - but the whole era of drug use in the game.

CORLEY: So what do you really expect to be in that report?

Mr. WILLIAMS: If it's a good report it will reflect Bonds' drug use and the drug use of other stars - Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, you know? Also, I think, reflect how the game tolerated it, and put up with it, and excused it for years and years.

CORLEY: Are you surprised, Lance, that Barry Bonds' 756th homer was so well received by fans outside of San Francisco and just around the country?

Mr. WILLIAMS: I thought the reception was mixed in the rest of the country compared to San Francisco. San Francisco, of course, he was celebrated. We heard reports that when it was announced in another ballpark, there was booing and so forth. You know, baseball fans are conflicted about the drugs and the game. And unless you're a Giants fan, you're probably less likely to be celebrating this event.

CORLEY: If you could just briefly tell us, I was wondering how much pressure or resistance you came under after your book, "Game of Shadows," hit the newsstands.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, we were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury and sentenced to 18 months in the federal prison when we declined, ultimately managed to get those subpoenas withdrawn and the sentence expunged, but that was pressure.

The government has been diffident in terms of going after the elite athletes who were at the, sort of, center of the BALCO scandal. But they were pretty aggressive going after us. They wanted to know how we obtained sealed grand jury material or a recording.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. All right. Well, Lance Williams, of course, co-wrote the books that blew the lid on steroids. It's called "Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroid Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports." Thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. WILLIAMS: It was my pleasure.

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