Scandal takes a big swing

Sluggers Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield listed in report on steroid possession

HR king also tied to HGH use

Major League Baseball `very distressed'

Giant denies guilt, lawyer says

Steroids In Baseball

March 03, 2004|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - In this, baseball's steroid spring, it was only a matter of time before somebody started naming names.

Superstars Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield were among a group of professional athletes who allegedly received illegal steroids and human growth hormone from one of the figures indicted in the BALCO grand jury investigation, according to information given to federal investigators and obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Kansas City Royals catcher Benito Santiago, Chicago White Sox outfielder Marvin Benard and former major league infielder Randy Velarde also were identified by the Chronicle yesterday, along with ex-Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski, as customers of Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who was recently indicted along with another coach and two executives of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative on steroid distribution and tax evasion charges.

It was just another damaging aftershock in a steroid scandal that surfaced last fall, when big-name athletes from baseball, football, boxing and track and field were called to testify before the BALCO grand jury in San Francisco. Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield all got subpoenas, putting Major League Baseball at the center of another damaging controversy.

The sport has been mired in the steroid issue since former National League Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti and pumped-up superstar Jose Canseco went public in 2002 with the charge that steroid use was rampant in baseball. The resulting backlash prompted Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to agree on a steroid-testing plan during collective bargaining later that same year.

Baseball was rocked by a new supplement controversy last spring when Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler collapsed and died after taking three capsules of a weight-loss aid that contained the herbal stimulant ephedra. Baseball officials quickly banned the supplement throughout the minor leagues, but ephedra has yet to be placed on the list of substances covered by the major league drug abuse program.

The latest revelations are certain to amplify calls for a stronger crackdown on supplement abuse, but baseball's drug policy must be negotiated with the players union, which was reluctant to agree to the relatively modest testing program that was instituted in 2002.

"We are very distressed about any situation that calls into play the integrity of our players," said Major League Baseball chief operating officer Bob DuPuy.

DuPuy said at a news conference yesterday that Major League Baseball favors a zero-tolerance policy toward performance-enhancing drugs and supports federal legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. John E. Sweeney of New York that would ban the sale of some steroidlike supplements and toughen penalties for the sale of illegal supplements near sports facilities and gyms.

"I think baseball is trying to deal with this," said Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Jim Beattie, "but there certainly are limitations with the Basic Agreement [baseball's labor contract]. You have to work within those limitations."

The three marquee players named in the information obtained by the Chronicle have denied using illegal supplements, but Bonds and Giambi have been the subject of steroid rumors for years because of their dramatically enhanced physiques. Bonds has been the focus of heightened suspicion because of his association with Anderson, which dates to the 2001 season, during which he set a single-season record with 73 home runs.

Bonds declined to answer questions at the San Francisco Giants' spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. Sheffield, approached by reporters at the New York Yankees' training facility in Tampa responded ambiguously.

"Speculation doesn't bother me. It's as simple as that," Sheffield said. "I deal with it. You know I don't like dealing with issues. You know I don't like dealing with controversy. Nobody likes to do that."

Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, told the Chronicle his client still contends he did not accept any illegal supplements from his personal trainer, a claim that has been supported by Anderson's attorney, Tony Serra.

The Chronicle reported that Anderson also gave Bonds human growth hormone.

"We continue to adamantly deny that Barry was provided, furnished or supplied any of those substances at any time by Greg Anderson," Rains said.

If it is ever proved Bonds or other high-profile players used illegal performance-enhancing drugs to rewrite the home run section of baseball's record book, it would leave the sport with the sticky problem of dealing with a decade of tainted statistics.

"If they were knowingly, willingly taking steroids, I think they should take their records away," St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ray King said yesterday.

Canseco, who was one of the first major leaguers to play under a cloud of steroid suspicion, said the potential impact of steroid use on statistical achievement has been exaggerated.

"I don't think it's as big a deal as we're all making it out to be," Canseco said Monday. "Steroids don't give you hand-eye coordination. You are born with that. I think there's been too much emphasis placed on it."

Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who has 528 career home runs, said he doesn't worry his Cooperstown-caliber statistics will be sullied because they were achieved during an era of steroid suspicion.

"I don't think that's going to happen," he said. "I think this will pass. Once they get the steroid situation settled and get it behind us, it will be forgotten."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Naming names

Besides Giants slugger Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Chronicle reported six other athletes who allegedly recieved performance-enhancing drugs.

Jason Giambi

Yankees

first baseman

Gary Sheffield

Yankees

outfielder

Marvin Benard

White Sox

outfielder

Benito Santiago

Royals

catcher

Randy Velarde

Ex-Athletics

infielder

Bill Romanowski

Ex-Raiders

linebacker

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