San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, New York Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield and three other major league baseball players received steroids from a Burlingame nutritional supplement lab, federal investigators were told.
The baseball stars allegedly got the illegal performance-enhancing drugs from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative through Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal weight trainer and longtime friend, according to information furnished the government and shared with The Chronicle.
In addition to Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield, the other baseball players said to have received steroids from BALCO via Anderson were two former Giants, outfielder Marvin Benard and catcher Benito Santiago, and a former A's second baseman, Randy Velarde. Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski also was said to have received performance-enhancing drugs.
Anderson allegedly obtained a so-called designer steroid known as "the clear" and a testosterone-based steroid known as "the cream" from BALCO and supplied the substances to all six players, the government was told. In addition, Bonds was said to have received human growth hormone, a powerful substance that legally cannot be distributed without a prescription, investigators were told.
Agents obtained the information about the baseball players and illegal drugs last September during a probe that resulted in the indictment of Anderson, BALCO owner Victor Conte and two other Bay Area men on steroid conspiracy charges.
The information shared with The Chronicle did not explicitly state that the athletes had used the drugs they were said to have obtained. Bonds, who is baseball's single-season home-run king, and Giambi, who won the American League Most Valuable Player award when he was with the Oakland Athletics, have publicly denied using steroids. So has Sheffield. All three declined to discuss the matter Monday.
Last week, lawyers for Anderson and Conte quoted their clients as saying Bonds had never used illegal drugs.
The information about Bonds provided to The Chronicle was corroborated by a source familiar with Anderson. The source told The Chronicle that the weight trainer obtained steroids and human growth hormone for Bonds dating back to the 2001 season. That was the year the Giants outfielder broke baseball's storied single-season record for home runs -- hitting 73.
"We continue to adamantly deny that Barry was provided, furnished or supplied any of those substances at any time by Greg Anderson," Michael Rains, an attorney for Bonds, said Monday. He also questioned the credibility of the source familiar with the trainer.
Other attorneys interviewed Monday answered in the same vein.
Sheffield's attorney Paula Canny said, "Gary Sheffield has never knowingly ingested a steroid ... and Gary Sheffield has never knowingly applied an anabolic steroid cream to his body."
Santiago's attorney, David Cornwell, declined specific comment but said: "Based on my involvement in this matter, I know that many of the athletes involved did not know they were being given a banned substance."
Anna Ling, a lawyer for Anderson, said the trainer had "never knowingly given any illegal substance to anybody."
Velarde did not respond to requests for comment. Benard could not be reached.
Investigators also were told that pro football linebacker Romanowski of the Oakland Raiders had allegedly obtained both steroids and human growth hormone from BALCO. Romanowski was one of the early big-name boosters of Conte and his legal supplements, and the linebacker helped draw other elite athletes to BALCO. In 1999, Colorado court records show that Romanowski's wife, Julie, told investigators that the linebacker had obtained human growth hormone from BALCO. A lawyer for Romanowski didn't return a reporter's phone call.
Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield, Santiago and Romanowksi were among more than 30 of the world's greatest athletes -- stars of baseball, football, boxing and track and field -- who testified last year before the San Francisco federal grand jury that investigated BALCO and handed up the steroid conspiracy indictments.
The names of Benard and Velarde have never before surfaced in connection with the steroid investigation, which has roiled the upcoming 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and, increasingly, the world of American professional sports as well.
The probe began making worldwide headlines last October, after the head of the agency that administers drug tests to U.S. Olympians alleged that Conte and BALCO were at the center of an international sports doping scandal.
The scandal attracted the attention of President Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, who in his State of the Union address in January denounced steroid abuse in baseball and football. Then, on Feb. 12, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft convened a nationally televised press conference in Washington, D.C., to announce the 42-count indictment against Anderson, Conte, famed track coach Remi Korchemny and BALCO vice president James Valente.
The men are charged with conspiring to distribute performance-enhancing drugs, including human growth hormone and a newly created steroid called THG that allegedly had been designed to help elite athletes pass doping tests.
All four men have pleaded not guilty.
Ashcroft vowed to crack down on steroid abuse, saying it threatens the integrity of sports and "fosters a destructive culture contrary to the values that make sports such an important part of American life."
But even as it promised to get tough on steroids, the government took unusual steps to turn the focus away from the elite athletes suspected of using the illegal substances that BALCO allegedly supplied. Early on, the government said it was not interested in prosecuting athletes for using steroids, instead granting them immunity when they were called to testify before the grand jury.
The government also has deleted from public court files the names of every athlete who allegedly obtained illegal performance-enhancing drugs from BALCO.
Court records show that agents of the Internal Revenue Service and Food and Drug Administration had been investigating BALCO and Conte for 18 months when they served search warrants on the lab and on Anderson's Burlingame condominium Sept. 3. That was when agents were told the names of athletes said to have been provided the illegal drugs.
In affidavits that don't name the athletes, investigators allege that Anderson was the link between the baseball players and their source of illegal steroids at BALCO. The indictment alleges that on two occasions, once in Nov. 2001 and another time in Nov. 2002, Anderson distributed human growth hormone to a "professional baseball player."
Agents claim that Anderson, Conte and Valente admitted their roles in providing steroids to baseball players -- and in some cases named names.
Internal Revenue Service investigator Jeff Novitzky wrote that while agents were searching Anderson's home on Sept. 3, the trainer allegedly told them the names of the ballplayers to whom he had provided illegal performance-enhancing substances.
"Anderson admitted that he had given steroids to several professional baseball players whose names I was familiar with from my review of other documents in this case," Novitzky wrote. Another IRS investigator, Brian Watson, wrote that Conte, the BALCO president, had made a "confession" to illegal steroid dealing to elite athletes. That also came on Sept. 3, after agents had raided BALCO and Conte's San Mateo home.
Conte, the agent wrote, gave a "complete statement regarding his involvedment in knowingly, illegally, distributing steroids to numerous professional athletes." Conte said he knew it was illegal and assumed Anderson knew that, too, when allegedly receiving the steroids for professional baseball players, the affidavit says.
Later, Conte is quoted as saying that in early 2003, he had given a "clear" steroid-like substance to Anderson to give to a professional baseball player. The agent acknowledges he was not sure whether the substance qualified as a banned substance under federal law.
J. Tony Serra, Anderson's lawyer, said last week that the affidavit referred to a "100 percent legal" substance the weight trainer had offered to Bonds. Bonds declined it, Serra said. Conte's lawyer, Robert Holley, couldn't be reached for comment. Last week, he told reporters that Conte knew of "no illegal activity that has ever been done by Barry Bonds."
Anderson, 37, is a beefy former collegiate second baseman who has been Bonds' friend since their boyhood days in the San Carlos Little League, according to people who know the men. In 1998, the Giants star hired Anderson as his weight trainer, and Anderson has been a presence in the Giants' clubhouse since the team moved to Pacific Bell Park in 2000.
Anderson often conducted workouts for Bonds and other training clients at the former World Gym near San Francisco International Airport, a few blocks from BALCO. Conte and Anderson met through the gym. Later, the trainer introduced Conte to Bonds. Through Bonds, Anderson met several of the other baseball players said to have obtained illegal substances from the trainer, according a source who knows the men.
Bonds befriended Giambi after the 2000 season, when Giambi, then the first baseman for the Athletics, had won the American League Most Valuable Player award, the source said.
After the 2002 season, Bonds and Giambi were part of a team of big leaguers who traveled to Japan on a baseball barnstorming tour. Bonds brought Anderson along on the trip and the trainer got to know Giambi at that time.
Bonds also had been friendly with Sheffield since the outfielder's days with the Florida Marlins in the 1990s. After the 2001 season, Sheffield, then with the Atlanta Braves, moved to the Bay Area for several weeks so that he could work out with Bonds. A source said Anderson supervised some of the workouts.
Anderson became acquainted with Benard and Santiago during the trainer's visits to the Giants clubhouse, the source said.
Benard left the Giants after the 2003 season and signed a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox organization. Santiago also left the Giants after 2003, signing with the Kansas City Royals. Velarde retired from baseball in 2002.
During spring training on Monday, Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield declined to discuss BALCO and steroids.
"You're asking me about something we don't want to discuss," Bonds said at the Giants camp in Arizona. "...I'm tired of all these games."
At the Yankees camp in Florida, Giambi and Sheffield also declined comment.
Giambi referred to a conversation with reporters last week in which he denied using steroids. "I addressed it,'' he said. "I've got nothing more to say."
Sheffield also referred to his earlier statements in which he denied taking steroids.
"The issue is done with, as far as I'm concerned," he said.
The BALCO case and its connection to some of baseball's biggest stars has increased pressure on the sport to become more aggressive in the commissioner's stated goal of zero tolerance toward steroids. Last year, baseball implemented its first-ever plan to test for performance-enhancing drugs, but the policy has been widely criticized as too soft by officials from the Olympic movement as well as other sports governing bodies.
Contacted for comment Monday, Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig called steroids "sinister and seductive," and said he was "distressed" about the allegations about the players.
"We at Major League Baseball must strive for zero tolerance as it relates to the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs," Selig said in a statement. "We will do everything in our power to get to zero tolerance as soon as possible."
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Chronicle staff writers Henry Schulman in Arizona and John Shea in Florida contributed to this report.