BALCO Marred In Murky Waters

By Off the BASN Sports Wire
Updated: October 31, 2004

NEW YORK, NY—The Boston Red Sox win the World Series, Edgar Martinez calls it quits and the Montreal Expos are headed south of the border. But hang on, sports fans, one thing about baseball remains unchanged:

This offseason has begun the same way last offseason began — with another splash hit from the BALCO investigation.

In this month’s episode, court documents released by the government report that BALCO vice president James Valente told investigators that Barry Bonds received designer steroids on more than one occasion, and tried at least one of them.

It is damning evidence, almost enough to make you abandon your faith in the presumption of innocence over guilt. You could even go so far as to say that at this point, there is only one thing saving Barry Bonds and his athletic legacy-in-progress:

The cops, robbers and lawyers in this case are coming off as more insufferable abusers of the public trust than he is.

Consider this week’s revelations. Try to follow the bouncing agenda.

The government, which has yet to try any of the four defendants — BALCO president Victor Conte Jr., Valente, trainer Greg Anderson and track coach Remi Korchemny — releases another ream of documents.

The documents nudge the investigation a few feet in the direction of Bonds (and assorted others.)

Denials, registering 4.8 on the Richter Scale, begin to roll in.

From Valente’s lawyer, Troy Ellerman (as told to “The federal prosecutors are unadulterated punks and their conduct is going to be Exhibit A to dismiss the case for outrageous government conduct.”

From Conte (through a statement to “I have never given Barry Bonds anabolic steroids at any time. I have never even had a discussion with Bonds about anabolic steroids.”

From Conte’s lawyer, Bob Holley (as told to the San Jose Mercury-News): “The government’s massive release of confidential information, which should have been placed under seal, is another outrage that militates toward the defense’s inability to receive a fair trial in this case.”

This on top of Gary Sheffield’s recent contention that he was unwittingly slipped a steroid by Bonds’ BALCO pals. This on top of the audio tape allegedly featuring the alleged voice of Anderson allegedly implicating Bonds in the alleged steroid scandal, and inviting the musical question: Given the poor quality of the tape, was that really Anderson, was it Memorex, or was that more handiwork by Richard Nixon’s secretary?

This on top of leak after leak from what is supposed to be secret grand jury testimony, followed by denials that raise indignation to an art form.

No offense to unadulterated punks.

Wasn’t it at this point in the movie, “All the President’s Men” that Jason Robards, as crusty Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, fired off the immortal line, “When is someone going to go on the record in this case?”

That would be our point, exactly. Because treading these choppy waters serves no one.

Federal investigators come off as conniving vigilantes. Why all the leaks and releases of official documents before the trial? Is it because they can’t pin anything on Bonds, and they hope our cynical nature will connect the dots they can’t?

The untried defendants come off looking like Silver Elite members of the Save Our Skin Society, contradicting their own testimony, as leaked by investigators.

The lawyers, well, they’re just doing what those kinds of lawyers do, creating stink clouds designed to confuse the issue — whatever it is.

As for Bonds, his pursuit of baseball’s career home run record, and our interest in that pursuit, it’s a tricky business these days. There has been no trial, no evidence presented in open court, no convictions returned, no sentences handed down. And yet you can’t deny that Bonds’ pursuit of history is losing luster even as he closes in on Henry Aaron’s magic number of 755.

Think of the genuine excitement generated by Bonds’ pursuit of Mark McGwire’s single season home run record in 2001. Think how muted that excitement was as Bonds began last season overtaking Willie Mays on baseball’s all-time list, and ended it becoming the third member of the 700 club.

Next season, Bonds figures to pass Babe Ruth and make significant strides toward Aaron. Already you can sense that will happen in a climate that casts a squinted eye on everything he has done over the past several seasons.

It would be nice if that squinted eye were a result of irrefutable fact, proven in a court of law, and not the result of insinuation, legal posturing, stink cloud management and careful manipulation of hearsay and half-truths.

Alas, you can’t have everything. It says so right here in the secret grand jury testimony.