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Severing Bonds

In a universe of limos, personal chefs and performance-enhancers, two stars clashed

Updated: Monday October 4, 2004 8:25PM
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By Tom Verducci

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Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds
"I don't want friends like that," Sheffield says of Bonds, who introduced him to BALCO before the 2002 season.
Eric Risberg/AP

Gary Sheffield was testifying before a federal grand jury in San Francisco in 2003 when a prosecutor held up the testoterone-based steroid known as "the cream," supplied by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

"Do you know what this is?" Sheffield was asked.

"Yeah, I do," Sheffield said.

"What did they tell you it was for?"

"My wounds," said Sheffield, who then rolled up his right pants leg to show a surgical scar on the outside of his knee. "It was like a cortisone to heal these wounds. I rubbed it on every night and it helped me."

Sheffield says he was not told that the cream, which he used before and during the 2002 season when he played for the Atlanta Braves, was an illegal steroid. "It was like you could go to a store and find something like that. That's what was in my thoughts," he says. "I put it on my legs and thought nothing of it. I kept it in my locker. The trainer saw my cream."

Sheffield says it shocked him when news broke that "the cream" and "the clear," another balm supplied by BALCO, were designer steroids. "That's why I was mad," he says. "I want everybody to be on an even playing field."

Sheffield was introduced to BALCO by someone he now describes as a former friend: Barry Bonds. Sheffield says he has no knowledge of what, if any, enhancers Bonds may have used, but he did provide SI with a harsh firsthand look at the inner circle of Bonds's trainers. (Bonds, through a spokesperson, declined to address Sheffield's comments, saying only, "I wish nothing but the best for Gary. I want him to win the MVP. He deserves it.")

Sheffield says he and Bonds enjoyed a casual friendship when the Giants leftfielder invited Sheffield to live and train with him in San Francisco for a few weeks before the 2002 season. "He said, 'I got guys here, they can get your urine and blood and prescribe a vitamin specifically for your blood type and what your body needs,' " Sheffield says. "And that's what I did."

Bonds introduced Sheffield to BALCO president Victor Conte as well as to members of Bonds' support team, which included chiropractors, a track coach, a stretching coach and a strength coach, Greg Anderson. He and Conte were two of four men indicted Feb. 12 on charges of conspiring to distribute performance-enhancing drugs. Sheffield says he did not deal directly with anyone from BALCO after his initial meeting with Conte, but that the company gave vitamins to Anderson, and Anderson gave them to Sheffield. (Through his lawyer, Anderson declined to comment on providing Sheffield with any BALCO products.)

"The only thing Greg Anderson does is what Barry tells him to do," Sheffield says. "Barry ran everything. If I'm training and if he sees Greg making me do one curl too many, it's an argument: 'I told you, don't have him do no more than he needs!' So I knew Greg was a puppet. All these guys around [Bonds] were puppets.

"They used to confide in me about how they hated it. I told them, 'You knew what you were getting into. You accept his money. You accept the status when you're around him. But you don't want to deal with the backlash of what comes out of his mouth, and you want to complain to me.'"

Soon after Sheffield arrived in San Francisco, the friendship between him and Bonds began to sour. Bonds insisted that Sheffield stay at his house and not rent a car. He insisted that Sheffield not pay for anything, though Sheffield did bring his personal chef. "[It was], 'It's my way or no way,' " Sheffield says. "I'm not a child. I make $11 million. I can buy what I want."

To thank Bonds for inviting him into his home, Sheffield arranged for the two of them to see a boxing match in Miami on Feb. 2, 2002. "I was going to pay for the plane, the flight, pay for the limo service, the hotel," Sheffield says. "He gets my mail. He looks in my mail and sees he can get better seats, so he gets better seats. He can get a better flight, so he gets a better flight. He can get a better limo service. And he can get a better hotel. So basically my plan, in trying to do something in return, he wound up doing it. And [that sort of behavior] just escalated."

Another time, Sheffield arranged for a limo and tickets for him and Bonds to see the Sacramento Kings host the Los Angeles Lakers. "He complained the whole drive," Sheffield says. "'Man, I could have drove. We would have gotten there a lot faster.' The whole time. And I'm saying to myself, Never again. Never again."

Sheffield says the breaking point occurred one morning when Bonds departed for their morning workout without him, leaving Sheffield to scramble for transportation to the gym. When Sheffield eventually showed up, he found Bonds laughing at him with someone he later learned was a writer for Men's Journal. "He sold me out to the media," Sheffield says.

Though Sheffield says he was under doctor's orders not to run because of his knee, he did so anyway because Bonds and his trainers wanted him to. "Now all of a sudden my knee was hurting," Sheffield says. "He said something to me [about being late]. I did not respond, because if I did respond at that particular moment, I would have knocked him out. That's how I was feeling. [But] I said [to myself], No, I'm just going to walk away, and when I say walk away I mean walk away."

Sheffield flew home to Florida with his chef. The chef told him, "Gary, I want to confess something. [Bonds] made an offer to hire me: He'll get me a car, give me a place to stay and pay off my student loan."

Shortly after they returned, Sheffield says he and his chef parted ways. Sheffield says about a month later Bonds called him to inquire about why the chef was no longer working for Sheffield but made no mention of a related development: Bonds had hired him.

"That's the kind of person I found out I was dealing with," Sheffield says. "To me, I don't want friends like that. I never will have friends like that."

Soon Sheffield received a call from one of Bonds' team. According to Sheffield, Bonds had initially insisted that Sheffield not pay for anything, but now he was told to settle his tab with BALCO and others. Bonds also told Sheffield that BALCO would no longer supply him with vitamins.

"I called BALCO. 'Do I owe you anything?' " Sheffield says. " 'Well, you have a bill ...' I told my wife, 'You write the check.' That's how I got linked to BALCO."

Sheffield hit .307 in 2002 after training with Bonds, but with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs, it was a down year for him. "I had my worst year ever," he says. "I gave him too much credit. When you listen to another person on an everyday basis drill into you numbers, numbers, numbers, and you've never been that way, it doesn't work. I don't play for numbers. When I played to try to get numbers, I didn't get them."

Adds Sheffield, "I never wished anything bad on [Bonds]. I want him to achieve what he wants to achieve, but what I want more is that his life gets right. That he can have compassion for other people. And that's what I want the most."

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