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's 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 last 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.)