SI Vault
The Truth About Barry Bonds and Steroids
Mark Fainaru-Wada
March 13, 2006
ON MAY 22, 1998, the San Francisco Giants arrived in St. Louis for a three-game series with the Cardinals. That weekend, Giants All-Star leftfielder Barry Bonds got a firsthand look at the frenzied excitement surrounding Mark McGwire, baseball's emerging Home Run King. � Bonds had recently remarried, but on this trip he was accompanied by his girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, a slender, attractive woman with long brown hair and brown eyes whom he had met four years earlier in the players' parking lot at Candlestick Park. Bell had been looking forward to the trip, and it was pleasant in many ways--a big hotel room with a view of St. Louis's famous arch; a wonderful seat eight rows behind home plate; and even tornado warnings, which were exotic to a California girl. But Bonds was sulky and brooding. A three-time National League MVP, he was one of the most prideful stars in baseball. All that weekend, though, he was overshadowed by McGwire.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
March 13, 2006

The Truth About Barry Bonds And Steroids

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Bonds had never seen the ropes on the field before. "What the f--- is this?" he demanded of the security guards. They told him the ropes were for McGwire. Furious, Bonds began knocking the ropes down. "Not in my house!" he said.

With the help of Winstrol, Bonds was so muscular that he could hit the ball as far as McGwire. But even after the elbow healed, Bonds wasn't right in 1999. He felt muscle-bound and inflexible and had trouble turning on inside pitches. He also complained of back and knee problems and about his eyesight, saying he couldn't pick up the rotation on the ball. Bonds' vision always had been astonishing--perhaps the complaints about his eyes were psychosomatic, a reflection of the worry he felt about his elbow injury, the pressure he felt to perform at the highest level. But Bonds's complaints about knee and back pain and feeling too tight led Anderson to rethink his star client's workout regimen and to seek out other drugs for him.

If Bonds had any doubts about continuing to use performance-enhancing drugs, they were eliminated just before the start of spring training in 2000, when he went to Cashman Field in Las Vegas to compete in the Big League Challenge, a charity home run derby broadcast on ESPN. Jose Canseco dominated the event. He hit 28 bombs in the last round, while Bonds didn't even make the finals. At one point Bonds saw Canseco take off his shirt: 255 pounds, seemingly not an ounce of fat, just gleaming, chiseled power.

"Dude," Bonds said. "Where did you get all that muscle?"

In the Giants' new park, there would be new drugs. Anderson put Bonds on Deca, the gym rats' name for Deca-Durabolin. Like Winstrol, it was a bodybuilder's injectable steroid, used in medicine to treat anemia associated with kidney failure. Eventually, Anderson started Bonds on human growth hormone (HGH), the synthetic drug being touted by cosmetic surgeons as an anti-aging miracle. Injecting HGH was tricky and painful: Rather than plunging the syringe into a big muscle, the user pinched a bit of skin on the belly with thumb and forefinger and carefully put the needle into the flap. Like a steroid, Growth could help the user increase muscle mass. But it was also thought to strengthen joints and connective tissue and thus was often cocktailed with Deca or other steroids.

Bonds especially liked growth hormone. It allowed him to maintain his impressive musculature without intensive training. That was important because he was doing well to manage 15 or 20 minutes of pumping iron each day during the season, and that wasn't nearly enough to keep one's body looking like a locomotive. But with HGH, Bonds remained buff and more energized to train, yet he felt more flexible. There was an added benefit to the new drug regimen: Bonds stopped complaining about his eyes. At age 35, he felt better than he had in years.

The new Pac Bell Park opened in 2000. It had a 2,700-square-foot clubhouse, and Bonds had the run of the place. He felt he had built the new ballpark, and he insisted on bringing Anderson, his stretching coach Harvey Shields and his running coach Raymond Farris there with him.

The Giants' training staff wanted nothing to do with Bonds's three trainers and urged management to ban them from the clubhouse, according to a source familiar with the conversation. The Giants had unofficial background checks done on Bonds's trainers and learned that World Gym was known as a place to score steroids and that Anderson himself was rumored to be a dealer. But the club decided it didn't want to alienate Bonds on this issue, either. The trainers stayed.

Bonds had an outstanding year, batting .306, with 49 home runs--a career high and second in the league to Sosa's 50--and 106 RBIs. He felt strong all season and recovered quickly from minor injuries. He had high hopes for a fourth MVP award. Instead, the trophy went to a teammate he hated, Jeff Kent, who batted .334 with 33 home runs and 125 RBIs. Despite the disappointment, it had been a breakthrough year, one in which Bonds had completed the transformation of his body and his game and, it seemed, had discovered the Fountain of Youth. At 35 Bonds's father had batted .215 for the Cubs and retired. But at the same age Bonds had enjoyed what he considered his best season. There were more to come, as he transformed himself into the game's most feared slugger.

No one was in a better position to note his transformation and its side effects than Kimberly Bell, a graphic artist five years younger than Bonds. They met in 1994, when she was 24 and he was separated from his first wife, Sun, and locked in bitter divorce proceedings centered on the validity of the couple's prenuptial agreement. Bonds was determined to keep his estranged wife from getting his money. Obsessed with the litigation, he told Bell there was no way he would ever get married again. Bell told him she didn't want to get married, either.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16