Did Bonds beat McGwire to the andro punch?

Updated: March 8, 2006, 9:11 AM ET
By Shaun Assael | ESPN The Magazine

Barry Bonds' alleged journey into the world of performance enhancing supplements began in January 1997, when he tried andro for the first time, according to a man who says he sold it to the slugger.

Stan Antosh, a California biochemist whose Osmo Labs was the first to market androstenedione in the United States, told ESPN The Magazine that he gave andro to Bonds as part of a wide-ranging supplement regimen that included a dozen vitamins, proteins and amino acids. The disclosure indicates that Bonds was looking for help that would improve his performance well before the end of the 1998 season. A new book, "Game of Shadows," by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, alleges that until '98, Bonds "had never used a performance enhancer more potent than a protein shake from the health-food store."

According to an excerpt from the book, Bonds was jealous of McGwire and "had been around enough gyms to recognize that McGwire was a juicer." But Bonds, it seems, might have been ahead of McGwire in his use of androstenedione.

The supplement, a steroid precursor that converts to testosterone when metabolized, was spotted in McGwire's St. Louis Cardinals locker late in the summer of 1998. But Antosh says he gave it to Bonds a full year and a half before that. Antosh says he was introduced via a phone call to Bonds by a mutual friend, the ex-San Francisco 49er all-pro running back Roger Craig. He recalls that the then-32-year-old Bonds said, "I need some help. I'm getting older."

The two men never met. Instead, Antosh says he started sending Bonds a regimen of protein and vitamin pills to his home. "I started him slowly," Antosh says. "He'd never taken vitamins or even a protein drink. So every month, I added a few things."

By January of 1997, Antosh says he was providing a course of high-dose B-vitamins; the amino acids carnitine, tyrosine and glucosamine; and minerals such as magnesium and zinc. As a coup de grace, Antosh added andro to the mix.

Antosh says that andro was "no more than 10 percent of the package," and that Bonds would have had a hard time isolating its effects from the protein shakes he was drinking four times a day or from the dozen or so pills he was taking. Nonetheless, Antosh says Bonds called him from spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., to order more of the entire regimen including andro.

It is not clear whether Bonds stopped using the supplement when he stopped working with Antosh during the 1997 season, or whether he simply started to buy it from health food stores when it became widely available.

Although the NFL and the Olympics added andro to their banned lists in 1997, baseball waited until 2004 to follow suit. Because of that, Antosh says, "There was nothing shady about what we were doing."

According to the book "Game of Shadows," that part of Bonds' life was still more than a year away.

Shaun Assael is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

• Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine
• Author of "Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour"; the New York Times best-selling "Sex, Lies and Headlocks"; and "Steroid Nation"