'Game of Shadows' authors are subpoenaed

Updated: May 6, 2006, 5:56 PM ET
Associated Press

 Barry Bonds

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote a book about Barry Bonds' alleged steroid use were subpoenaed Friday to testify before a federal grand jury regarding court documents they used in their articles, the newspaper reported.

The subpoenas of the authors of "Game of Shadows," Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, called for them to turn over their copies of grand jury transcripts from the 2003 investigation of a steroid distribution ring based at the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, or BALCO, according to the Chronicle. They also were asked to provide the identity of the person or persons who leaked the secret documents to them.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams used the transcripts in their detailed reporting of the BALCO case that linked well-known athletes to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

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Chronicle executive editor Phil Bronstein insisted the reporters are protected under the First Amendment.

"The San Francisco Chronicle unconditionally stands by its reporters in fighting this effort by the government to force them to reveal their confidential sources," Bronstein said. "Reporters are not subject to the rules governing grand jury secrecy, which apply only to some of the people in the room during those proceedings."

Eve Burton, vice president and general counsel for Hearst Corp., which owns the newspaper, said, "The Chronicle and its reporters intend to fight the subpoenas vigorously."

The U.S. Attorney's Office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Because grand jury testimony is taken in secret, it is illegal to leak such transcripts, although it is not illegal to possess them.

According to excerpts of the testimony previously reported by the Chronicle, Bonds testified that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by a trainer convicted in the case, but said he didn't know they were steroids.

The seven-time NL MVP, two home runs from tying Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list at 714, has always denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds testified that Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, told him the substances were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and an arthritis balm.

The substances Bonds described were similar to ones known as "the clear" and "the cream," two steroids at the center of the BALCO scandal. Anderson and three others, including BALCO founder Victor Conte, have pleaded guilty to distribution charges.

Another grand jury now is looking into whether Bonds committed perjury when he testified in the BALCO case.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams released their book last month, saying Bonds began his extensive doping regimen following the 1998 season after seeing the attention Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa generated in their race for the single-season homers record. Bonds later broke that record with 73 homers in 2001.

The book prompted baseball commissioner Bud Selig to launch an investigation into steroids use in baseball.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams issued a statement Friday saying their articles "would not have been possible without the help of many people -- people who are whistleblowers in the truest and best sense of the term."

"The government's actions raise significant First Amendment issues, and we are concerned at any attempt to stifle the public's right to know," they added.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press