Commentary

The last words Bonds wants to hear

Defense attorney puts on show, but the words 'steroids' and 'syringe' plague slugger

Updated: March 24, 2011, 12:05 AM ET
By Lester Munson | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- While attorney Allen Ruby conducted a clinic on cross-examination techniques Wednesday in his defense of Barry Bonds against perjury charges, there was something else going on in the courtroom. As Ruby scored again and again in his interrogation of former Bonds business manager Steve Hoskins, the prosecutors were piling up points in less dramatic but effective ways.

Throughout the third day of the trial, the words "steroids" and "syringe" and "human growth hormone" were repeated again and again. With the jurors watching, both sides spent the day talking and arguing about Bonds doing exactly what he told the grand jury he never did.

When you're on trial on charges of making false statements to the grand jury, this is the last thing you want to see. Quietly and relentlessly and with none of Ruby's flair, prosecutors Matthew Parrella and Jeff Nedrow are succeeding in placing Bonds in the middle of a world of performance-enhancing drugs.

Even as he struggled against Ruby's stylish questioning, Hoskins managed to tell the jury of steroids-related incidents involving Bonds that began in 1999 and continued until the childhood friends severed their personal and business relationship in 2003.

Soon after Bonds began training with Greg Anderson, Bonds asked Hoskins to gather information about steroids, their worth and their side effects. Bonds particularly wanted to know about Winstrol, one of the most notorious testosterone products, according to Hoskins. Nervously and reluctantly, Hoskins told the jury that he obtained information from Bonds' personal physician and later discussed it with Bonds. He even produced the materials the physician had copied from a textbook.

Hoskins also described a spring training incident in which he observed Bonds and Anderson leaving a bedroom with Anderson carrying a small syringe. Ruby will challenge Hoskins' veracity, but, if Hoskins were lying to get even with Bonds for ending their business relationship, he easily could have said he saw the actual injection. The account he gave Wednesday had a ring of truth.

It got worse for Bonds as Hoskins continued to tell his story. At what was then known as Pac Bell Park, Hoskins heard Anderson tell Bonds that Anderson, worried about infection, would not inject him with any more steroids. Bonds replied, according to Hoskins, that "I'll do it myself."

Insisting he was worried about Bonds' steroid use, Hoskins told the jury that he secretly taped a conversation with Anderson. He said he hoped to play the recording for Bonds' father, the late Bobby Bonds, in an effort to enlist Bobby in Hoskins' effort to turn Barry away from Anderson and drugs. Although Hoskins never managed to play the tape for Bonds' father, the prosecutors played the tape for the jurors Wednesday with devastating effect.

In the recording, Anderson claims 16 years of experience with steroids and explains that it is important to inject the drugs in different places to avoid infections. "They will ball up and puddle," Anderson says. "You must move the needle all over the place."

Anderson also brags on the tape that his drugs are undetectable. "We created it. You can't buy it. It worked to perfection at the Olympics," he says of "the clear," the designer steroids developed at Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Hoskins insisted he was concerned about Bonds' health when he made the Anderson tape. But Ruby tried in his questions to show that Hoskins was bitter about the end of his business relationship with Bonds and made the tape as a first step in an extortion of Bonds.

Using materials he pulled from hundreds of pages of IRS reports and interviews, Ruby confronted Hoskins with a series of inconsistencies between what he told the investigating agents earlier and what he was saying Wednesday. Ruby was able to take a single sentence from an agent's report and dice it into a series of questions that were designed to show that Hoskins was exaggerating or lying.

Hoskins, for example, gave conflicting versions of his effort to play the Anderson tape for Bobby Bonds. On one occasion, Ruby insisted, Hoskins claimed he actually played the tape for the senior Bonds. It was not totally clear that Ruby was correct in his assertion, but his courtroom presence and his mastery of the language gave him a distinct advantage over Hoskins.

As he uses bits and pieces of inconsistency, Ruby is trying to create a mosaic of deceit in the eyes of the jury. It might work. But it might not. Responding to one of Ruby's questions, Hoskins denied that he was bitter or angry with Bonds and said, "He's a very good friend. He's a very good person. He's one of the best baseball players there ever will be. And that's why I wanted to stop him from taking steroids."

It was not what Ruby and Bonds wanted to hear. Ruby demonstrated his prowess as a trial lawyer, but Hoskins and the prosecutors have managed to portray Bonds as a guy radically different from the guy who told the grand jury that he was never involved with steroids.

Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.