By Skip Bayless
Page 2

Barry Bonds remains the biggest, baddest bully in sports history.

He reportedly lies to a grand jury and laughs about it. He taunts Congress. He treats commissioner Bud Selig with no more respect than he seemingly gives the clubhouse lackeys.

And he ignores a new book that spills over with relentlessly damning allegations about his steroid-junkie habit.

Even now, he's probably injecting himself in the stomach with his body-building drug of choice, human growth hormone. And why not? Baseball doesn't test for HGH.

Barry Bonds
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
San Francisco seems more interested in Bonds' pursuit to break Babe Ruth's home-run record.

Laugh, Barry, laugh.

Puke, world, puke.

This is the most maddening question I've faced in my career: How does Barry Bonds keep getting away with it?

How can the United States attorney's office in San Francisco not pursue a perjury indictment against Bonds for his testimony to the BALCO grand jury? Are there simply too many Bonds fans and Giants season-ticket holders in that office? Are they more concerned with being at SBC Park the nights he passes Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron on the all-time home-run list?

Does Bonds keep getting away with it because he's still the biggest individual draw in sports? You might hate him, but you can't take your eyes off him. He'll still pack parks from San Francisco to New York because people want to see just how much farther and harder this chemistry experiment of a robo-slugger can hit a baseball now. The steroid revelations make him an even bigger freak-show gate attraction.

Taunt, Barry, taunt.

And I was so sure in late 2003 that the feds were hell-bent to do something I couldn't -- nail Bonds.

I love watching Bonds hit as much as anyone. But it seemed obvious that he was cheating when he skyrocketed from 49 homers in 2000 to a record 73 in 2001. He also skyrocketed from about 200 pounds to what appeared to be a muscled-up 250.

So in May 2002, I wrote a Bay Area column quoting body-building experts who said it's virtually impossible after age 35 -- when the male's testosterone supply naturally drops -- to pack on that much muscle that quickly without using the artificial testosterone that steroids provide.

You would have thought I had spray-painted profanity on the Golden Gate Bridge.

I took an e-mail beating from many Bonds lovers -- and there are many outside the media. Did I have proof? No, I did not witness Bonds injecting himself with juice -- nor could I find a single source within the organization who knew for a fact that Bonds used steroids. Many insiders had suspicions, but no firsthand proof.

And you couldn't blame Giants ownership or management for looking the other way. The owners tote the entire note on their ballpark, and Bonds has been the reason the Giants have had baseball's biggest season-ticket base. So ownership was going to expose and suspend its lone draw?

Please.

Soon, I experienced firsthand some of Bonds' infamous intimidation. He walked up behind me in the Giants' clubhouse and vice-gripped my arm. When I turned, he gave me the kind of five-second stare he gives a pitcher who has dared to brush him back.

The message, I assumed, was, "Don't you ever write about me and steroids again."

I just stared back, and without a word, Bonds walked away.

Barry Bonds
Rich Pilling/Getty Images; AP Photo/Khampha Bouaphanh
Let's take a look at a before and after photo.

After federal agents raided the BALCO office in September 2003, I began hearing about Jeff Novitzky, an agent for the IRS Criminal Investigation unit. At a gym near BALCO, Novitzky had observed Bonds lifting weights under the guidance of trainer Greg Anderson. And Novitzky -- according to several media sources -- was on a mission to expose Bonds.

In fact, word was that the Bush administration wanted to put a face on its stamp-out-steroids campaign -- Bonds' oversized head.

Eventually, Anderson and BALCO founder Victor Conte were convicted. But despite a wall of evidence even Bonds couldn't hit a ball over, he somehow got away clean after three hours with the grand jury.

The media's proof now comes in a book, "Game of Shadows," written by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada. These aren't a couple of Johnny-come-latelies trying to make a quick buck. These are two highly respected investigative reporters who have demonstrated in print for three years that their information on this story is accurate and credible.

I believe every last word of the lengthy excerpt in this week's Sports Illustrated. I admire and envy the job they've done. As the BALCO smoke cleared, they had the time and the skill to return to all the sources they quoted periodically in the Chronicle and build a devilishly detailed case against Bonds.

When Bonds' grand-jury testimony originally was leaked to the Chronicle, his excuse at least seemed plausible. He testified that Anderson, his buddy from high school, had told him to rub some cream onto his arm that he thought was flaxseed oil. It turned out to be a newly invented steroid.

Even I had second thoughts. Maybe Bonds was duped into using these mysterious steroids that don't require injections.

But the Williams and Fainaru-Wada reports could blow that defense all to hell. They write that Bonds left his grand-jury session "confident that he had asserted control over the government's inquiry, just as he had controlled his baseball team and, for that matter, most of the people in his life. His reputation had been preserved and his well-guarded secret had not been revealed."

Until now.

The authors go into astonishing detail about how Bonds turned himself into a human pin cushion, injecting just about every steroid known to man and beast. Yes, they even report that he tried a steroid used to beef up cattle. They also report that while Bonds found injecting human growth hormone was the most painful -- into a pinch of stomach skin -- HGH was so potent that it allowed him to keep his physique and strength through the season with minimal weight-lifting.

Bonds makes Jose Canseco look like he was on no more than fruit juice.

So why in the name of Henry Aaron wasn't Bonds called before the congressional hearing on steroids that obviously was prompted by Canseco's bombshell book? Reportedly, because Bonds was still involved in the BALCO investigation -- though his day in court had been about 16 months before last March's hearing.

Of course, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa were forced to lie or deny that day on national television. All three wound up tainting their legacies. Bonds was the elephant that was not in the room.

Yes, "Game of Shadows" reports that Bonds resorted to steroids because he was convinced McGwire was juicing when he (and Sosa) broke Roger Maris' single-season record in 1998. But should that make Bonds any less guilty or more brazen?

Incredibly, when the Giants played in Washington last season, Bonds ridiculed Congress. He said Congress has more important problems to address than steroids -- even though the point of the hearing was that steroid abuse has become an epidemic among teenagers.

How do congressional leaders let Bonds get away with this? Were they content to have box seats when Bonds was in town?

And why hasn't the IRS investigated Bonds for tax evasion? His lawyer continues to paint ex-mistress Kimberly Bell as nothing but a scorned lover. Yet she comes across as an extremely credible witness, and she has hours of secretly taped phone calls from Bonds. She alleges he gave her about $80,000 in unreported cash for the down payment on a house -- all made from signing baseballs.

Selig's lieutenants have been dropping hints to national baseball writers that the commissioner is livid over the book. Selig met with Bonds two years ago to ask if he had anything to hide, and when Bonds shrugged him off, Selig reportedly warned that Bonds had better be telling the truth.

But what's Selig going to do now, suspend Bonds? He hasn't failed a single test. The players' union would have Selig for lunch.

No, Selig will do nothing but huff and puff and hope the book fades away.

It appears that government agents and officials finally gave up and decided they could get Bonds only in the court of public opinion. So they emptied their notebooks for the Chronicle reporters, who paint a chilling picture of a steroid junkie and an O.J.-like bully who threatened Bell's life.

But so what? Most people already considered Bonds a bad guy.

So he'll continue to laugh at us and pack parks and hit home runs. And in the end, maybe, he'll get his last laugh from only one source -- the body he has abused.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.




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THE BASEBALL BULLY