Bonds apologizes to Sweeney for amphetamines controversy

Updated: January 12, 2007, 4:06 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds came out publicly to make it clear his teammate and good friend Mark Sweeney had no involvement in the latest allegations against the San Francisco slugger.

He insists he didn't get any amphetamines from Sweeney. He also didn't deny using them.

According to a story in the New York Daily News, Bonds failed an amphetamines test last season -- and the newspaper reported that Bonds initially attributed it to a substance he had taken from Sweeney's locker.

"He is both my teammate and my friend," Bonds said in a statement Thursday. "He did not give me anything whatsoever and has nothing to do with this matter, contrary to recent reports.

"I want to express my deepest apologies especially to Mark and his family as well as my other teammates, the San Francisco Giants organization and the fans."

That's all the Giants star, shadowed by steroids allegations and only 22 home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record, said about the alleged positive drug test. Bonds has steadfastly denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

"Obviously, we're pleased that Barry has straightened this out," said Sweeney's agent, Barry Axelrod.

Bonds' reported positive test could be another snag in contract negotiations with the Giants. The sides reached a preliminary agreement on a $16 million, one-year contract Dec. 7, but the seven-time NL MVP still hasn't signed the deal or taken the mandatory physical that is part of the process.

The parties have been working to finalize complicated language in the contract that concerns the left fielder's compliance with team rules, as well as what would happen if he were to be indicted or have other legal troubles.

"Last night was the first time we heard of this recent accusation against Barry Bonds," the Giants said in a statement. "Under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association, clubs are not notified after a player receives a first positive test for amphetamines."

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, refused comment, according to spokesman Rich Levin.

"I don't comment on the drug program, and I've never heard Barry Bonds blame anybody for anything," Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

San Francisco's front office and fan base long have stood by Bonds through his off-the-field problems and injuries. So have his teammates, deciding in spring training last year to support him every step of the way.

"There are so many substances out there right now you don't know what you should take or what you should not," Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel said. "Right now, I'm afraid to take vitamins for the same reason. ... I don't know what the other guys do, and I don't really care.

"I tell the younger guys, but you don't need to be telling Barry Bonds and Mark Sweeney what they should take or what they should not."

There's a long history of amphetamines -- or speed and more commonly called "greenies" in the baseball world -- fueling generations of baseball players. Many turned to the stimulants for a way to get pepped up when their bodies couldn't do so on their own during a long season.

The pills, widely used even until recently, helped with energy for day games following night games and other times when players were short on sleep, such as after a long cross-country flight.

Baseball banned the uppers for the first time starting last season. A player is not identified until after failing two amphetamines tests, which also results in a 25-game suspension. The first failed steroids test, by comparison, is a 50-game suspension.

A first amphetamines offense, however, does require six additional drug tests over the following six months.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't address the report directly.

"Amphetamines have been around for seven or eight decades and this is the first time on the advice of doctors, trainers and everybody else that we dealt with it," he said. "We banned amphetamines and that's very significant and we're going to continue to monitor it all very closely."

Selig did say management and the union discussed the report Thursday.

"I think maybe they have some suspicion on how it leaked out," he said.

Bonds did not appeal the positive test, according to the Daily News.

Before Bonds' statement, Axelrod told the AP that his client received a call informing him that his name had come up in regard to the testing.

"He responded at that time ... he did not give anything to anybody and he doesn't have anything illegal," Axelrod said. "That was the end of it, as far as we were concerned, until yesterday. We thought it was just a sort of procedural thing."

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Bonds perjured himself when he testified in 2003 in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid distribution case that he hadn't knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs. He told that 2003 grand jury he believed his trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him flaxseed oil and arthritic balm, not steroids.

Bonds, who's coming off surgery on his troublesome left elbow, played regularly in 2006.

After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his right knee, Bonds batted .270 with 26 homers and 77 RBIs in 130 games last year. He passed Babe Ruth to move into second place on the career home run list May 28.

Bonds has spent 14 of his 21 big league seasons with San Francisco and helped the Giants draw 3 million fans in all seven seasons in their waterfront ballpark. The team is counting on him to be part of the hype leading up to its hosting of the All-Star game in July.

Bonds and Sweeney have apparently spoken this offseason.

"This year we had the best chemistry on the team. I felt like the team was clicking," Vizquel said. "It's sad a stupid instance like this might rupture something that was going pretty good. I don't think the players will turn on each other. We are a veteran team. We should know what (substance) is good and what is bad."

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York and AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Milwaukee contributed to this report.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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