Commentary

Barry Bonds trial reveals ease of PEDs

Superstars and journeyman didn't need to look too far or too hard to get an edge

Updated: April 13, 2011, 11:11 PM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

So let's get this straight. The only thing we've learned about Barry Bonds is that he was evasive?

The government could have assembled a panel of distinguished baseball writers to convict him on that charge like 15 years ago.

So THAT'S what The Trial of the Home Run King has taught us? I've never felt prouder of the fine work my tax dollars have been doing all this time.

Just try to digest what went down here. This extravaganza started eight years ago, with Jeff Novitzky combing through the trash bin in the BALCO parking lot.

[+] EnlargeBarry Bonds
AP Photo/George NikitinIt took a long time and a lot of money to convict Barry Bonds of something we already knew he was guilty of.

The United States attorney general would later announce the BALCO indictments personally.

Greg Anderson would spend 436 productive days in jail, all for the thrill of dodging this witness stand.

And I'm pretty sure more millions of dollars were invested in this case over the years than the Royals have spent on their bullpen.

All so a jury could determine that Barry was guilty of being evasive?

If that doesn't swell your pride in being an American, it's hard to imagine what else would.

The point, then, is that those of us who have to assess history, vote on the Hall of Fame and appear on important American sports talk shows haven't exactly been given massive guidance by this trial.

But I'm trying my best to take the position that we did get something out of it. So here's what I think it's now safe to come away with:

• The Home Run King HAS been convicted of a federal felony here. It may not be as forceful or serious a felony as a conviction on lying about performance-enhancing drug use would have been. But it's enough to make the sight of Bonds standing outside the courthouse, flashing the old V For Victory sign, just a tad excessive. Don't you think?

If Barry can name one other player of his era who has been convicted of any federal felony related to PEDs, he's been digging harder through those court records than the rest of civilization. So for us Hall of Fame voters, this is still a bigger, darker black mark against his candidacy than we've been handed on any other name that's likely to appear on that ballot.

• One other important point here: As the prosecution emphatically pointed out during this trial, Bonds never denied USING steroids. He only denied "knowingly" using steroids.

Not that this would come as a dramatic revelation to anyone who read "Game of Shadows." And "Game of Shadows" certainly told us far more about why he used what he used than these court proceedings ever did.

But what's made "steroid era" Hall of Fame voting such an impossible mission is the insanity of trying to play the who-did-what guessing game. So at least there's now zero remaining reason to have to guess anymore about Barry. It's all right there in the court records.

• And speaking of those court records, they're also chock full of juicy details about PED use in baseball. Just not about Barry's PED use.

Something did happen during this trial that had never happened before, you know.

We had major league baseball players -- past and present -- march up to a real federal witness stand and testify, under oath, on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, about what the heck really went on in "the steroid era."

[+] EnlargeRandy Velarde
AP Photo/Paul SakumaRandy Velarde proved just how easy it is to get PEDs while playing.

And we appreciate that. Seriously.

We heard Jason Giambi report that his good friends from BALCO told him that without their help, he'd definitely test positive for steroids when that dastardly MLB test force showed up. So they so kindly began sending packages, right to his home, that contained testosterone, "the clear," "the cream" and a dosing calendar.

We heard his brother, Jeremy, tell almost the same story, and recount how Greg Anderson bragged to him that what BALCO was delivering to him was "undetectable" (assuming that no investigators were about to rummage through his trash collection, at least).

But it was the other two players who made it into the witness' chair that were most deserving of our attention.

There was Randy Velarde. He laid out a must-read tale of being referred, by teammate Bobby Estalella, to Anderson for the finest test-beating drugs around. Then the two of them would meet up in -- yikes! -- "various parking lots," where Anderson would inject him with the goods. Right there in the lot. Between the white lines. No details available on whether they set the parking brake first.

And finally, there was Marvin Benard. He talked about how he started using veterinary steroids in Mexico, then took advantage of having a premium supplier like Anderson hanging around his clubhouse and upgraded to BALCO's "better, cleaner stuff."

See? It was that easy. The drug dealer was allowed by this sport to walk through the clubhouse doors every single day -- for years. So if you were interested in his services, you could just step right up, like you were cruising through the drive-thru at Taco Bell or something.

And these weren't players setting out to break baseball's most hallowed records, friends. They weren't among the 10 or 12 "cheaters" we spend all our time obsessing on when we discuss this embarrassing period of baseball history.

We're talking Randy Velarde and Marvin Benard. They never had a 20-homer season in their lives, let alone a 70-homer season.

But they got the memo that there was stuff out there that could keep them employed and make them a few extra bucks, and everybody else was using it. So what the heck. Why not them, too?

And we repeat: They could order it right there in their own clubhouse.

Amazing.

So see? This case taught us a little about the steroid era after all. OK, so maybe it taught us more about Marvin Benard than it did about Barry Bonds. But at least it wasn't a complete waste of Jeff Novitzky's garbage forays.

And coincidentally, these revelations came along just a few days before Tax Day, too. So won't that warm your heart as you're writing your check to the IRS this week?

Hey, of course it will, I'm sure it will. Just, much like "the clear" and "the cream," that warmth figures to be 100 percent undetectable.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.

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Senior Writer, ESPN.com