Anderson remains the quiet man
DUBLIN, Calif. -- At the end of Arnold Road, past the strip shopping centers and condos sprouting in this bedroom community. Beyond the entrance where low-risk female inmates in pale blue garb are spreading mulch this sunny afternoon. Deep inside the two-story concrete federal prison topped by metal fencing and loop after loop of razor wire.
This is where Barry Bonds' silent pal hunkers down, imprisoned since November for again declining to cooperate with the government's attempt to bring a perjury case against the almost certain future Hall of Famer.
"My client is never going to speak," says Anderson's prominent criminal attorney, Mark Geragos, who built a reputation defending pop-star Michael Jackson, actress Winona Ryder and convicted murder Scott Peterson. "He has got absolutely no intention of talking."
Not only is his silence deafening in the San Francisco federal courthouse, but Anderson has not spoken a word to the media. He declined an interview request for this story. Why the tight lips? Only Anderson knows the real reason for his refusal to cooperate against Bonds, so the ultimate story might never be told. And so that leaves it to old friends, gym buddies and legal eagles to speculate.
These days, Anderson, 41, who married his long-time girlfriend, Nicole Gestas, last summer and has an 8-year-old son from a previous relationship, is pulling duty in the kitchen at Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, making 12-cents an hour, while Bonds, fresh off signing a $15.8 million deal with the San Francisco Giants for this season, hones his batting stroke at spring training camp in a Scottsdale, Ariz.
He's up before 6 every morning, according to prison officials. The cell he shares with another inmate includes a bunk bed, sink and toilet. In the rec area, no weights are available for lifting.
Friends say Anderson hasn't touched red meat in 20 years. They depict him as careful to eat small portions, breaking to graze every four hours, mixing in an occasional protein drink. His habits are predictable; breakfast always oatmeal, scrambled eggs and sweet potato. Now, as an inmate, it's a biscuit, home-fried potatoes, cereal, coffee and juice.
Only immediate family and legal counsel can visit, according to prison rules, and then but for an hour on Saturday or Sunday. His regulars are his 37-year-old wife, a fitness trainer at a popular Redwood City gym whom he proposed to Tom Cruise-like atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Paula Canny, a close friend and attorney.
"He is an incredibly resolute person, so he functions," Canny said after a recent visit to the facility, about 35 miles southeast of San Francisco. "In order to function, you turn off. You make your life be this limited thing. And you don't torture yourself with hope."
Canny added sarcastically: "Like, he's learned how to make Jell-O. And he learned how to make Jell-O with fruit in it. And now he can make layered Jell-O with plain Jell-O, fruit Jell-O, a different color. So, yeah, his life is really deep and meaningful right now."
And the funky hairdo?
The dilemma for Anderson is that federal prosecutors persist in trying to make a case that Bonds, one of sports' most controversial figures, lied under oath before a 2003 grand jury when he testified he never used steroids. They've convinced U.S. District Judge William Alsup that Anderson's cooperation is pivotal to their ability to indict. Because Anderson isn't talking despite being subpoenaed to appear before two grand juries, he remains locked up for contempt of court.
Anderson already completed a three-month sentence in early 2006 after pleading guilty to steroid distribution in the BALCO scandal. Now prosecutors want Anderson, using doping calendars seized in a raid of his apartment, to confirm notations on the calendars they believe chronicle Bonds' performance-enhancing drug usage.
"Look, I certainly understand what they are going to try to do with Greg," says Michael Rains, who represents Bonds. "The doping calendars have the names of certain athletes -- names or initials -- on certain days, along with references to 2 cc's of this or 1 cc of this. Usually it's initials. And they want to get Greg up in front of a grand jury. They want to throw these documents at him and say, 'What is this? This is because you were giving Barry growth hormone on this date, right?'
That's a tough case to make if Anderson stays quiet.
Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of California, declined comment on Anderson or the government's interest in Bonds. Until the controversial star is indicted, and there's still no assurance that will happen, Rains only can speculate about what prosecutors are up to. Most of what he surmises is culled from arguments voiced by prosecutors in public court hearings and in court filings.
"They got calendars that can't be explained by anybody," Rains acknowledges. "No one knew about them but Greg. When [Bonds] testified before the grand jury, they showed him some documents that had his initials on it and made reference to this, that or the other. Barry said, 'I've never seen this. I don't even know what this is. Who did this?'
"I suspect one of the reasons Greg is doing all this [time] in jail is that Greg knows God damn well that Barry never knew he had any of these stupid things. Greg never told him he had anything. Maybe Greg feels guilty for having them and getting them seized. I don't know. That is speculation on my part."
Bonds declined an interview request.
But in his weekly chats with Bonds, Rains portrays him as calm and collected even while the Feds nip at his heels and the threat of indictment lingers. [If it happens, Rains believes the decision will be made by Justice Department officials in Washington.] He describes Bonds as appreciative of his friend's silence. He says Bonds has not attempted to visit Anderson, and probably wouldn't meet the prison's tight, family-only visitation requirements, anyway.
"Barry's view of life is that the government is harassing Greg just to get Barry," says Rains, a pugnacious ex-cop who specializes in defending law enforcement types. "And that is what makes it so upsetting to him. I keep telling Barry, 'Well, Barry, I don't think they feel they can get you without trying to harass your friend into some kind of testimony.' He said to me, 'Well, can't you do anything to get him out?' I said, 'No, I'm not his lawyer. And short of holding a gun to someone's head or doing a raid on the prison, I can't do anything, Barry. So forget it.'"
This is where it gets fuzzy and complicated. If Anderson could offer a rational explanation to clear Bonds, what's he waiting for? Wouldn't a good friend do that? Or is he playing the silent game for fear whatever he might say could be used to take down Bonds?
When the son blew out the candles on his birthday cake earlier this month, the father missed the moment. He was locked away in a prison cell, refusing to utter a peep about Bonds. That's where he celebrated his own 41st birthday on Sunday. And it is where he helplessly sat when the son broke his foot in the season's first soccer game.
That raises the question: Why would Anderson put his family through this? Is it purely a distrust of the government? Or unwavering loyalty to the soon-to-be greatest home run hitter of this or any other generation? Or more?
Supporters argue the government double-crossed Anderson. The government offered Anderson a plea deal that would have kept him out of jail early in the BALCO case if he'd become a government witness. Anderson rejected that deal, and the government didn't require him to testify against Bonds or other athletes tied to BALCO as part of his guilty plea. Shortly after Anderson completed a three-month sentence early in 2006, however, the government subpoenaed Anderson to appear in front of the grand jury to say whether he gave Bonds banned drugs.
Technically, Anderson couldn't be prosecuted based on his testimony if he were to break his silence before the grand jury, because of constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The exception would be if he were to lie under oath.
"In Greg's mind he had a deal," Canny says. "Greg has always taken the position that 'I won't identify anybody. I'm not going to talk to you.' And it was the government that said, 'OK, you don't have to. We'll do the plea agreement and you're done.'
"They're asking him to do that which they knew he wouldn't do prior to entering the plea. So if you were Greg and you just took a plea bargain and the government now says you're integral to the case to hurt your friend, why would you help the government after they just screwed you?"
"Greg is just simply a very shy guy, that doesn't like the spotlight," says Conte, who served four months after pleading guilty to orchestrating an illegal steroids distribution scheme. "If you notice, he has never said a word. Not one public comment. He is not a guy that can defend himself. He is not a communicator. Everybody is reading into this that he has so much to hide, but I think he is afraid. He doesn't trust himself. He doesn't know what he will say. He is a guy who has decided that it's better not to say anything.
"And he will never crack. He will never talk, ever."
Another character in the BALCO scandal, sprint coach Remi Korchemny, sees a sense of honor in Anderson's steadfast silence. Korchemny sent some of his and Conte's elite ZMA Track Club sprinters to weight train with Anderson. After the BALCO scandal broke, Korchemny staged a speed development camp for high school baseball players who trained at the gym under Anderson.
Already, Anderson's silence has cost him nearly 130 days in jail. He's looking to July when the grand jury session ends, unless lawyers can craft a successful argument to spring him beforehand. Then, there's speculation the U.S. Attorney could exercise the option to extend the grand jury another six months if it's not ready by July to indict Bonds.
Even Bonds' attorney acknowledges such loyalty shouldn't go unrewarded.
"For the years that Greg was training him -- and mind you, they would do training all spring, literally every day of the week, during home stands, off-season he would be training with him, and hours and hours of training -- and Barry would give him 15 grand a year for training," Rains says. "The year, I think it was '01 when he hit the 73, he gave him a bonus. I forget what it was, but he gave everybody on his team -- the publicists and everybody -- some additional money that year. When you think about it, he was paying Greg 15 grand a year to train. And I have to tell you I think that is a pitiful sum of money for spending as much time as Greg did with Barry.
"So will Barry take care of Greg? I don't know the answer. He has really never taken care of him in my opinion. Never has. So your guess is as good as mine. I actually think he should take care of him. I think he ought to. And there is nothing wrong if the [legal] proceedings are over and he says to Greg, 'Look, Greg, you had to suffer like crazy. I think you are deserving of a bonus.' I don't see anything wrong with that. But I am not so sure he will do it."
The government surely would take notice.
"They're going to say that it was some sort of payoff money for his silence," Rains acknowledges. "That is the danger of doing it. It becomes not a legal problem, but a public relations problem. And a public relations problem for Barry is something he will never win."
Even so, when all is said and done, Bonds can retire down the California coast to his gargantuan mansion high on the slopes above Beverly Hills, hang inside the gated enclave with an A-list of neighbors that includes celebrities Eddie Murphy, Sly Stallone and Denzel Washington. He could take Aaron's record into seclusion, if he breaks it. Enjoy the hundreds of millions he earned on the field. Relish a private life.
Anderson never has had it that good, and never will. When he was 10, his father was shot and killed, the victim of a dice game gone bad. A friend says Anderson never viewed his mother as much of a caretaker for his sister and him. He hasn't spoken to her in almost 20 years.
Growing up in San Carlos, just down the freeway from San Francisco, Anderson knew Bonds, but they weren't tight friends. Barry was two years older. They did play on the same Babe Ruth League team [Kiwanis] one season, along with Bonds' younger brother, Ricky, and Bobby McKercher.
A common tie has been the McKercher family. The brothers, Bobby and Tim, played with Bonds at Junipero Serra High School -- all three being inducted into the school's sports hall of fame with the likes of Tom Brady and Lynn Swann. Anderson wasn't around for the high school years, instead attended school in a town north of Sacramento where he began lifting weights to play football. After attending Fort Hayes State in Kansas, Anderson returned to the Bay Area and lived off and on with the McKerchers in San Carlos.
"I have known him since I was 4 years old," Tim McKercher says of Anderson. "That is why I read a lot of the stuff, and so much of the stuff is inaccurate coming from people that don't know Greg.
"He was always over at the house. My mom had cancer. He came and used to take care of my mom at night, and give her massages and stretch her out and stuff like that when she was going through all her cancer stuff. And he did the same stuff with Mr. Bonds [Barry's later father, Bobby] when Mr. Bonds went through all his cancer stuff. So Greg has been one that has always been there for people."
This is the warm side rarely talked about of the steroid dealer. Yet friends cast Anderson as equal parts Mother Teresa and Dr. Phil, a gym rat free with a helping hand or sage counsel. Back at Diesel Fitness, a gym that has gone through a handful of name changes during Anderson's decade-long tenure, a "Support Greg Anderson" bumper sticker and a collection jug rest on a counter just inside the front door.
Everyone wandering through the gym door has a good word to say, or so it seems. From the orthopedic surgeon who shed nearly 60 pounds training with Anderson to the basketball player he counseled during a rough first year of college. From the single mom thankful that he helped straighten out her teenage daughter to the Skyline College baseball players he introduced to sport-specific weight training.
Bonds trained here in the pre-scandal days, just around the corner from the BALCO offices. Steve Mahoney and his daughter Gaby, then 12, struck up a friendship with Bonds and his trainer. Bonds posed in the gym for photos with the shy girl in braces. Anderson paid for her own photo shoot and got her Giants tickets for her birthday.
When they saw Anderson last fall, between prison stints, he looked haggard. He'd dropped 15 to 20 pounds. They told him they were praying for him. They left him with prayer cards and a rosary.
With Anderson back in prison, they miss his riding herd over them. They no longer hit the weight room. So on a recent morning, they lingered on the treadmill before leaving for a weekly session at Weight Watchers. But not before sharing the advice they'd given their imprisoned trainer.
"We kept saying, 'Fess up, it's your whole life here. You're ruining it. You got a child you're not going to see,'" Bianchi says. "He said, 'I'm not going to say I gave [Bonds] something if I didn't do it.'"
"He said what he was taking was not a steroid at the time," Dennehy says.
"Exactly," Bianchi says. "He said whatever it was wasn't illegal at the time. It was later."
"It's about loyalty," Denney concludes. "He just loves [Bonds]. And you know, he would always tell us that he was hoping he would stay and play until he finishes his job, beats Hank Aaron's record.
"He always said, 'I just hope they don't get to him and he quits. I want him to get the record.'"
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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