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Lance Williams on Barry Bonds

Posted on Dec 7, 2007
Barry Bonds
Aislin, The Montreal Gazette

By James Harris

The “Game of Shadows” co-author shares his thoughts on Barry Bonds’ legal woes, the impact of steroids on sports and how Nancy Pelosi helped to keep him (Williams) out of jail.

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James Harris: Extra, extra!  Read all about it!  Baseball’s home run king was charged last week [Nov. 15] with obstruction of justice and perjury.  He will stand trial Dec. 7, 2007.  This is Truthdig.  James Harris with Lance Williams, San Francisco Chronicle writer and co-author of “Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports,” and that book title is secret coding for “I broke the Barry Bonds story.”  Lance, how are you doing today?

Lance Williams: Happy to be here.

Harris: Well, Lance, I know you’ve been over there waiting to exhale.  You yourself faced jail time for not responding to a subpoena that called for you to “out” your source, the source that gave you the information that led to the indictment of Barry Bonds.  And since we’re not having this conversation through glass, I assume the government backed off.  Why did they back off, and why aren’t you in jail?


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Williams: The government says that it did an independent investigation and independently identified the person who leaked the information.  We’ve never been able to [unintelligible] on them, whether they got the right guy, whether this guy or that guy was the source.  The somewhat longer version is that Congress has changed hands and Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales started getting letters from members of both the Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress saying, “Why are you going after these guys in a story about baseball?”  And I really feel that after he got the letter from the new speaker of the House, he rethought the thing and decided to do an independent investigation.  That’s my opinion.

Harris: So that was Nancy Pelosi that wrote that letter?

Williams: Yeah.  We went back.  Mark [reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada, co-author of the book]  and I went back three times to Washington to lobby on behalf of a shield law for whistle-blowers and journalists to keep the federal government from trying to drag reporters and their sources before grand juries because it’s really bad for the country to do that.  We’re going to lose independent sources of information about what our government is doing if they’re allowed to do that.  And it was in that context that we met—oh, golly, everybody we met from Mike Pence [House member, R-Ind.] on the right to the new speaker and the new chair of the House Judiciary, Congressman Conyers [John Conyers, D-Mich.] and we got nine or 10 letters out of that on our behalf as well as support for the shield law.  And I do feel—I don’t mean to be a reductionist here—but I really do feel that the government’s interest in resolving the case without throwing us in prison amped way up after they found out that prominent lawmakers thought that what the Justice Department was doing was nuts.

Harris: Do you feel at all like you prevented justice from being served by not outing your source?

Williams: I don’t think so.  I think maybe a source of ours violated a court order, but I don’t think there’s any law about writing a true story in the newspaper.  Perhaps Attorney General Gonzales would’ve liked to have had such a law on the books.

Harris: So there is no law prohibiting a reporter from publishing leaked testimony. ...

Williams:  No.

Harris: ... or any type of testimony.

Williams: No, that’s not our system.  You can come after reporters and so forth and you can come after the press, but you can’t restrain it, and you can’t criminalize it.  That’s just not consistent with the First Amendment which our founders gave us.

Harris: I agree.  You guys have avoided jail, and now Bonds seems to be the guy again.

Williams: Now it’s somebody else’s turn in the barrel.  My heart goes out to anybody who has the federal government with their gun sights on you.  So it’s a tough time for the home run king now.

Harris: But do you really feel bad for the home run king?  He has not been a friend to the media.  Not at all.

Williams: I feel bad for anybody who’s in that predicament of being under indictment or scrutiny of the federal government, just because it’s very intense.  It’s a human reaction on my part.  Bonds could’ve avoided all of this trouble if he had testified truthfully in front of the grand jury that was investigating the BALCO case.  Most of the athletes who went in there—and there were more than 30 of them—went in and admitted what they were doing and if you admitted it, you didn’t get into any trouble.  They were given immunity from prosecution because the government hoped to use them in trial as witnesses against the dope dealers, who ultimately pleaded guilty, so there was no trial.  But that was the dynamic there.  Bonds—and it’s understandable because it’s embarrassing—didn’t want to admit that he had used banned drugs.  But now my advice, for anybody if you’re ever faced with being questioned by the federal law enforcement: either don’t talk to them, or tell them the truth, because the third alternative is really bad.  They get mad when you don’t tell them the truth, and here we go: This is the fourth athlete in the BALCO case to be brought up on charges of lying about their drug use.

Harris: Now who are the others?

Williams: Sure.  The most prominent is Marion Jones, the star of the Sydney Olympics.  Five medals there in 2000.  She pleaded guilty last month to lying to a BALCO investigator about her use of banned drugs.  Then there’s an elite track coach, Trevor Graham, and a bicycle racer called Tammy Thomas.  Both are accused, also, of lying to the feds, either the grand jury or the investigators, in this big investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

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By rage, December 29, 2007 at 10:34 am Link to this comment
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Since when is it a crime for the President of the United States to get blown under his desk by a willing consenting intern who is of legal age? I’ll give you that it’s amoral, sinful, and the true mark of an infidel. But, there is nothing statutory on the books labeling the act a crime. Furthermore, impeaching Big Dog for lying about having his wick waxed was a waste of tax-payer money. What infidel do you know who would have confessed to having cheated on his wife on the job with a twenty-something intern? It’s not like thousands of executive officers throughout the American corporatocracy aren’t just as guilty of the same charge. Rarely, though, even after indisputably establishing overwhelming substantiation of the low-life cheater’s guilt, do the guilty get more than divorced.

Get over it. In the end, all you canting smug selfrighteous self-appointed agents of God Almighty will not judge the masses for lying. Actually, tarring and feathering liars is illegal and prosecutable by law as criminal aggravated assault and battery. I know, it is so unfair.

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By rage, December 28, 2007 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment
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With the Mitchell Report naming so many big names, does Bonds really make much of a difference?

A myriad of baseball stars whose names weren’t mentioned have abused steroids and human growth hormone to give body mass to their skill. Most, if not all of them, in and out of the Mitchell Report or simple public scrutiny, have lied about the “clear” at some point.

Sure, we selfrighteously want to hold these guys to a higher standard. They, after all, are the over compensated role models raising our children. We don’t want our kids cheating, as it were, to sate the fans griping whines for faster pitches and longers hits out of the park. Yet, baseball, especially after the 1996 strike, was a very bland form of entertainment, when there were no floating asterixes to inject excitment of 60 or 70 homers in a single season. Anabolic steroids and human growth hormone fixed all that for us. We were all screaming in glee when Sosa and McGuire went after the Marris record of 61 homers in a season. Fast pitches. A lot of long balls. A bunch of regular-built guys that suddenly beefed up to shame Mr. Universe? These guys suddenly became the men little boys wanted to be when they grew up.

The fact remains that most of these baseballers still had to have a great deal of talent and well developed skill to play reasonably good pro baseball, “clear” or no “clear.” What’s more is the “clear” isn’t going away. Professional athletes from all the leagues of all the sports around the world are sneaking around to do as much “clear” as they’re doing weed, booze, blow, and whores/groupies. The only thing that will change is the price for acquiring clear piss to throw regulators off a guilty athlete’s tracks. The pros test and punnish the pro they want to test and punnish.

They can’t justifiably punnish Bonds, while Clements, Palmiere, and McGuire walk free. So, now what?

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By Frank, December 27, 2007 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
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The world is tired of the racist inference to Barry Bonds.

How’s this for fodder, the “trial” of the century was the impeachment of Bill Clinton for the very same reason, not the crime-but lying about it!

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By John Borowski, December 20, 2007 at 11:43 am Link to this comment
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It’s not only professional sports that are corrupted. It is virtually everything since the Republicans (Aka Conservatives right wingers) have gained full control of this beloved country that is totally corrupted.

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By Frank Cajon, December 17, 2007 at 8:46 pm Link to this comment

The world has enough serious problems that need our attention, and MLB and its Steroid King aren’t among them. It is a sport, he is a cheat, as are half he players in the game. He’s an asshole too, but at the end of the day he hasn’t killed anyone, tortured anyone, or committed crimes of corruption on a national scale. Who cares?

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By Hemi*, December 15, 2007 at 5:26 pm Link to this comment

This has dragged on long enough due to undo attention from prominent morons such as Senator John McCain. The kernel of truth at the center of this issue is American sports fans have to grow up. Baseball is an entertainment business. Always has been, always will be. If you hold up anyone as a role model you are setting yourself up for a let down. They are not super human, only human. They have a quirky talent for hitting a round ball squarely with a round bat. That’s it. No special endowments are tied to that. They can be great guys or scum balls. We are all subject to the pressures of our mortality and our morality is only along for the ride. Or as we’ve heard before “everyone has their price”.

The owners are businessmen, the players (thanks to free agency) are businessmen and the rest of us have the choice whether to buy their entertainment offerings. The owners and players don’t care if any of the rest of us live or die. If they did you would think them insane. In the big scheme do you care whether strangers live or die? And if you say you do, how do you get through a day with all of the grief you must endure? Strangers die by the minute. And yet many of us, me included, live and die with these entertainments.

It’s time to grow up. First, take away the baseball anti-trust exemption. Make the owners play on the same field as every other business. Second, make the use of steroids and any performance enhancements legal if not mandatory. Do you care if Barry B’s heart gives out at the plate? He doesn’t, why should you? It’s entertainment. Welcome to the Coliseum. They are well paid get over it. Bigger, faster, stronger, who cares if you die on the field? Just thinning the herd. Next batter please. Role models for young athletes? You’re f***ing kidding, right? They gave that up a long time ago. See Babe, I never met a beer or a prostitute I didn’t love, Ruth. And that was just in the clubhouse. They are only human, not super human.

Now you say you don’t like the mandatory enhancements. Good, neither will the players. The point is they have to find out nobody cares and then they will step up and care for themselves. See how cooperative the player’s union will be with mandatory injections. It’s like the guy on the bridge railing when you say to him “Look if you’re gonna jump, mind if I push?”

Play ball!

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By John Borowski, December 11, 2007 at 4:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When a country has professional sports you have absolute corruption because of the money that is involved. To single out one person out of many is a farce. This is why many countries don’t want professional sports.

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By antwoine, December 10, 2007 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is Truthdig? When will you have your one-on-one interview with Barry Bonds? When will you dumbass reporters start using the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” in reference to the case against Barry Bonds that has not yet gone to trial? It is going to trial, and it will be a waste of tax dollars just to try to bring a black man to his knees to be humbled for your amusement! So you can have your “second-trial-of-the-century”! Making comparisons of O.J. Simpson?????? That was a murder case that involved the death of two people! This is hardly a case of life and death. It is ultimatley about a game! A game where greedy white men play God over our society’s “national past-time” and get filthy rich and could care less whether any one was not doing anything to make them more money! It was reported last week that they made over 6 billion last year alone!!!!! They have their money protected by the government and that stupid anti-trust protection they enjoy. So what Congress threatened to take it away….they should have just taken it away to show they were serious and had some balls, and you reporters could have led the charge as much as you lead the charge in bashing Barry Bonds. Take up your mighty pen and write something that will change the world and make it better for everyone!!! You bash the players while the owners get a free pass to keep benefiting from the players. Are the players at fault? What they do is merely a symptom of the bigger problem, They do not run baseball. They do not hire the team doctor’s that can get them any drug they want. They do not pay themselves! You want justice? Justice for whom? Balco has been shut down. Steroids do not make you better at anything, but you sure will recover from any injury a whole lot faster without them or any anti-biotic. Last statement, then I am done. Take 100 sports writer’s, give them all steroids once the people vs. Barry Bonds trial begins, have them all report on the same things and once the trial is over collect all their work and see whose is best. Then they will see the real effect of how much steroids makes you better.

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