October 21, 2016
Lance Williams on Barry Bonds
Posted on Dec 7, 2007
By James Harris
Harris: But what about McGwire? He didn’t lie at that testimony, and you watched it, probably as I did, and he said, “You know what, I don’t want to talk about the past,” so he never faced those demons.
Williams: The difference between McGwire and Bonds is that McGwire was fortunate enough not to be obtaining drugs from an outfit that was under federal law enforcement scrutiny. That’s the whole difference. Bonds happened to be, through his own misfortune, a client at BALCO, which the government had targeted as a steroid mill. McGwire—there’s no other inference one could draw from that testimony before Congress then that Mac was a juicer. That’s what Jose Canseco said, and Jose was sitting—what?—10 feet from him?
Williams: Mac could’ve said, “You know, this is a lie. I didn’t do it,” and instead he said, “I don’t want to talk about the past.” You saw the truth about Mark’s career revealed in those remarks. The reluctance to deny it spoke volumes.
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Harris: But what was it about BALCO? Was it the type of drug? Was it the secrecy? What made the government so hot for these guys?
Williams: I think what got them cranked up was the knowledge that an undetectable steroid was being distributed there. The original focus of BALCO was track and field, and there was a track meet at Stanford University in the summer of 2003. “The Nationals,” they’re called. The head man at BALCO, Victor Conte, was using ... was distributing—and fairly well-known among other competitors—was distributing this stuff called “The Clear,” which was a steroid but it was one that, because it had been tweaked in terms of its molecular structure, the testers couldn’t find it when they ran the urine and blood of the athletes, and so it was like a complete free pass to juice. And I think when the authorities learned that this was the dynamic of BALCO, that’s what got them cranked up.
Harris: I was in the car with my good buddy the other day, and he said this of Barry Bonds: Not only was he taking drugs—that was one thing, and I’d love to hear your response to his thought—but he was cheating, he sought out to hide the fact that he was taking drugs, then he went out publicly and lied about that fact, and then he was an asshole about it.
Williams: And I think that does describe the dynamic. I don’t know how this would’ve played out if Bonds were a warm and lovable athletic hero. Maybe it would’ve played out slightly differently, but, of course, he wouldn’t be the athlete he is. That whole prickly side of his personality and that arrogance and so forth—I think that’s part of what made him such a great competitor, so you can’t really separate it. Certainly, though, he wasn’t the only guy who used drugs. Unfortunately, he was one of a handful of ballplayers who were dragged in before a grand jury and asked about it. In my opinion he used poor judgment and didn’t ‘fess up and now has this big mess on his hands. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be convicted at a trial at all. This is San Francisco. He is the well-loved sports figure. At least in this town. But who wants to go through this mess?
Harris: It is a mess, and this is a federal case, is it not?
Williams: It is.
Harris: And their conviction rate is 90 percent?
Williams: Yeah. He might beat the case or fight it to a hung jury, but at the end of the day, you really get whupped on in that process, and I don’t think his reputation is going to emerge in any improved shape, even if he manages that. It’s just too darned bad. He could have, I think, headed this off, even after the grand jury testimony was transcribed. I think he could’ve had somebody call over there and say, “I want to amend my statement,” and they might have really let it go. But it’s fairly inflamed now; it’s to the point of an indictment. His trainer sat in prison for a year rather than testifying against him. It’s just gotten out of hand.
Harris: Do you think you can compare them? You can look at what Marion Jones did a couple of weeks ago and she came out crying and said, “You know what? I lied.” And we don’t seem to be talking about that as much. But I still wonder if they would’ve been that kind to Barry Bonds because of the type of person he was before any of these stories broke.
Williams: Mm-hmm. It’s unimaginable to me that Barry would go out there and humble himself the way Marion did.
Williams: That’s just not the way he’s wired, so if he would do something like that, it would be a way of turning the temperature down on this thing and maybe working it out, but it’s so hypothetical, because he’s really not that kind of guy.
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