Beil's Spiel: Speaking for Barry

Beil's Spiel: Speaking for Barry
By Larry Beil, Yahoo Sports
May 13, 2005

Larry Beil
Yahoo Sports
Arthur Ting's office is a who's who of sports.

Yao Ming's autographed jersey hangs in one room. It's just a few feet away from the Barry Sanders picture. Terrell Owens' old uniform is framed in the hallway.

Ting is the doctor to the stars, regarded as one of the finest orthopedic surgeons in the country. But recently his reputation has taken a beating.

Every day Barry Bonds is not in left field for the San Francisco Giants, there is more scrutiny surrounding Dr. Ting, who has performed three operations on Bonds' right knee since January.

The latest setback for Bonds is a rare post-op infection, a condition that develops in less than one percent of patients who undergo surgery.

When will Barry be back? Will he be close to the Barry of old? What's wrong with his knee? Where did this infection come from? Could any of this be steroid-related?

So many questions, so few answers – and it all leads to more attention being focused on Dr. Ting.

Bonds' treatment has been a cloak-and-dagger operation all along, apparently at the outfielder's insistence.

Case in point: The Giants announced that Bonds was returning from spring training for a routine checkup.

Then it was learned he actually underwent another surgical procedure.

Giants' trainer Stan Conte has joked that the first thing he does every morning is log on to Bonds' personal Web site to find out how the rehab is coming along.

Aside from his Web site, Bonds refuses to discuss his condition. With Barry doing a lot more limping than talking, the focus has shifted to his doctor, who recently agreed to answer my questions in person.

The Arizona Republic reported that the Medical Board of California placed Dr. Ting on probation last year, raising questions about whether Bonds is in good hands. "Is it the best care he could have?" Ting asks. "Absolutely. He wouldn't have anything else."

Dr. Ting performed previous operations on Bonds' elbow and knee without incident. But these days, Bonds isn't leading the league in homers – he's No.1 in knee-drainings.

"Medicine is not a predictable science," Ting explains. "Do we have knowledge of certain things? Absolutely. But can we say if we do A then B will happen every time? Absolutely not."

People have read about Dr. Ting's probation, read about Bonds' insistence on using his own doctor instead of Giants team physician Dr. Kenneth Akizuki, read about surgery after surgery. Many have assumed the arrogant superstar picked some quack surgeon and is now paying the price.

Mention that to Dr. Ting's patients and you'll get an earful. Former 49ers running back Roger Craig has known "Doc" for more than 20 years and has had three operations performed by Ting. "I trust him with my life," Craig said. "When I crashed my Harley, I didn't call 911, I called Dr. Ting."

So how could a man who has performed surgery on Tiger Woods, Joe Montana, Bonds and so many other stars end up on medical probation? Dr. Ting's attorney Daniel Alberti says a disgruntled employee where the surgeon used to work complained that Ting did not adequately supervise one of his assistants.

Dr. Ting agreed to probation and told me he thought the decision was fair. "There was an error that was made," Ting said. "No patients were involved, nobody was injured or suffered anything."

The 53-year-old surgeon is now working at a different clinic, in a thriving practice. He's best known for handling high-profile athletes, but he spends much more time on patients who'll never make headlines. He has received distinguished service awards from high school sports associations in Northern California, and friends say Dr. Ting often provides medical care for kids who do not have insurance.

In spite of his good deeds, Dr. Ting is painfully aware that when people see his name in print now, it is often followed by bad news.

"I get scrutinized more because of my clientele than anybody," said Ting, who, like Bonds has become a target.

Dr. Ting knows that many will point the accusing finger of blame in his direction until No. 25 is back on the field.

The Giants are hoping Bonds will be healthy enough to play by late July. Ting told me he expects Bonds to be back sometime this season, but he would not give a timetable. At this point, it's easier predicting earthquakes than it is anticipating what will happen to Barry's knee.

The only certainty is that next to Barry himself, nobody will be happier seeing Bonds jog out to left field than Dr. Arthur Ting.

Larry Beil is a Yahoo! Sports analyst. Send Larry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2005 3:05 am, EDT

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