Bonds takes cuts at feds’ evidence

SAN FRANCISCO – No steroid tests. No doping calendars. No secretly recorded conversations. Nobody who was close to the Big Guy. And no “junk science.”

Barry Bonds’ defense team took a shot at the heart of the federal government’s perjury case against major league baseball’s home run king Thursday, charging that key documents and testimony allegedly tying the former slugger to banned drugs should be excluded as evidence when Bonds goes to trial on March 2 facing perjury charges.

The motions, filed in federal court and reviewed by Yahoo! Sports, target the widely rumored logs that purportedly show multiple positive steroid tests for Bonds, doping calendars, taped conversations and expert testimony. Thursday was the court-imposed deadline to make filings prior to trial.

Susan Illston, the presiding judge, will hold court hearings on the defense motions in early February.

The defense also seeks to exclude the testimonies of Bonds’ former doctor, his trainer, a business partner and an ex-lover – along with the testimony of former IRS agent Jeff Novitzky, who led the BALCO investigation.

Knocking the tests out of evidence are a central focus of the motion, as lack of proof of any steroid use by Bonds would deal a blow to the government’s effort to prove Bonds lied under oath about taking banned substances.

Also problematic for the government is the fact that one of the performance enhancing drugs Bonds is accused of taking, The Clear, wasn’t illegal nor categorized as a steroid at the time.

“Unless the government can supply pervasive, admissible evidence demonstrating that a specific blood or urine sample belonged to Mr. Bonds, the court must exclude evidence of any associated tests as irrelevant,” wrote Bonds attorneys Dennis Riordan and Donald Horgan in the 26-page motion.

Bonds’ legal team was responding to the prosecutors’ filing, a Dec. 26, 2008, letter filed under seal by the government, asserting it failed to address outstanding issues regarding the evidence.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.

Thursday’s motion attacks the government’s case on a number of fronts. A fundamental charge in the filing is that urine and blood tests provided to the defense lack a chain of custody – an established protocol for collecting, labeling and maintaining urine and blood samples.

Bonds’ attorneys also argue a lack of foundation for the government to introduce drug calendars allegedly created by Greg Anderson, Bonds’ former trainer, that allegedly detail Bonds’ drug use. The attorneys note that prosecutors did not explain “[which] witnesses can offer competent testimony” on these “Bonds” documents in order to authenticate them, adding that the government has not indicated that it will call Anderson to testify to “lay the necessary foundation” for authenticating the calendars.

Anderson was jailed in 2006 for refusing to testify before the BALCO grand jury. Sources say despite continuing government pressure on his family, Anderson remains committed to remaining silent.

The defense also challenges the idea that prosecutors may try to establish chain of custody via Bonds’ former doctor, Arthur Ting.

“It’s probable that the chain of custody is not very good,” said Christopher Cannon, a San Francisco defense attorney with extensive experience in federal perjury cases. “They need a custodian of records. Absent Greg Anderson or Victor Conte they will be hard-pressed to show that they have somebody who can identify documents.”

As for the doping calendars, defense attorneys challenged their relevance by asserting that “there is no evidence that Mr. Bonds ever saw these documents before his appearance before the grand jury, much less participated in their creation.”

The long-rumored BALCO drug logs, which prosecutors also could use in an attempt to tie Bonds to steroid use, are thought to be handwritten on simple accounting paper. Sources close to the case say the government has enlisted Jim Valente, the former vice president of BALCO, to testify to their creation and accuracy.

But Bonds’ attorneys argue that the logs should not be allowed into evidence because “they contain information – e.g., the source of the specific blood or urine sample – that constitutes inadmissible hearsay.”

The government has indicated it will call Dr. Don Catlin, the founder of the UCLA Olympic Laboratory and man credited with decoding THG – also known as The Clear, which is central to much of the Bonds investigation – as well as Lawrence Bowers of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Bonds’ lawyers argued that Catlin lacks a degree in pharmacology, a failing they also attribute to Bowers, calling their testimony on the “side effects of steroids and HGH” to the grand jury “nothing more than anecdotal junk science.”

The defense also is fighting the admission of what allegedly are secretly recorded conversations of Anderson and Steve Hoskins, a former business partner and friend of Bonds. The conversations purportedly include Anderson discussing steroids.

Similarly, the defense is objecting to the potential testimony of a number of lay witnesses – Bonds’ ex-lover Kimberly Bell, Novitzky, Hoskins, and former San Francisco Giants trainer Stan Conte.

Riordan and Horgan suggest the government’s Dec. 26 letter raised more questions than it answered.

“For example,” they wrote, “it suggests that hearsay may be admissible under the ‘co-conspirator exception.’ What conspiracy? Who were the conspirators?”

Jonathan Littman is a veteran journalist and author of seven books. As a Contributing Editor for Playboy, he has written about the Masters, Super Bowl ticket scalpers, track and field and the undercover steroids operation targeting Barry Bonds. His books include The Fugitive Game, the story of a notorious computer hacker, and The Beautiful Game, a season of a competitive soccer team. Send Jonathan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Jan 16, 2009