SAN FRANCISCO – A father did not believe his son was using steroids, even after the son's closest friend came to him with purported firsthand knowledge. Maybe the father simply refused to consider the allegations as he entered the final stages of lung cancer and his son approached the most hallowed record in sport. But what mattered most to the son’s friend – a man named Steve Hoskins – is that the father did not believe him.
And that, according to a government filing, is what led Hoskins to secretly record a conversation with Barry Bonds's former personal trainer, Greg Anderson. Pushed by Hoskins, Anderson talked about injecting "Barry" with an undetectable substance.
They were childhood friends, Hoskins and Bonds, their families having met almost 40 years ago. Hoskins considered Bonds' father, Bobby, a second dad – especially after his own father battled Hodgkin's disease before a premature death. Bobby Bonds looked after Hoskins and helped forge a business relationship. For about a decade, Hoskins served as Barry's personal assistant and confidante. But the relationship unraveled in 2003 over a business dispute, about the same time Hoskins recorded the incriminating phone conversation with Anderson.
The tape may be one of the only pieces of evidence the federal government can count on during a trial set to begin March 2 to prove Bonds committed perjury and obstructed justice when he told a grand jury he never knowingly used steroids. Judge Susan Illston recently ruled that most of the tape is admissible.
But how the jury feels about Hoskins and the tale behind the tape could determine the value of the evidence to prosecutors, according to Lisa Griffin, a law professor at Duke University who specializes in evidence.
The significance the jury assigns to the tape Hoskins provided "depends on whether his motives were an effort to help Barry Bonds or were an effort to gather evidence for future use against him," Griffin said.
Anyone who prizes undying loyalty would be skeptical of Hoskins and regard Anderson as a heroic figure. After all, Anderson spent a year in jail for refusing to testify to a federal grand jury and is prepared to go back because he refuses to testify against Bonds at trial. Hoskins, by contrast, has cooperated with the government and provided it with evidence that could land Bonds in prison.
If Hoskins testifies, he might finally explain why he saved the secretly recorded conversation that the government says helps implicates Bonds. He declined to talk for this story – Bonds' lead attorney also had no comment – but Hoskins' attorney and mother came to his defense.
They said Hoskins acted out of concern, that he feared his longtime friend was suffering from "roid rages" – erratic behavior attributed to steroids – and that Bonds' father might have been the only one who could have ended Bonds' alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Other circumstances suggest Hoskins was worried about himself. Either way, the tape has complicated a friendship between two families dating back almost four decades. The fathers, once inseparable, are dead.
"They would've never let it get this far," said Carolyn Hoskins, Steve's mother.
She said she considers Bonds a son and has photos of him in a Giants uniform on her living room walls.
"I would never take down my photos of Barry," she said.
Shortly after the San Francisco 49ers drafted defensive tackle Bob Hoskins in 1969, and with Bobby Bonds playing for the Giants, the families became acquainted and forged strong ties. In some ways, they could not have been more different. Bonds was guarded and Hoskins was gregarious, yet they clicked. Hoskins bought Bonds his first set of golf clubs, and they became regulars at local courses. They also became business partners.
In the late 1970s, the men opened a Bay Area sporting goods store. But their relationship came to an end in June 1980 when Hoskins died at 34. At the time, Bobby Bonds was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Upon news of Hoskins' death he immediately left the team and joined the Hoskins' family.
"I'm here for you," Carolyn Hoskins recalled Bobby Bonds telling her.
The Hoskins' house was a second home for Barry Bonds and his two brothers. But after the death of Bob Hoskins, it was his four children who needed a second father. Bobby Bonds embraced them all, but none as tightly as "Stevie."
In December 1992, Barry Bonds returned to the Bay Area after signing with the Giants. In 1993, Hoskins was attending art school in Southern California and making ends meet working at a Foot Locker store. Bobby Bonds reunited the boys, who soon became as close as their fathers had been.
Hoskins moved back to the Bay Area. Barry Bonds helped him start a business. Hoskins sold Bonds’ memorabilia and began to handle personal matters in what Hoskins' mother and sister, Kathy, described as an oddly private relationship.
"It's like nobody knew anything," Kathy Hoskins said.
Added Carolyn Hoskins: "Stevie acted like the Secret Service.
"It's like that expression old men use. 'They were in cahoots.' No one knew what was going on."
Sordid details have since emerged.
Hoskins, who served as best man at Bonds' wedding in 1999, knew about an extra-marital affair that continued after Bonds' marriage to his second wife. In fact, his sister had introduced Bonds to the woman, Kimberly Bell, in 1993 after Bonds split with his first wife. Hoskins, according to published reports, was aware that Bonds gave Bell $80,000 in cash the player made from autograph signings so Bell could make a down payment on a house in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the Giants hold spring training.
To hear Hoskins' attorney tell it, "Stevie" knew all of the secrets. Hoskins threatened to expose them all when the relationship between the two men soured, according to a New York Times story that quoted one of Bonds’ attorneys, Laura Enos.
Enos told the New York Times that Hoskins made the threats after Bonds confronted his former personal assistant with accusations of forgery, fraud and financial impropriety.
''He came and we met in a conference room,'' Enos said. ''He said: 'I have three doors. If you don't drop this memorabilia issue, I'm going to ruin Barry. Behind door No. 1 is an extramarital affair. Behind door No. 2 is failure to declare income tax. And behind door No. 3 is use of steroids. And I will go to the press and ruin Barry. His records will be ruined. He will never get into the Hall of Fame.' ''
The demise began in 2003, and the soon tale of the tape began in earnest.
During spring training of 2003, Barry Bonds spotted a fan wearing one of his autographed jerseys, thought the signature was forged and blamed Hoskins.
In March, just weeks after Bonds' accusation, Hoskins secretly taped a conversation with Anderson in the Giants' clubhouse at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco. Hoskins initiated talk about Bonds' regular injections, and Anderson later referred to a substance as being undetectable. The Clear, a performance-enhancing drug taken by sprinters and other athletes tied to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, was administered orally. Bonds admitted to the grand jury that he'd taken a substance orally that he said he thought was flaxseed oil.
"See, the stuff I have … we created it," Anderson said, according to a transcript of the tape prosecutors filed with the court. "And you can't, you can't get it anywhere. You can't get it anymore."
This is the tape prosecutors claim Hoskins made in an attempt to convince Bobby Bonds that his son was using steroids. Carolyn Hoskins had heard the relationship between her son and Barry Bonds had been strained.
"When I did hear rumblings, I always felt they would work it out because they were so close," she said.
Instead, the feud escalated.
Bonds accused Hoskins of forgery and selling stolen items. When he threatened to take the matter to the FBI, Hoskins threatened to reveal Bonds' secrets. The slugger called his personal assistant's bluff.
Bonds met with FBI agents to file a complaint against Hoskins. They surprised him with a question: Had he ever taken steroids? "Never," Bonds replied.
It seems the FBI was aware of the federal investigation into BALCO and the more than two dozen athletes linked to illicit steroid operation. But the FBI also pursued another investigation.
Later that year, FBI agents joined Bonds on a trip to the home of a memorabilia collector and seized items Bonds said were forged or sold without his authorization, according to a Wall Street Journal article. The newspaper reported that the items were returned in 2004. Something else happened that year, too. The tale of the tape resumed.
On Oct. 16, 2004, the San Francisco Chronicle reported about the incriminating taped conversation involving Anderson, but did not identify Hoskins. The newspaper did not explain how it had obtained the tape.
The FBI closed its investigation into Hoskins in 2005 and then asked him about Bonds' alleged use of steroids. Hoskins, 46, lives with his wife and two children in the Bay Area and now owns a car detailing company. He cooperated with federal agents because he had no choice, according to his attorney, Michael Cardoza, who added, "This isn’t something he wanted."
Earlier this month, almost six years after Hoskins secretly recorded the conversation with Anderson in the Giants' clubhouse, the tape surfaced again. This time the government submitted the transcript as evidence Barry Bonds lied to the grand jury and that Hoskins made the tape because Bobby Bonds did not believe his son was taking steroids.
In that conversation, Anderson discussed how he was helping Bonds avoid infections by injecting him in different parts of his buttocks rather than in one spot.
Bonds testified before the grand jury that no one but his doctor ever injected him.
In the recording, Anderson appears to boast about injecting Bonds with a steroid designed to evade detection. Again, however, the Clear was administered orally.
"But the whole thing is," Anderson is quoted as saying, "everything that I’ve been doing at this point, it’s all undetectable."
Bobby Bonds died Aug. 23, 2003, almost six months after Hoskins recorded the conversation with Anderson, and the jury might want a full explanation about something Hoskins' family disclosed to Yahoo! Sports.
Bobby Bonds never heard the tape.