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Benito Santiago and Barry Bonds in 2003.
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO – Benito Santiago and Barry Bonds gave similar testimony to a federal grand jury in 2003, yet only Bonds was charged with perjury. And Santiago was shown evidence against him before he testified, while Bonds was denied the same opportunity, sources said.
Yahoo! Sports has reviewed the never-before-revealed testimony of Santiago, a veteran catcher and Bonds' former teammate on the San Francisco Giants for three seasons. More than any other of the 30-odd athletes who testified before the grand jury in the long-running BALCO case, Santiago's testimony suggests that the government engaged in selective prosecution by filing charges against Bonds, whose trial on 10 counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice begins March 2.
Like Bonds, Santiago shaded his responses to the federal prosecutor with evasive denials. Santiago testified that Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, never told him what was in designer drugs he took known as the Clear and the Cream, and that he considered everything to be "supplements."
Bonds spent three hours in front of the grand jury Dec. 4, 2003, and Santiago followed. But unlike Bonds, Santiago's interrogation was a rushed affair. He testified for only 40 minutes, beginning a scant 11 minutes after Bonds exited the grand jury room at 4:16 p.m.
Santiago, like several other ballplayers who testified, responded to prosecutor Jeff Nedrow's questions by indicating Anderson didn't identify the Clear or other drugs, such as testosterone, as steroids.
Nedrow: "Did he tell you that … did he ever tell you that [it] was a steroid, that it was testosterone?"
Nedrow: "No … so, I'm sorry but I have to ask, you injected these items into your body, but didn't know exactly what they were. Is that correct?"
Santiago: "Believe it or not."
Nedrow: "All right. You trusted Mr. Anderson."
Although Santiago is on the prosecution's witness list for the Bonds trial, defense attorneys could ask him about documents he was shown before his grand jury testimony. Mike Rains, Bonds' attorney, and another source said that while Bonds was testifying, Santiago was allowed to review pertinent documents – the very opportunity Bonds was denied. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Santiago arrived nearly 2½ hours before his testimony began at 4:27 p.m.
Rains said he and his client were ambushed before the proceedings began. They arrived shortly after 10 a.m. at the federal building for what Rains believed was an offer to review government evidence outside the grand jury room before Bonds' 1 p.m. testimony. The same courtesy was given to most other athletes who testified before the grand jury.
But when Bonds and Rains arrived, they were told there was a change of plans. Ross Nadel, the chief prosecutor, informed Rains and Bonds that no documents would be available ahead of time. Rains said he and Bonds were furious. Prosecutors declined to comment.
Rains might have an opportunity to repeat his recollection of that day because Bonds' defense team took the unusual step of submitting one of its own – Rains – as a potential witness at Bonds' trial.
As with Bonds, Santiago rebuffed repeated attempts by Nedrow to establish that he knew what substances he was taking. His testimony mirrored that of Jason Giambi, whose statements to the grand jury were revealed in a Feb. 3 Yahoo! Sports story. Giambi repeatedly said Anderson did not tell him what the Clear and the Cream were. Five times during his testimony he referred to the Clear as an "alternative to steroids."
Santiago, like Giambi, asserted that the substances didn't work. He also testified that he didn't always follow Anderson's alleged doping calendars.
Separately, Santiago denied that Anderson approached him and that he ever met Victor Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Santiago's denials add to the list of witnesses whose testimony has thrown into doubt the account of lead BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky regarding the several major league players caught up in the scandal.
The former IRS agent's official memorandum of interview with Conte stated that the BALCO founder met and supplied drugs to Santiago and a number of major league players. However, a review of the grand jury transcripts of Santiago, Jason and Jeremy Giambi, Armando Rios and Bobby Estalella indicate that all the players deny ever meeting Conte. Not a single player said any drugs came directly from Conte or BALCO.
Though Santiago was dubbed one of the "little guys" by Anderson, the catcher had an impressive 20-year career. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1987, was a five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His career slumped in the mid 1990s and he was injured in a car crash. But Santiago enjoyed a late resurgence after signing with the Giants at age 36 in 2001, the same year he met Anderson.
Nedrow: "What items did you get from Mr. Anderson that required you to inject them into your bloodstream, in your arm or wherever?"
After replying that he wasn't sure what he did or didn't take, "Well, if I know this … and I don't know this," Santiago concluded, "I don't see anything at all on the label. So, I had no idea what it was."
Nedrow then showed him a vial: "Does this look familiar to you at all, this vial?"
"The bottle yes," Santiago replied. "But it had no label on it. It had no label on it. But the bottle looks familiar."
In his unpublished manuscript, "BALCO," Conte explained how the Clear was delivered: "All of the athletes who received the Clear from me got it in the exact same type of un-labeled container. It was in a very small 7 cc screw-top plastic vial, about two and a half inches tall, with 2 cc of yellowish liquid inside. Included inside a plastic bag together with the vial was a needle-less insulin syringe, which was used to ensure that the proper dosage of the Clear would be administered."
Victor Conte says in his book, scheduled for release this spring, that every athlete received the Clear in an un-labeled container.
Bonds, like Santiago, testified that he didn't know the contents of the supplements, pills, creams and liquids given to him by Anderson. He said that the trainer told him the Clear would help with fatigue, the Cream with pain and arthritis. Like the Giambi brothers and Santiago, he testified that the Clear was not a miracle drug, saying, "I told him [Anderson]: 'It's not doing crap. I'm still in pain. I'm still feeling the pain.' "
Nadel asked Bonds: "And other than what Mr. Anderson told you, you didn't know what this substance consisted of at all?"
Bonds replied: "No, I had no reason to doubt him. We were in the ballpark, inside the stadium. You know, if I was somewhere else, maybe, I probably would have – I'm not that way, sir. Sorry. I'm not the type of person to pry into people's business. And I really believe my friends."
Bonds also testified that pills and liquids and creams Anderson gave him came in packages that did not identify their contents, saying, "Greg packaged it up for me, so I never saw the actual bottles that he was taking it from. They would come in just little, clear plastic. And they would have – there's probably like 10 or 12 different pills in there. … But I had no reason to doubt what he was giving me, because we were friends. No reason to doubt him."
Except for one brief exchange with Nedrow, Santiago denied knowing details of his drug regimen. During one sequence, the prosecution threw four straight balls – Santiago denying ties to Bonds, Giants trainer Stan Conte, Victor Conte (no relation to Stan), and finally, BALCO.
Several pages of Santiago's testimony pertained to questions regarding alleged doping calendars found in the search of Anderson's home – the same calendars the government has asked Judge Illston to allow into evidence at the Bonds trial. But Santiago's testimony indicates the calendars were only the suggested schedule for taking drugs and supplements, not proof that the player adhered to a particular regimen.
Santiago appeared confused by the few months of alleged Anderson calendars shown to him for November 2001 and early 2002. His testimony suggests that the seized calendars were not the same as those held by the players. Nor do they prove what drugs the players actually ingested.
Nedrow: "Does the schedule that I've given you look familiar?"
Santiago: "I see too many pages in here, but, yeah, he gave me a schedule to follow, and I was following it."
Nedrow: "All right. So, let's look at November 2001. Does that look like one of the schedules that Greg gave you?"
Santiago: "Yes, but when he give me a schedule to follow it, but I didn't follow the whole thing."
A few seconds later, Santiago repeated: "The thing is that he give me a program [that] I didn't follow sometimes."
What makes the testimony even more curious against the backdrop of the upcoming Bonds trial is that after 20 minutes of repeated denials that he was knowingly taking steroids, Santiago appeared to offer a partial admission. Nedrow, however, abruptly changed the subject as if it was irrelevant.
Nedrow: "But did you communicate to [Anderson] you wanted steroids."
Nedrow: "And how did he respond?"
Santiago: "He responded [by] giving it to me."
Nedrow: "How much did he charge you for the steroids?"
Santiago: "Oh, I don't remember. I don't remember a specific … how much."
Nedrow: "Okay. Let's flip ahead. I'm real short on time."
Near the end of the briskly paced interrogation, however, Santiago appeared to contradict his earlier statement.
Nedrow: "Did Greg ever tell you these things were steroids?"
Nedrow: "When you decided to stop, did you talk to Greg and say: Hey, Greg, you know, I don't want any part of this, these are steroids? Did you talk to him?"
Santiago: "For me, everything was – it was supplements."