Barry Bonds mug shot with new and improved head: does larger+balder = steroid use?

Yesterday in a San Francisco federal courtroom, Kimberly Bell testified under oath about her nine years as the extra-marital girlfriend of baseball legend Barry Bonds, recipient of a record-setting seven Most Valuable Player awards,  14-time All-Star and 8-time Gold Glove winner who holds numerous Major League Baseball records, including the all-time Major League Baseball home run record with 762 and the single-season Major League record for home runs with 73 (set in 2001.)

Bell is s a witness for the prosecution in Bond’s trial on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice by lying to a 2003 grand jury investigating BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative which had been manufacturing tetrahydrogestrinone (“the Clear”), a then-undetected, performance-enhancing steroid.

Back then, Bonds said under oath that he had never knowingly taken steroids.

Bell  has now testified under oath that while she never saw him use steroids, he admitted to her once that he took steroids,  just not every day like some players.  She said she didn’t ask again about it because she was fearful of him.

She said the subject  came up in 1999 when Bonds told her an elbow injury was caused by steroid use, that he said the muscle and tendons were growing faster than the joint and it “blew out.”

ex-girlfriend tells jury how Bonds lost that "swing"

Kimberly Bell, the girlfriend who spanned the years of both of  Bonds’s two marriages, acknowledged taking money from him for a house in Arizona,  and also introduced jurors to the concept of “wife cities” and “girlfriend cities” for those families making summer vacation plans. (Now that’s something big  for the Travel Channel!)

Beyond the tawdry testimony, Bell spoke softly of her growing fear of Bonds and his behavior, the description of which the rest of us have called ‘roid rage.

“More than once,  he threatened to “cut my head off and leave me in a ditch,” she said.

She said he also threatened to “cut out my breast implants because he paid for them. … He was very controlling.”

Predictably, defense attorney Cris Arguedas sparred with Bell on cross-examination trying to portray her to the eight women and four men on the jury as a vindictive, attention-seeking  gold-digger who posed in Playboy, spoke vulgar language on the Howard Stern Show and wants to sell her book.

In redirecting his witness, prosecutor Jeffrey Nedrow asked her, “Is it fun testifying in front of all these people?”  She choked up and answered, “No.”


I think its probably less fun for Barry Bonds whose defense team had to attack his ex-girlfriend’s assessment of his shrinking testicles by telling jurors the only accurate measurement of testicular atrophy is from a medical instrument called an “orchidometer.”   According to reports, this left some jurors rolling their eyes, others suppressing giggles.

I’m not on the jury, but I say the woman knows her man’s testicles without a calibrator.

But speaking of measurements, the Giants’ equipment manager, Mike Murphy, also testified yesterday that Bonds’ baseball cap size grew 1/8th of an inch, from 7 1/4 to 7 3/8, something prosecutors say if evidence of human growth hormone use.

Still ahead  this week: results from a positive drug test, and an eye-witness to a steroid injection.  Bonds’  former personal shopper, Kathy Hoskins, is expected tell the jury that she saw Greg Anderson inject Bonds in his navel. Anderson has refused to testify and remains in  jail in Dublin, Calif.


Erik Menendez in his first trial: cryin while his doctor was lyin?

I do feel for the prosecutors of Barry Bonds.  Hey, it’s California, the state where they just hate to convict their celebrities. From O.J. Simpson to Robert Blake to Michael Jackson.  Despite their tape-recorded murder confessions of their pre-meditated cold-blooded shotgun murders of their parents., the Menendez brothers got a hung jury.  It took a second trial, where Erik Menendez’s Harvard shrink was caught lying on the witness stand on his behalf, for the brothers to be convicted and sentenced to mandatory life sentences without possibity of parole.

It was during that trial that I learned how hard it is for our justice system to cope a bald-faced lie under oath, especially from someone held in high esteem, like Erik’s Dr.William Vicary who, when tripped up on the stand, at least quickly admitted he’d deleted sections of his notes for his patient and attorney Leslie Abramson.

When Cynthia McFadden and I spoke to Dr. Vicary on the phone right after the incident, he told us of his quick decision to come clean.  “I have been a psychiatrist for many years.  I just did what I’ve counselled others to do; just tell the truth, and accept the consequences.”  He said he just wanted to be able to continue treating Erik.

If Bonds did commit perjury eight years ago, when he still had an active baseball career, it was certainly because of much bigger stakes. But because a whopper will throw a monkey wrench into a trial,  the government  must have zero tolerance for those who lie under oath, especially a public icon.

I’m not certain how many people really cared about his alleged steroid use back then.  I’m not sure who will care now. But it’s one thing to cheat your fans;  it’s a whole other ballgame, so to speak, to try to cheat the criminal justice system.

Which brings me to a bigger question: if Barry Bonds is found guilty, what should be his punishment?   Although the California banned Dr. Vicary as a psychiatric expert for court cases, he negotiated a deal to keep his medical license because he ultimately told the truth. (A three-year investigation of Leslie Abramson was eventually closed without any action against her.)

A case much closer to Bonds is that of Tammy Thomas,  one of 30 athletes (including Bonds ) who was summoned to testify before that 2003 federal grand jury investigating BALCO.

In 2008, Thomas was convicted of three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for telling the panel she never took anabolic steroids and never received illegal products from chemist Patrick Arnold, who worked with BALCO.  U.S. District Judge Susan Illston sentenced her to six months of home confinement and five years of probation. She lost a subsequent appeal.

But here was Tammy Thomas’ real punishment.  According to witnesses in her trial, steroid abuse had given her facial hair, male-pattern baldness and a deep, gravelly voice.  One  representative of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency  testified when he went to her house in 2002 to collect a urine sample, the elite cyclist answered the door with shaving cream on her face.

I always say, let the punishment fit the crime.  If  the current jury now finds Kimberly Bell and the other prosecution witnesses to be truthful, and they vote unanimously for a conviction, perhaps Barry Bonds’ has already received his sentence: having the curtain pulled back on not a hero, but a potion-filled baseball wizard with all his pimples, rage and withering body parts exposed.

House arrest could at least give him time and a place to reflect on all the changes his ex-girlfriend detailed,  changes that may be as hard for his most ardent fans to accept, as perhaps they were for his loyal wife of 11 years who stood by him through so much.  She separated from him, went back to him, ant then finally filed for divorce in 2009.   Maybe now she, and all the Bonds girls can find some peace, hopefully off planning their 2011 summer vacations — in any city they chose.