Penguin.com (usa)

Game of Shadows

Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports

Mark Fainaru-Wada - Author

Lance Williams - Author

ePub eBook | $12.99 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9781101216767 | 376 pages | 23 Mar 2006 | Gotham Trade Paperback | 18 - AND UP
Additional Formats:
Summary of Game of Shadows Summary of Game of Shadows Reviews for Game of Shadows An Excerpt from Game of Shadows

In the summer of 1998 two of baseball leading sluggers, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, embarked on a race to break Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. The nation was transfixed as Sosa went on to hit 66 home runs, and McGwire 70. Three years later, San Francisco Giants All-Star Barry Bonds surpassed McGwire by 3 home runs in the midst of what was perhaps the greatest offensive display in baseball history. Over the next three seasons, as Bonds regularly launched mammoth shots into the San Francisco Bay, baseball players across the country were hitting home runs at unprecedented rates. For years there had been rumors that perhaps some of these players owed their success to steroids. But crowd pleasing homers were big business, and sportswriters, fans, and officials alike simply turned a blind eye. Then, in December of 2004, after more than a year of investigation, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams broke the story that in a federal investigation of a nutritional supplement company called BALCO, Yankees slugger Jason Giambi had admitted taking steroids. Barry Bonds was also implicated. Immediately the issue of steroids became front page news. The revelations led to Congressional hearings on baseball’s drug problems and continued to drive the effort to purge the U.S. Olympic movement of drug cheats. Now Fainaru-Wada and Williams expose for the first time the secrets of the BALCO investigation that has turned the sports world upside down.

Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroid Scandal That Rocked Professional by award- winning investigative journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, is a riveting narrative about the biggest doping scandal in the history of sports, and how baseball’s home run king, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, came to use steroids. Drawing on more than two years of reporting, including interviews with hundreds of people, and exclusive access to secret grand jury testimony, confidential documents, audio recordings, and more, the authors provide, for the first time, a definitive account of the shocking steroids scandal that made headlines across the country.

The book traces the career of Victor Conte, founder of the BALCO laboratory, an egomaniacal former rock musician and self-proclaimed nutritionist, who set out to corrupt sports by providing athletes with “designer” steroids that would be undetectable on “state-of-the-art” doping tests. Conte gave the undetectable drugs to 28 of the world’s greatest athletes—Olympians, NFL players and baseball stars, Bonds chief among them.

A separate narrative thread details the steroids use of Bonds, an immensely talented, moody player who turned to performance-enhancing drugs after Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals set a new home run record in 1998. Through his personal trainer, Bonds gained access to BALCO drugs. All of the great athletes who visited BALCO benefited tremendously—Bonds broke McGwire’s record—but many had their careers disrupted after federal investigators raided BALCO and indicted Conte. The authors trace the course of the probe, and the baffling decision of federal prosecutors to protect the elite athletes who were involved.

Highlights of Game of Shadows include:

Barry Bonds

  • A look at how Bonds was driven to use performance-enhancing drugs in part by jealousy over Mark McGwire’s record-breaking 1998 season. It was shortly thereafter that Bonds—who had never used anything more performance enhancing than a protein shake from the health food store—first began using steroids.
  • How Bonds’s weight trainer, steroid dealer Greg Anderson, arranged to meet Victor Conte before the 2001 baseball season with the help of an acquaintance who knew the BALCO chief. Anderson gave the impression that he and Bonds wanted an edge in hopes of breaking McGwire’s home run record.
  • How Bonds’ initial use of banned drugs almost wrecked his career. The Giants slugger blew out his elbow in 1999. Although fans were told the damage was caused by a lifetime of wear and tear, Bonds blamed the injury on his putting on muscle too quickly. Thereafter, he altered his drug regimen. Beginning in 2001, he turned to BALCO, and used a cocktail of human growth hormone and designer steroids peddled by the company’s owner, Victor Conte.
  • Six on-the-record accounts of Bonds’ steroid use including interviews with Kimberly Bell, his former girlfriend; a secret recording made of his trainer Greg Anderson; statements to federal investigators by former Olympic shot putter C.J. Hunter and by BALCO executives Victor Conte and James Valente; and the secret grand jury testimony of American sprint champion Tim Montgomery.
  • The authors track Bonds’s use of performance enhancers as he put together the greatest five consecutive seasons of any hitter in baseball history. During that stretch, when he was age 35 to 39—a time when most major leaguers are gone from baseball or in decline—steroids helped the Giants superstar to bat .339, hit 258 homers, drive in 544 runs, break Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record, and win his first batting championship.
  • How the Giants repeatedly allowed Bonds to impose his will on the team –finally to the point that even after Anderson had been indicted as a steroid dealer, the team circumvented Major League Baseball rules by hiring two members of Bonds’ entourage so they could be in the clubhouse any time.
Bonds and Kimberly Bell
  • The story of Bonds’ relationship with girlfriend Kimberly Bell—from his steroid admissions to his suffocating and sometimes abusive behavior. (On more than one occasion, according to Bell, Bonds threatened to kill her.) The authors also provide details of his providing her with large sums of cash made from memorabilia sales— payments that later piqued the interest of IRS investigators.
Bonds and Other Ball Players

  • How Barry Bonds connected Yankees star Jason Giambi with steroid dealer Greg Anderson on a major-league barnstorming trip to Japan.
  • How Bonds supervised the rehabilitation of Gary Sheffield’s injured knees—and introduced him to BALCO’s banned steroids, the Cream and the Clear, before the 2003 season. Sheffield claimed he was never told he was using banned drugs, saying Bonds told him, “Don’t ask questions.”
Victor Conte

  • The story of how Victor Conte transformed himself from a junior college dropout and former funk band guitarist into a steroid dealer to the stars—and the unusual cast of characters that surrounded him and came to be part of the biggest doping scandal in sports history. The authors offer full details of Conte’s drug program—which was eerily similar to the regimen used by the former East-Germany. They also show how Conte repeatedly took track athletes who were struggling and/or at the end of their careers and rejuvenated them by providing an array of performance-enhancing drugs.
  • Details of Conte’s “Project World Record”—an effort to use BALCO drugs to transform elite sprinter Tim Montgomery into a 100-meter champion. After a bitter falling out with Montgomery, Conte declared he could simply create a new champion.
Track & Field

  • A shocking view of the prevalence of doping at the highest levels of track and field. The authors demonstrate that even the athletes acknowledge that the use of the drugs is widespread. One BALCO track star told anti-doping officials that six out of eight competitors in a 100-meter final were sure to be on the juice; another suggested all eight were cheaters.
  • A look at how track superstar Marion Jones—once considered “the fastest woman in the world”—first connected with Victor Conte and BALCO. Although Jones has continued to insist in many public statements and under oath that she never used banned drugs, the authors detail a wide range of evidence to the contrary including accounts offered by Conte and Jones’s former husband C.J. Hunter, bank records, ledgers, doping calendars, and the like. The evidence clearly suggests that Jones was using steroids and other banned substances before, during, and after her spectacular victories at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney where she won five medals.
  • Full details of the behind-the-scenes fight between rival track groups that helped lead to the unraveling of the BALCO scandal.
  • The inside story of American sprint star Kelli White – corrupted by a coach she had trusted since girlhood, and wracked with guilt for taking the banned drugs that made her a champion. She became USADA’s star witness against the BALCO track stars.
USADA—the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

  • Details regarding the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s role in the BALCO case, including USADA’s efforts to persuade Victor Conte to testify against the BALCO athletes; the agency’s frantic back-room politicking to obtain sealed government documents that implicated track stars in hopes of keeping the 2004 Olympic team clean; Senator John McCain’s intervention that allowed USADA to get the information it needed; and details of meetings with athletes to persuade them to cut deals and admit wrongdoing.
The BALCO Probe

  • New, in-depth details about the federal investigation into BALCO, including insider material from the day federal agents descended on the company’s offices, Victor Conte’s home, and the home of Bonds’s trainer, Greg Anderson.
  • How U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and his top aides—all longtime baseball fans—pushed the BALCO probe because they believed the BALCO athletes were cheating superstars such as Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. The authors also show how the government subsequently bent over backwards to shield the BALCO athletes by not prosecuting them, by excising their names from court documents, and by settling the BALCO case with a plea bargain rather than a trial.
The BALCO Grand Jury

  • A look at how Conte tried to orchestrate the testimony of several elite athletes during the BALCO grand jury inquiry, instructing them to admit nothing under oath and say they had no idea what they were receiving from BALCO.
  • An inside-look at Bonds’ grand jury testimony. The authors also detail Bonds’s lawyer, Mike Rains, prepping him with mock cross examinations; the ride to the courthouse with the IRS agent who had spearheaded the BALCO probe, as well as Bonds’s attempt to goad the agent into a confrontation; and exchanges between Rains and another lawyer while Bonds was testifying, demonstrating Rains’s agitation and concern that the government was trying to set his client up for a perjury charge.

Game of Shadows concludes with a look at how baseball avoided the steroid issue for years—only to be forced to confront it in a big way because of the BALCO scandal. The authors compare baseball’s handling of the steroid controversy to its handling of what, until steroids, had been the game’s worst demon and darkest hour: the Black Sox scandal of 1919. They explore the conflicted reaction of the fans who flocked to ballparks in record numbers in 2005, while consistently indicating in polls that they considered steroid problems serious and, by wide margins, said they wanted cheaters punished. They reflect on the importance of addressing the issue of tainted records if the game is ever to truly close the book on the steroid era. And they ask a host of unsettling questions. If baseball is really interested in coming to grips with the problem, why didn’t the game’s commissioner ask the government to present him with the thousands of pages of evidence that linked Bonds and other superstars to drug use? Why, after the Chronicle published the story, didn’t the commissioner ask to listen to the recording of Greg Anderson admitting he helped Bonds cheat? Why wasn’t Bonds ordered to stay away from his trainer after Anderson was indicted as a steroid dealer? And why, if steroids were of real concern, would Commissioner Selig and baseball even contemplate a “celebration” for the day when Bonds might break Henry Aaron’s career home run mark?

[Fainaru-Wada and Williams] have got the goods and they reveal them methodically. Everything is well-sourced and meticulously explicated. (Chicago Tribune)


To keep up-to-date, input your email address, and we will contact you on publication

Please alert me via email when:


The author releases another book