New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi became the new face of baseball's steroid scandal yesterday, when a published report revealed his admission, in grand jury testimony, that he took steroids provided by the personal trainer of San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds.
Giambi, 33, had publicly denied using steroids, but the San Francisco Chronicle obtained his testimony in the federal inquiry in the BALCO labs case from December 2003, in which he describes using a syringe to inject human growth hormone into his stomach and testosterone into his buttocks.
For baseball, the report marked another turn in a scandal that has been percolating since 2002, when former Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti revealed his steroid use. More revelations are expected tonight, when Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, is interviewed on ABC's 20/20.
"There's been so much attention paid to the steroid issue that, in one respect, it's sad when it becomes a reality," said Orioles Vice President Mike Flanagan. "But I think it's a reality that, obviously, Major League Baseball has to look at."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig repeated his call for a stricter drug-testing policy yesterday. He and major league owners have met stiff resistance from the players union.
The sides agreed to drug testing in their 2002 labor agreement, but critics have denounced that policy as too tame.
"This [Giambi report] once again demonstrates the need to implement a tougher and more effective major league drug-testing program," Selig said. "I will leave no stone unturned in accomplishing our goal of zero tolerance by the start of spring training and am confident we will achieve this goal."
Selig is pushing to implement a drug-testing policy similar to the one baseball adopted for minor league players in 2001. Under current major league policy, teams are tested once a year during the season. Theoretically, players could use steroids all winter, so long as they are flushed out by Opening Day.
Baseball's minor league policy involves more frequent testing and harsher punishments. The Major League Baseball Players Association declined to comment yesterday. But Selig has said it will take stricter testing to remove the cloud of suspicion hanging over players.
"I can't say that all of them will be painted with the same brush, but I think there's a great deal of fan skepticism that some of the major players in the game haven't been using steroids already," said Howe Burch, president of Twelve Sports Marketing & Communications. "And I think the fact that Jason initially denied having used steroids, then you learn that, in fact, he had, will only make their skepticism greater."
Beyond what the Giambi report did to his image, it also added to the mounting suspicion of steroid use surrounding Bonds, who has a chance to break baseball's all-time home run record next year.
Bonds, Giambi and Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield -- players who have combined for 26 all-star selections -- have been at the center of this story for the past year, along with Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson.
"If Bonds was doing steroids, then that's bad for baseball, and baseball will have a huge black eye that it's going to have to work out of," said Robert Tuchman, president of New York-based TSE Sports and Entertainment. "Something like this is definitely going to wake a lot of people up. There's going to be a lot of people who are going to look at it and say, 'Wait a minute. There was cheating here. It's just improper. Baseball is America's game.'"
Caminiti, the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player who died in October of a drug overdose, admitted steroid use in a 2002 interview with Sports Illustrated. He said he thought more than 50 percent of the players used steroids.
Later that year, former Oakland Athletics slugger Jose Canseco suggested that the number was even higher, though several players called those estimates exaggerations.
According to a partial transcript of his 20/20 interview, Conte says: "I would guesstimate that more than 50 percent of the athletes are taking some form of anabolic steroids. ... My guess is more than 80 percent are taking some sort of a stimulant before each and every game."
Suspicions started running high in the late 1990s, when home run totals began soaring. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, shattering the single-season record of 61, while using a performance-enhancing supplement called androstenedione. That substance has since been banned.
Bonds broke McGwire's record in 2001, when he hit 73 home runs, drawing notice to how much bulk he had added to his upper body since the early days of his career. But until this Giambi revelation, no current player had admitted knowingly using steroids.
In October, Sheffield told Sports Illustrated and ESPN that he used steroids called "the cream" and "the clear" obtained from BALCO, but said he did not know they contained steroids.
The public was left to wonder what those players told the grand jury under oath. Using steroids is illegal, but the players were told they would be granted immunity if they told the truth and face charges of perjury if they lied.
According to the Chronicle, Giambi told the grand jury he had started using steroids by 2001, his final year with the Oakland Athletics. He said he was injecting the steroid deca durabolin that year after obtaining the drug at a Las Vegas gym.
Yesterday, A's general manager Billy Beane declined to comment, as did Giambi and his agent, Arn Tellem.
Giambi was the 2000 American League MVP with Oakland. He signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the Yankees in December 2001 and said he met Anderson in November 2002, when he was playing in Japan with Bonds and a group of major league all-stars.
"So I started to ask him: 'Hey, what are the things you're doing with Barry? He's an incredible player. I want to still be able to work out at that age and keep playing,'" Giambi testified, according to the Chronicle.
Giambi met with Anderson later that year at BALCO's headquarters in Burlingame, Calif., and provided blood and urine samples. Anderson detected the deca durabolin, and warned Giambi to stop using it because it remains in the system a long time and could lead to a positive result under baseball's drug-testing program.
Later, Giambi testified, Anderson began sending him batches of injectable testosterone, as well as "the cream" and "the clear," which are supposed to be undetectable steroids. "The cream" is applied by rubbing it over parts of the body, and "the clear" is a liquid dropped under the tongue.
Giambi apparently did not implicate Bonds, saying Anderson "never said one time, 'This is what Barry's taking. This is what Barry's doing.' He never gave up another name that he was dealing with."
Two months after appearing before the grand jury, Giambi arrived at spring training noticeably thinner, especially through the shoulders. He said he had lost four pounds and denied ever using steroids.
But speculation continued into the season, as Giambi began suffering ailments. First, it was reported that he had an intestinal parasite, then a benign tumor.
In September, New York's Daily News reported that Giambi had a tumor of his pituitary gland, at the base of the brain. Later, medical experts told the Chronicle that clomid, a female fertility drug that can enhance the effectiveness of testosterone, could worsen a tumor of the pituitary gland.
Giambi told the grand jury he thought Anderson had given him clomid. Giambi played in just 80 games during the 2004 season and was left off the playoff roster after hitting .208 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs.
The Yankees, who owe Giambi $82 million, could try to void his contract, but remained tight-lipped yesterday.
"We have met with the commissioner's office today and will continue to work with them to obtain all of the facts in this matter," said team spokesman Howard J. Rubenstein. "We have made no decisions and will keep all of our options open."
Giambi testified that he helped his younger brother, Jeremy, obtain drugs from Anderson. Jeremy Giambi has played six seasons in the majors, including 2000 to 2002 with Oakland.
The Chronicle also obtained Jeremy Giambi's testimony, and it was similar to Jason's in the way it described their dealings with Anderson and BALCO.
In the 20/20 transcript, Conte says he gave steroids, "the clear" and "the cream" to Anderson. "Whatever he did with it, I don't know," Conte says.
Sun staff writers Ed Waldman and Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.