Thursday, January 11, 2007
Bonds: Sweeney not involved in alleged failed drug test
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds said he did not get amphetamines from teammate Mark Sweeney, but did not deny a report Thursday saying he tested positive for the drugs last season.
According to a story in the New York Daily News, the San Francisco slugger failed an amphetamines test in 2006. The newspaper reported that when first informed of the positive result, Bonds attributed it to a substance he had taken from Sweeney's locker.
Thursday, Bonds did not deny that but did apologize to Sweeney.
"[Sweeney] did not give me anything whatsoever and has nothing to do with this matter, contrary to recent reports."
"He is both my teammate and my friend," Bonds said in a statement. "He did not give me anything whatsoever and has nothing to do with this matter, contrary to recent reports.
"I want to express my deepest apologies especially to Mark and his family as well as my other teammates, the San Francisco Giants organization and the fans," he said.
That's all the Giants star, shadowed by steroids allegations and only 22 home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record, said about the alleged positive drug test. Bonds has steadfastly denied used performance-enhancing drugs.
"Obviously, we're pleased that Barry has straightened this out," said Sweeney's agent, Barry Axelrod.
Bonds' reported positive test could be another snag in contract negotiations with the Giants. The sides reached a preliminary agreement on a $16 million, one-year contract Dec. 7, but the seven-time NL MVP still hasn't signed the deal or taken the mandatory physical that is part of the process.
The sides have been working to finalize complicated language in the contract that concerns the left fielder's compliance with team rules, as well as what would happen if he were to be indicted or have other legal troubles.
"Last night was the first time we heard of this recent accusation against Barry Bonds," the Giants said in the statement. "Under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association, clubs are not notified after a player receives a first positive test for amphetamines."
Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, refused comment, according to spokesman Rich Levin.
"I don't comment on the drug program, and I've never heard Barry Bonds blame anybody for anything," Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
San Francisco's front office and fan base long have stood by Bonds through his off-the-field problems and injuries. So have his teammates, deciding in spring training last year to support him every step of the way.
"There are so many substances out there right now you don't know what you should take or what you should not," Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel said Thursday. "Right now, I'm afraid to take vitamins for the same reason. You don't know what's going to be positive or what's going to be negative. The best way for players is to stay natural. Anything with chemicals in it can be bad. I know what I do. I don't know what the other guys do, and I don't really care.
"I tell the younger guys, but you don't need to be telling Barry Bonds and Mark Sweeney what they should take or what they should not."
There's a long history of amphetamines -- or speed and more commonly called "greenies" in the baseball world -- fueling generations of baseball players. Many turned to the stimulants for a way to get pepped up when their bodies couldn't do so on their own during a long season.
The pills, widely used even until recently, helped with energy for day games following night games and other times when players were short on sleep, such as after a long cross-country flight.
Baseball banned the uppers for the first time starting last season. A player is not identified until after failing two amphetamines tests, which also results in a 25-game suspension. The first failed steroids test, by comparison, is a 50-game suspension.
A first amphetamines offense, however, does require six additional drug tests over the following six months.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't address the report directly.
"Amphetamines have been around for seven or eight decades and this is the first time on the advice of doctors, trainers and everybody else that we dealt with it," he said. "We banned amphetamines and that's very significant and we're going to continue to monitor it all very closely."
Selig did say management and the union discussed the report Thursday.''
"I think maybe they have some suspicion on how it leaked out," he said.
Bonds did not appeal the positive test, according to the Daily News, which said Sweeney learned of Bonds' positive test from Orza. The newspaper reported Orza told Sweeney he should remove any troublesome substances from his locker and should not share said substances. Sweeney then said there was nothing of concern in his locker.
Before Bonds' statement, Axelrod told the AP that his client received a call informing him that his name had come up in regard to the testing.
"He responded at that time ... he did not give anything to anybody and he doesn't have anything illegal," Axelrod said. "That was the end of it, as far as we were concerned, until yesterday. We thought it was just a sort of procedural thing."
A federal grand jury is investigating whether Bonds perjured himself when he testified in 2003 in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid distribution case that he hadn't knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs. He told that 2003 grand jury he believed his trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him flaxseed oil and arthritic balm, not steroids.
Bonds, who's coming off October surgery on his troublesome left elbow, played regularly in 2006.
After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his right knee, Bonds batted .270 with 26 homers and 77 RBIs in 130 games last year. He passed Babe Ruth to move into second place on the career home run list May 28.
Bonds has spent 14 of his 21 big league seasons with San Francisco and helped the Giants draw 3 million fans in all seven seasons with them. The team is counting on him to be part of the hype leading up to its hosting of the All-Star game in July.
Bonds said he noticed an improved vibe in the clubhouse last season with the additions of Steve Finley, Sweeney and Todd Greene. The slugger was more sociable too, playing cards or chess with his teammates or trainers before games -- and even making a rare appearance in the team photo.
Bonds and Sweeney appeared to be good friends, with Sweeney speaking to the slugger by phone recently this offseason.
"This year we had the best chemistry on the team. I felt like the team was clicking," Vizquel said. "It's sad a stupid instance like this might rupture something that was going pretty good. I don't think the players will turn on each other. We are a veteran team. We should know what [substance] is good and what is bad."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
Posted by Zennie Abraham at 11:22 PM