Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams: Game Of Shadows

For at least the past five years, it's been obvious to anyone with eyes in their sockets that Barry Bonds is a drug cheat. How else to explain his transformation from a lithe speedster with power to a hulking behemoth with a head as swollen as his infamous ego? How also to account for a late-career power surge that saw him shatter the single-season home-run record and got him in position to catch Hank Aaron's career mark—this from a hitter whose most productive year previously yielded under 50 dingers? And yet… here we are in 2006, and the Home Run King is strapping on the armor for another historic season, with no one of conscience stepping up to the plate.


There are many disturbing revelations in Game Of Shadows, a devastating piece of investigative reporting by San Francisco Chronicle writers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, but the most sickening is the reality that the cheaters are getting off scot-free. Culled from leaked grand-jury testimony, more than 200 interviews, and a paper trail several miles long, the book uncovers a doping conspiracy that stretches across virtually every major sport, and links to such household names as Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, Bill Romanowski, and Marion Jones. And those are just the ones serviced by BALCO, the Bay Area laboratory indicted for providing athletes with a diet of "nutritional supplements" that include human growth hormones, insulin, and undetectable steroids with names like The Clear and The Cream.

What's remarkable about the steroids scandal outlined in Game Of Shadows is that BALCO chief Victor Conte couldn't have been less discreet in trumpeting himself as dope pusher to the stars, perhaps because he knew everyone would look the other way. Though Fainaru-Wada and Williams lay out their case with proper journalistic detachment, a strain of indignation slips through when they discuss the power players who have allowed the drug cheats to operate under their noses. From ineffectual baseball commissioner Bud Selig to union rep Donald Fehr to San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan to the U.S. government, all had suspect reasons to look the other way. Bonds defenders will say he's never tested positive for steroid use, but given the mountain of evidence these authors compile against him (doping calendars, testimony and interviews with the major figures involved, medical and statistical data), it's a little like denying the sum of one plus one.