SAN FRANCISCO -- Lawyers for two of the men accused of participating in a steroid-distribution ring said Friday that baseball slugger Barry Bonds "never took anything illegal," and actually rejected a questionable substance at the heart of the government's case.
The defense of Bonds, who has been accused by at least one fellow major leaguer of taking steroids, came outside court after a pair of hearings in the case against four men charged with providing performance-enhancing substances to dozens of athletes.
"Barry Bonds never took anything illegal. He declined to take any of these illegal substances," said Tony Serra, the attorney for Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson.
Serra said Bonds "was offered substances via the schedule," referring to a calendar seized in a search of Anderson's home that listed doses and scheduling of substances taken by the athletes he trains.
Serra said Bonds was offered something that prosecutors have referred to in documents as "a 'clear' steroid-like substance" - apparently the newly unmasked steroid THG. Serra said Bonds was offered that substance "by two or three people" through Anderson, but declined to try it.
Serra would not identify those other people, but said they also were involved in the case and that the substance had "to emanate out of the lab, I would think."
Serra was referring to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, whose founder Victor Conte and vice president James Valente are also charged with Anderson. Track coach Remi Korchemny is the fourth man indicted. All have pleaded innocent and are free on bail.
Bonds frequently has denied steroid use and no athlete has been charged in the case.
Conte's attorney also said that Bonds, one of dozens of athletes who testified before the grand jury that indicted the four men, had done nothing wrong.
"My client knows of no illegal activity that has ever been done by Barry Bonds," said lawyer Robert Holley. "(Conte) would like us to go on record because of the rumors and innuendoes."
Colorado Rockies reliever Turk Wendell said this week it was "clear just seeing his body" that Bonds was taking steroids.
Serra said Anderson trained seven professional athletes - Bonds and five other major leaguers, as well as a pro football player. He would not divulge their names, or say whether Anderson continues to work with them.
Prosecutor Jeff Nedrow asked U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to set a trial for mid-April, a bid that Holley blasted as "just plain ridiculous" given the 34,000 pages of documents the case has already generated.
Illston became so disgusted with the courtroom sniping about the trial date between Nedrow and Holley that she pleaded, "Can we please not have an argument about that now?"
Illston agreed with defense attorneys that mid-April was too soon, and set status conferences for March 19 and 26 to discuss the course of the case.
Nedrow turned a large white box containing those 34,000 pages of grand jury transcripts and other materials over to Serra, and the barrel-chested Anderson carried them from the courtroom - standing patiently for about 20 minutes, holding the box, as Serra answered reporters' questions.
Anderson, Valente and Korchemny - who was carrying a U.S. track team backpack - all were silent in court, staring stiffly ahead. Conte greeted Nedrow with a handshake, kidded about his hair with a courtroom artist and talked incessantly.
As he left the courtroom, Conte told a reporter, "We have not yet begun to fight."