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Conte's curious, strange testimony fails to live up to its billing


SAN FRANCISCO -- Three quick thoughts after Day 6 of the perjury trial of former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds:

1. Stan Conte fell a little flat. Conte's description of a 2003 meeting with Bonds was billed as a key piece of evidence. The meeting took place just after the raids of BALCO and of Greg Anderson's home, and Bonds came to Conte, the Giants trainer at the time, unprovoked. In Conte's office at AT&T Park, Bonds said he knew Anderson was selling steroids "to help his kid," and that Anderson put his initials on calendars to protect players. Bonds told Conte that the $60,000 seized from Anderson's home belonged to Bonds, and that Anderson was holding it for Bonds' daughters. There was also a strange exchange in which Bonds recommended that Conte's son, who was a minor-league baseball player, go to a doctor and claim sexual dysfunction so he could obtain a prescription cream. It was curious stuff, but it fell short of being the "confession" that it was billed as before the trial began. The only thing Bonds came clean on was the money, but he also gave Steve Hoskins huge sums of cash to hold, so that alone isn't proof of anything. Bonds knew about Anderson's calendars, but no calendar for Bonds will be admitted into evidence. In closing, it is hard to predict how Conte's testimony will resonate with the jury.

2. The Giambi brothers' testimony helped the government. Before Jason and then Jeremy Giambi took the stand, Judge Susan Illston instructed the jurors that they were not to infer from what the Giambi brothers said. In other words, just because Anderson supplied the brothers with PEDs, and because they knew what they were taking, it doesn't mean the same was true for Bonds. That instruction aside, hearing the Giambi brothers (and former Giant Marvin Benard) talk matter-of-factly about how Anderson sent them drugs and explained what they were was powerful stuff. It was the first time an athlete testified about Anderson's role and it gave weight to what other government witnesses have said about the relationship between Bonds and Anderson. Bonds' trainer was a PED dealer for others -- that is now irrefutable -- and it puts a burden on the defense to show that the dynamic between Bonds/Anderson was different. That wont' be easy with neither of them expected to take the stand.

3. Bonds' positive drug test hasn't hurt him yet. The government has evidence that Bonds' urine tested positive for the designer steroid THG and a masking agent called Clomiphene. The jurors heard testimony about the handling of Bonds' urine sample from 2003 and how it was tested, but the defense muddied the waters effectively by noting that Bonds' urine didn't initially test positive for anything, and also that what Bonds tested positive for wasn't banned by baseball at the time. It was a positive test, but to the jurors there may be some doubt about what that means. The test will surely come up again -- Tuesday's testimony was foundation so it could be admitted as evidence -- and it will be interesting to see how the defense and prosecutors joust over what it means.