Lawyer: Bonds didn’t know he used steroids

March 23, 2011

Barry Bonds admits using steroids during his baseball career, his lawyer told a jury Tuesday. The catch is that Bonds’s personal trainer misled him into believing he was taking flaxseed oil and arthritis cream.

“I know that doesn’t make a great story,” Allen Ruby said during his opening statement at the home run leader’s perjury trial. “But that’s what happened.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parrella called such claims “ridiculous and unbelievable” and portrayed Bonds as a liar during his first chance to present the government’s position.

The crux of the criminal case against Bonds was laid out before an eight-woman, four-man jury as the testimony phase of the trial got under way. Bonds has pleaded not guilty to four charges of lying to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied knowingly taking steroids, and to one count of obstruction.

Parrella started the day by saying Bonds lied to the grand jury even though the government promised not to prosecute him for drug use if he testified truthfully.

“All he had to do was tell the truth, Parrella said. “That’s all, but he couldn’t do it.”

Dressed in a dark suit with a light blue shirt, Bonds sat slouched in his chair, his long legs crossed at the ankles and poking out the other side of the defense table, as he watched Parrella tell jurors that a childhood friend of Bonds will discuss watching him inject steroids.

Parrella promised other witnesses will talk about conversations they had with Bonds regarding his steroid use, while others will discuss their deep suspicions.

Ruby, Bonds’s lead attorney, countered by saying at least two prosecution witnesses, an ex-girlfriend and a former business partner, have axes to grind because of bitter fallouts with the man who hit 762 career home runs, a major league record.

l  METS: Carlos Beltran took another step in his return from left knee tendinitis by serving as the designated hitter in two minor league games. Beltran, 33, went 2 for 8 with a double and home run, hitting from both sides of the plate. But he did not play the field and was replaced by a pinch runner after the double.

l  RANGERS: The first recipient of an AL championship ring will be the family of the late Tom Vandergriff, the former Arlington, Tex., mayor who lured the team from Washington in 1971.

Vandergriff’s family will be given a 2010 championship ring during the team’s welcome home luncheon March 31. That is the day before the Rangers play their season opener at home against Boston, and two days before Texas players, coaches and staff will receive their rings.

“It is only fitting that the first recipient of a 2010 AL championship ring is the Vandergriff family,” Rangers President and CEO Nolan Ryan said. “The passion and determined efforts of Tom Vandergriff made the Texas Rangers a reality nearly 40 years ago. Because of his work, we are able to celebrate an AL championship.”

l  BRAVES: Atlanta announced plans to retire former manager Bobby Cox’s number. The Braves will honor Cox’s No. 6 on Aug. 12 before a home game against the Chicago Cubs.

Cox is the first to have his number retired by the Braves only for his accomplishments as a manager. He retired after last season. He is fourth all-time with 2,504 wins, including 2,149 wins in 25 years with the Braves.

l  MARINERS: Brendan Ryan will be Seattle’s starting shortstop this season and Jack Wilson will shift over to second base. Wilson, 33, has been one of the best-fielding shortstops in the majors throughout his career.

l YANKEES: Manager Joe Girardi didn’t rule out using both Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot during the regular season, depending on the opposing pitcher.

“You could see two different lineups,” Girardi said before a spring training game against Baltimore. “One for right-handers, one for left-handers.”

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