Barry Bonds dispatched weight trainer Greg Anderson to Minneapolis in the summer of 2002 to give emergency "help" to slumping Gary Sheffield, a federal judge has told Major League Baseball.
In correspondence sent March 16 to Commissioner Bud Selig, Larry M. Boyle, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge in Boise, Idaho, described a chance meeting with Anderson, who according to court records in the BALCO steroids case provided banned drugs to Bonds, Sheffield and other baseball stars.
Anderson, Bonds' longtime trainer, pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy and money-laundering charges in 2004 and recently completed a three-month federal prison term.
In their June 2002 encounter at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the judge said Anderson bragged about his relationship with Bonds -- his "best friend and best client." The trainer said Bonds had sent him to Minneapolis to "help his close friend Gary Sheffield," who then was with the Atlanta Braves and "struggling" with a batting slump.
The Braves were playing the Minnesota Twins in an interleague series, and Sheffield's batting average was below .260. In the two games after Anderson's arrival, Sheffield went 4-for-6 with a double, a home run and two walks. For the season, he batted .307.
"When your best friend and best client asks you to help his friend, you do it," Judge Boyle quoted Anderson as saying.
Boyle's account of the meeting provides an unusual glimpse of Anderson's activities before baseball's steroids scandal broke with the federal raid on the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative in 2003. The letter also supports aspects of Sheffield's testimony before the BALCO grand jury in 2003.
In his testimony, which was reviewed by The Chronicle, Sheffield denied knowingly using banned drugs. But he said that in 2002, Bonds told Anderson to provide him with substances called The Clear, an arthritis balm and pills called "Mexican beans."
Sheffield said Bonds told him the substances were legal. Prosecutors said they were steroids.
The judge first documented his encounter with Anderson when the BALCO scandal became public. In a Feb. 2004 letter to the U.S. Attorney in Boise, he described the meeting and provided a copy of his airplane ticket to establish the date when it occurred. That letter and a copy of the itinerary also were sent to Selig.
Judge Boyle wrote last month that he thought that Selig, who recently named retired U.S. Sen. George Mitchell to investigate steroid use in baseball, needed to know about Anderson's travels.
"It appears reasonable to conclude that Mr. Bonds sent Greg Anderson to at least one of his MLB friends, Gary Sheffield, for whatever services he was rendering to professional athletes at that time," the judge wrote. "If Bonds sent Anderson to Sheffield, it may be important to determine whether there were others he assisted and the nature of those services."
The Chronicle obtained copies of the correspondence from a confidential news source. Judge Boyle, a former justice of the Idaho Supreme Court who was named to the federal bench in 1992, acknowledged in a phone interview Tuesday that he had written to Selig about the encounter. He has not been contacted by baseball's investigators, he said.
In the letter, the judge said he flew to Minneapolis on June 11, 2002, for a judges' meeting. In the shuttle from the airport, he wrote, he noticed a muscular man having an anxious cell-phone conversation explaining to somebody that his plane was late.
The burly man -- Anderson, it turned out -- was swigging a brownish liquid from a plastic gallon jug. The judge wrote that he asked Anderson about the beverage, and the trainer said it was a nutritional supplement. Then the men began chatting.
"Anderson told me he was in Minneapolis because his best client wanted him to help his close friend Gary Sheffield who was in a slump and struggling at the time," the judge wrote.
Anderson said he would "reserve the hotel exercise facility and work privately with Sheffield on body mechanics, weights and also take a blood or urine sample, test it to determine if his body chemistry is what it should be, and then give him nutritional supplements."
Anderson proudly identified his best client as Bonds, saying, "I've worked with Barry for a long time." Anderson also downplayed the problem of steroids in baseball, saying "something to the effect that the subject was overblown and not as big a problem as reported in the news media."
At the time of his guilty plea in the BALCO case, prosecutors said Anderson had conspired to give athletes banned drugs: previously undetectable steroids known as "the cream" and "the clear," human growth hormone, testosterone pills called "Beans" and the female fertility drug Clomid, which is used to counteract side-effects of steroid use.
According to grand-jury testimony reviewed by The Chronicle, five baseball players acknowledged receiving banned drugs from Anderson: Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi; his brother, former A's outfielder Jeremy Giambi; and former Giants Benito Santiago, Armando Rios and Bobby Estalella.
Bonds and Sheffield both testified that they received a cream and a clear substance from Anderson, but claimed they thought the substances were legal. Bonds testified he thought he was using arthritis balm and flaxseed oil.