Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 23 News List

Bonds' former friend tells of steroid `rages'

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The former best friend and business partner of Barry Bonds has told federal investigators that Bonds was a heavy steroids user and flew into "roid rages," his lawyer, Michael Cardoza, said on Wednesday.

The man, Steve Hoskins, 44, of Redwood City, California, also says Bonds gave him thousands of dollars to pass on to two of Bonds' girlfriends, Cardoza said in telephone interviews.

Two lawyers for Bonds responded on Wednesday that Hoskins was lying to get back at Bonds for accusing him of financial misconduct in their memorabilia business. The lawyers acknowledged that Bonds and Hoskins had been best friends before a falling-out in mid-2003, when Bonds reported Hoskins to the FBI.

Bonds is widely expected to be indicted soon by a federal grand jury, which met yesterday and again next Thursday at the federal courthouse in San Francisco. After that, its 18-month term apparently expires, providing impetus to wrap up the case.

Witnesses who have testified say the grand jury is investigating whether Bonds engaged in income-tax evasion, and if he committed perjury in denying steroid usage. Other sports figures are also being investigated, but Bonds is the biggest target.

Bonds, 41, hit a record 73 home runs in 2001 and has 720 career homers, trailing only Hank Aaron's 755.

On Dec. 4, 2003, Bonds told an earlier grand jury that he did not knowingly use steroids, despite drastic changes to his physique and documents with his name on them from 2001 to 2003 showing drug schedules, billing information and test results, the San Francisco Chronicle has reported.

The private dispute between Bonds and Hoskins went public this week when Michael Rains, Bonds' defense lawyer, told the New York Times that the government was relying on Hoskins and Bonds' former girlfriend Kimberly Bell for its case.

Hoskins is president of Kent Collectibles of San Carlos, California, and was widely known in the Giants' clubhouse as Bonds' right-hand man. The two were close: Hoskins was the best man at Bonds' 1998 wedding, and Hoskins's sister introduced Bonds to a woman who was his girlfriend from 1994 to 2003.

Laura Enos, Bonds' lawyer for personal business matters since 1997, said in an interview on Wednesday that she and Bonds confronted Hoskins in June 2003 over the suspected forging of Bonds' signature on contracts.

"He came and we met in a conference room," Enos said. "He said: `I have three doors. If you don't drop this memorabilia issue, I'm going to ruin Barry. Behind door No. 1 is an extramarital affair. Behind door No. 2 is failure to declare income tax. And behind door No. 3 is use of steroids. And I will go to the press and ruin Barry. His records will be ruined. He will never get into the Hall of Fame.'"

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