Monday, May 08, 2006

Some very serious ‘issues’ regarding the allegations being directed at Barry Bonds

Monday was Day 43 of “Bonds under siege”. The media frenzy with everything that can and might be said, created, imagined and thought of relating to Barry Bonds and his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs began on March 6 when Sports Illustrated ‘announced’ Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, had written a book entitled “Game of Shadows”.

The New York Times bestseller details the Federal Government’s BALCO investigation and allegations concerning Barry Bonds and his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Yet as SportsBusinessNews.com discovered Monday, Fainaru-Wada and Williams have only part of the story relating to Barry Bonds and his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

When one looks into the assertions made in “Game of Shadows”, serious questions regarding the motivations of the key Internal Revenue Service investigator in the BALCO investigation must be asked. It appears IRS agent Jeff Novitzky may have been motivated not by a sense of ‘justice’ but rather by a vendetta he may have held against Barry Bonds.

There are those who believe Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams should be congratulated for their efforts in bringing Bonds’ story to the public’s attention. While Fainaru-Wada and Williams have written an interesting book, the credit for ‘breaking’ Barry Bonds belongs to Jonathan Littman, a San Francisco based writer who wrote “Gunning for the Big Guy”, which appeared in Playboy.

Littman’s article, now being made into a Showtime movie, was published in the May 2004 edition of Playboy and it chronicles how the IRS uncovered the evidence which Fainaru-Wada and Williams say led to the Grand Jury hearings into the activities surrounding BALCO. Fainaru-Wada and Williams’ account is important in understanding the facts relating to the BALCO investigation. However except for a few pages at the beginning of Chapter 15 in “Game of Shadows”, Fainaru-Wada and Williams fail to offer any real understanding as to what motivated the IRS’ key investigator on the BALCO case, Jeff Novitzky.

According to Littman’s well written article, Novitzky, a former college basketball player who blew out his knee while playing college basketball, had what appears to be an intense dislike of Barry Bonds. Which has served as the catalyst for his preoccupation with Barry Bonds. Novitzky who has built his reputation digging through the garbage of those he was investigating, (one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure must be part of Novitzky’s belief system), saw Victor Conte’s garbage as his ticket to bring down Barry Bonds.

Novitzky has never spoken with Littman or any member of the media about the BALCO/Bonds investigation. However, at least three members of Novitzky’s team did speak with Littman including Iran White (real name Ronnie Gerald Allen). White was the member of the investigation team that went undercover to assist Novitzky in his investigation of Bonds.

According to Littman, for reasons that aren’t clear, Novitzky “seemed to have an unusual interest in the ballplayer.”

Novitzky, the former college basketball player (6’7 and an athletic scholarship at San Jose State, Novitzky blew out his knee ending his career), was a member of Bay Area Fitness. Bay Area Fitness is same training facility Bonds former trainer Greg Anderson ‘hung out’ at. Novitzky seemed bothered by Bonds’ size and likely his success as an athlete. Working on his own initially, Novitzky discovered enough evidence against BALCO that agents from California's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement became interested enough to assist Novitzky in his efforts.

According to Littman, White, agreed to go undercover in hopes of helping build a case against Barry Bonds. White, who has since gone under cover and nearly died from a stroke a direct result from the investigation, recalled to Littman the details of a conversation he had with Novitzky regarding Barry Bonds and how Jeff Novitzky felt about Barry Bonds.

"That Bonds. He's a great athlete," White says Novitzky told him. "You think he's on steroids?"

White took a moment before replying, in his bourbon-and-cotton voice, "I think they're all on steroids. All of our top major leaguers."

Novitzky seemed to care only about Bonds. "He's such an asshole to the press," he said. "I'd sure like to prove it."

That conversation taken at face value is disturbing enough as to what may have motivated Novitzky. However, what is even more unsettling, are assertions made to Littman, by two unnamed sources who worked on the BALCO case with Novitzky and White. The two Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement officers told Littman that Novitzky was at least in part motivated by a potential book deal he could have for himself as a direct result of his investigation of Barry Bonds, (not Victor Conte, or BALCO), and how he brought down one of the biggest athletes in professional sports.

The questions that are begged to be asked:
How credible is Jeff Novitzky. Is Novitzky a frustrated former athlete who was jealous of Barry Bonds success?
Barry Bonds salary was doubled by the Giants after the 2001 season. Bonds signed a five year, $90 million contract. Novitzky began his investigation shortly after Bonds signed his $90 million contract. Did the size of Bonds contract in anyway affect Novitzky’s thought process?
Was Novitzky in part motivated by an opportunity to write a book on Barry Bonds?
Did Novitzky believe he would reap fame and fortune if he succeeded in playing a key role in bringing down Barry Bonds and destroying his reputation once and for all?
The good news is that while Fainaru-Wada and Williams didn’t deal with what was behind Jeff Novitzky’s decision making process and before this goes much farther, the ‘powers that be’ will examine Novitzky’s actions and determine if he in anyway compromised the Federal Government’s BALCO investigation. If indeed, as Littman hinted nearly two years ago, Novitzky may have had his own agenda against Barry Bonds. So how much credibility does Jeff Novitzky have and therefore is it worthwhile to at least question Novitzky’s integrity, when it comes to Barry Bonds?

For SportsBusinessNews.com this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: Interview with Jonathan Littman and Playboy (May 2004 issue)