Title: Game of Shadows
Authors: Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams
Whether you’re a Barry Bonds lover or hater, there’s something you need to do: read Game of Shadows objectively. San Francisco Chronicle journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams received leaked grand jury testimony as it relates to doping in not just baseball, but also track and field. They present all of the information in an extremely well-written novel. This is an excellent example of investigative reporting at its best.
Track and field is covered about as much as baseball. Fainaru-Wada and Williams depict the sport as nothing more than a chemistry experiment, as many racers believe they must cheat to win. That’s a central theme to the book. Track stars like Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Kelli White, and many others are detailed using illegal performance enhancing substances. They received shipments of steroids, including the Cream, the Clear, THG, insulin, and clomid (a women’s fertility drug used to mask steroid use), to get better. The words in Game of Shadows are backed by opinions of other athletes, who were surprised that many runners working with BALCO head Victor Conte had gained large amounts of muscle in short amounts of time and seemingly found the fountain of youth at an age when most track stars were ending their careers.
The baseball sections, which are the ones that we are concerned about, are interesting. Fainaru-Wada and Williams tell the story of how Bonds joined trainer Greg Anderson, who had ties to Conte. The San Francisco Giants left fielder would receive the Cream and the Clear and use them, according to the book. He also gave some to Detroit Tigers designated hitter Gary Sheffield, when Sheffield worked out with Bonds before tiring of Bonds’ commanding demeanor. Anderson, according to the book, also dealt steroids to catcher Bobby Estalella, outfielder Marvin Bernard, and a few others.
While the majority of these names are known to the public, it’s nice to see it backed up with some concrete proof. As their evidence, Fainaru-Wada and Williams use statements to federal agents, who gathered a lot of information digging threw BALCO’s garbage. There was the grand jury testimony of Kimberly Bell, Bonds’ former girlfriend, who said Bonds used steroids to recover from injuries; sprinter Tim Montgomery, who said Conte gave steroids to Bonds; and five baseball players who said they received drugs from Anderson, similar to the ones that Bonds allegedly used. There are even the results of raid of Anderson’s home and a secret recording of Anderson saying he gave Bonds undetectable steroids to beat baseball’s drug testing program. While it is purely speculative, Fainaru-Wada and Williams detail Bonds’ amazing production at a later age, most likely due to steroid usage, readers can conclude.
Fainaru-Wada and Williams also tell the story of Conte, who rose from a dropout in junior college to perhaps the biggest name in the anabolic steroids business. He taught himself everything he knew about steroids, spending hours upon hours in the Stanford medical library. Conte opened a business, BALCO, and when former Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski contacted him, it was Conte’s chance to get into the big time. He would provide supplements for athletes, as long as they provided him with advertisement for his legal supplements, like SNAC and ZMA. After he had collected a large enough stable of elite athletes, Conte began to earn money, going from being largely in debt to a rich business owner.
All in all, this book was a good one, extremely well written by a pair of excellent investigative reporters. For the baseball fan who is not enamored by track and field stars -- and I counted myself within that category -- this book can be a little boring at times. If you’re reading this book purely for the baseball merit, give it 2.5 balls on a scale of four. There are some worthy notes within it, and Game of Shadows is a decent read.
You can find it here: Game Of Shadows @ Amazon.com
Our Rating System is based on a four ball system as follows:One Ball: Average. It has something to say but is nothing special.Two Balls: Something men usually have - also means it’s a cut above average, and worth reading/owning.Three balls: Stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Four Balls: More than just what two men have when hanging out together, it means it is an exceptional book that truly earns a walk - straight to the local book store to get a copy.
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