Barry Bonds is suing the authors of a book detailing his alleged steroid use, but he’s not claiming he lied about steroids, he’s suing about the profits.
In two new books, Bonds, the baseball slugger is identified as a repeat, premeditated, and highly medicated steroid user. He has just sued over the first one, but not for libel, not for its verbal equivalent, slander, but under a California law pertaining to unfair business practices, in what seems to be a claim not that Bonds did not use steroids, but that nobody but him should profit from a book about whether or not he did use steroids.
As “Game of Shadows” by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams hit bookstores today, Bonds’ attorney, Michael Rains, hit back. He says he will ask a California court to grant an injunction tomorrow against them, against their employers at “The San Francisco Chronicle,” against “Sports Illustrated” magazine, which published excerpts of the book last week, and against the publisher. He says he wants all of them to forfeit all profits from the book, with the money going to charity.
Raines said he was filing under California’s ambiguous unfair competition law, generally used by people who are suing over improper business practices or false advertising. In this case, the attorney is saying that the authors used grand jury transcripts and other documents that he claims were “illegally obtained,” and that a judge should not only enjoin them, but also find the authors in contempt.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, "COUNTDOWN": If you had been a world-class athlete for two decades and were on the verge of shattering one of the planet’s most important sports records, and someone accused you in a book of cheating, of using unauthorized, in some cases illegal, drugs to multiply your physical skills, and you hadn’t, you’d sue for libel, right?
Mark, am I reading this right? Bonds is not suing over the accuracy or inaccuracy of what you reported about steroids, but on a premise of false advertising or improper use of grand jury testimony? Is that the way it was explained to you?
MARK FAINARU-WADA, CO-AUTHOR, “GAME OF SHADOWS”: Well, that’s how we understand it. Again, we haven’t seen the document. We’ve been out in New York for the past couple of days and haven’t seen anything. But, you know, that’s our understanding of it. And you know, we, as we’ve said throughout, fully stand behind the material that’s in the book and the reporting we’ve done at “The Chronicle,” and we’re completely confident in its accuracy.
OLBERMANN: So Lance, this sounds, at least on first blush, like this would be a way for Bonds to deflect the charges without having to disprove them. Would that be your read of it?
LANCE WILLIAMS, CO-AUTHOR, “GAME OF SHADOWS”: It’s such a novel approach, and I’m so unfamiliar with it, that I’m not sure what the intent is here. As I say, we wrote a true story, we’ve got documentation that’ll withstand any scrutiny you want to impose on it that’s fairly applied. I’m just not sure what they’re up to.
OLBERMANN: Mark, could filing a suit like this make him look more guilty? I mean, he’s suing, but he’s not suing about the truth, just about what happens to the money from the book. And the lawyer refers to the use of illegally obtained grand jury testimony. The testimony indicates that Bonds bought and used steroids. Doesn’t that validate the quotes from the grand jury and make him look more guilty?
FAINARU-WADA: I guess I don’t know. I, you know, not to dodge this. I just—I don’t know how a judge deals with this, I don’t know how a judge approaches it. I think largely the issue becomes, how does the public see it as well.
We know how we see it, and we know how confident we are in the material. And whether the public sees this as Barry defending himself or turning it the other way around, I just—I have no idea how this thing plays out.
OLBERMANN: Lance, you write a book like this, it’s gone over by attorneys line by line. They obviously thought you would be clear on libel, or it wouldn’t have gotten published, and the same thing for the newspaper and the same thing for “Sports Illustrated.” And if you get a lawsuit as a result of this that is not about libel or accuracy, in a perverse way, have you not just been confirmed, essentially, in your reporting?
WILLIAMS: Well, as I say, I know that the gist or sting of our book is absolutely solid. We’ve got documentation for everything. And we welcome any scrutiny anybody wants to apply to it. You know, Barry Bonds is certainly entitled to test whatever legal theory he has in court. And we’ll just stand up to that.
OLBERMANN: Mark, last question. I’m sure the whole pursuit of this information has been a strange ride to begin with. Where does this rank in terms of the unusual developments that you’ve encountered in the study of Barry Bonds?
FAINARU-WADA: Well, it’s certainly been one of the more unexpected ones. But we’ve had a lot of unexpected turns in this story. It’s a strange tale, and every time I think we’ve sort of seen the most surprising thing, something else comes up. So sort of come to expect the unexpected.
OLBERMANN: I guess. Well, gentlemen, I don’t know, I won’t ask you to comment on this. But I can’t imagine Barry Bonds coming up with a worse idea right now than suing, but not suing over the question of whether or not your book is accurate.
The book is “Game of Shadows.” To the best of my knowledge, it’s accurate. The authors are Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Once again, gentlemen, thank you for your time.
LANCE: Thank you.
FAINARU-WADA: Thank you, Keith.