Barry Bonds again pleads not guilty

SAN FRANCISCO -- The saga that has become the United States vs. Barry Lamar Bonds -- now more than seven years in the making -- inflated into a full-blown odyssey Tuesday, just three weeks before the home run king is scheduled to go to trial and face perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

How else to describe a day in which Bonds entered one end of San Francisco's federal courthouse at precisely the same time Greg Anderson, his former personal trainer, childhood friend and now-tight-lipped ally entered from the other end?

A day in which Bonds had to plead not guilty yet again -- that's four times now -- because the government repeatedly has had to rewrite its indictment. The latest charging document alleges four counts of perjury rooted essentially in Bonds' denials that he ever knowingly used steroids or human growth hormone, as well as his statements that he was never injected by anyone other than his doctor. As well, he also faces a count of obstructing justice for what the government claims were repeated lies during his December 2003 testimony in the BALCO steroids case.

Tuesday also brought Anderson before a judge -- again -- stating he has no intention of testifying in the case. Judge Susan Illston ordered Anderson back to court on March 22, the day testimony is expected to begin in the case. On Tuesday, through lawyer Mark Geragos, Anderson indicated he will remain mum, and Illston indicated she will throw him back in prison for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last two-to-four weeks.

As Anderson and Geragos stood before Illston, Bonds sat at a defense table only a few feet away, watching intently. Anderson's refusal to testify has decidedly hampered the government's case, to the point that Illston ruled inadmissible large chunks of the government's evidence just days before the case was set to go to trial in February 2009. The government lost an appeal of her ruling, but the process delayed the case two years.

"He will be here on the 22nd, and he will not testify," Geragos told Illston on Tuesday.

"Is that your plan sir?" Illston said to Anderson.

Anderson nodded but said nothing. Illston smiled.

"He's nodding yes," Geragos said. "He's taking the not testifying to the nth degree."

And with that, Anderson left the building.

Other than it becoming crystal clear that Anderson has no intention of budging, the government had to be buoyed by Tuesday's developments.

Illston, who has presided over the BALCO case since February 2004, indicated during the last major hearing before the trial begins that she would allow testimony related to side effects Bonds allegedly developed as a result of his steroid use.

As the government seeks to prove that Bonds lied to the grand jury when he suggested he unwittingly took steroids, it will try to paint the picture of a long-time user of performance-enhancing drugs whose body and mind underwent dramatic changes. With Illston suggesting the side effects are fair game, she opens the door to potentially inflammatory testimony from Kimberly Bell, Bonds' former girlfriend.

Bell, for example, is expected to testify about a range of physical changes she saw in Bonds over the course of their 10-year relationship. Apart from less sensational changes like the supposed development of acne and Bonds losing his hair, Bell will be asked to describe issues related to Bonds' sexual performance and alleged testicular atrophy.

If nothing else, Illston's rulings seemed to assure the trial's potential for titillation, fireworks and absurdity. Who knew that the case against Barry Bonds would draw attention to a piece of medical equipment known as the Orchidometer -- an instrument developed to measure the volume of the testicles? When one of Bonds' lawyers stood before Illston on Tuesday and scoffed at the notion that anyone, let alone Bonds' jilted ex-lover, could discern without the benefit of an Orchidometer that the ballplayer's testicles had shrunk, the scene was squarely set for what lies ahead.

"It's looking like this case will be featured heavily on the Drudge Report," one of Bonds' lawyers, Cris Arguedas, said with obvious disdain after the hearing.

During the hearing, Arguedas argued vehemently that the judge should not allow Bell to describe an incident in which Bell claims Bonds choked her and threatened to kill her in the weeks before their relationship ended. The government has indicated it intends to solicit this testimony to show Bonds suffered from rages as a result of his steroid use.

"To the extent the government wants to show steroid rage, they have other evidence," Arguedas argued. "[Bell] can say he got extra bad. They can accomplish their goal without putting in an isolated time of domestic violence, for which there is no other example. And, again, we deny this incident ever happened. They don't need it and it's really prejudicial."

Illston did not seem swayed.

The judge, however, did seem somewhat unsettled on the prospect of other athletes -- such as Jason Giambi -- testifying about their experiences with Anderson. Illston has indicated she's likely to let their testimony be heard, however the defense has argued that their admissions of getting steroids from Anderson will amount to little more than guilt by association.

Mark Fainaru-Wada is a reporter with ESPN's enterprise team. He can be reached at markfwespn@gmail.com.