Lance Williams: 'Government Bent Over Backwards To Protect Drug Users'
Barring a block by a higher court, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who authored Game of Shadows, will be forced to appear in front of a grand jury after U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White recently upheld their subpoena. Should they decide not to reveal the source of the grand jury leak, which allowed them to publish the secret testimony of several athletes, they may, and most likely will, be held in contempt of court until they decide to testify or the grand jury period expires.
In an Exclusive Interview with RealGM, the authors shared their feelings on the government's original investigation into BALCO and the reasoning behind the publishing of the grand jury testimony.
Mr. Fainaru-Wada elaborated on the government's procedure during the BALCO investigation, "This was a case that was prosecuted in such a way that it was looking at these four guys [Victor Conte, Greg Anderson, James Valente and Remi Korchemny] who were essentially dealing to athletes. But it ignored, or avoided, the issue of these substances in sports.
?You have these high-profile athletes, multi-million dollar athletes in some cases, who were the users of the drugs and, wanting to clean up sports," he contended, "[Congress] probably [should] expose those people, and yet, all those athletes are protected and their names were hidden from public file, or retracted by using generic names such as 'A Major League Baseball player', 'an NFL player', those types of things.
?And so, I think, we've never really taken lightly the issue of Grand Jury secrecy and Grand Jury process, but at the same time, we felt like this was material that was relevant for the public to know and was being shielded from the public. You had athletes that were out there publicly stating that they had not used these substances and yet they had testified otherwise. And we thought that this was of value to the public and that's what you're judging, you're thinking about reporting information."
Mr. Williams felt quite strongly that the investigation's focus was questionable, "We always thought there was a disconnect between the government's interest in steroid use. There's no question that the people who put the case [against BALCO] together bent over backwards to protect the users of the drugs," he said, "First they condoned their use of illegal drugs, then they excised all of their names from the court filings. It goes on to this day -- this attempt to protect these wealthy athletes."
"The users, in this case, are not buying things on the street corners for $25 or $100; they're million-dollar-athletes, in some cases, enhancing their performances to make more millions,? added Mr. Fainaru-Wada. ?And that's why this case plays out in a different way and that's what makes the way the government handled it interesting."
Centered around the public controversy involving the two authors is the idea of the book, which is buried deep within Amazon.com's top-selling books ranking 4,852 as of August 20th, generating profit for the writers. Although the public portrayal of the book would point-out that it centers on Bonds, a myriad of other athletes? possible use is also recapitulated.
Bob Egelko, a colleague of Fainaru-Wada and Williams and legal reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, pointed out, "Who knows? Maybe [Mark and Lance] struck gold with 'Game of Shadows', but if they did, I certainly haven't noticed a change in lifestyle [of the two]." With a slight laugh, he added, "They don't wear fancy shoes.
"Do I believe the book? Yeah. It makes [Bonds and others] look like [they committed] perjury. I believe that [Marka and Lance] were sensitive in the sources they chose. Could it be unreliable? Yes. [The public] could find out that the information [which Fainaru-Wada and Williams received] was unreliable.
?Journalists have been known to pressure and trick sources into revealing information. I don't think that [Mark and Lance] tried to pressure their sources. I think that they did some good reporting and exchanged a promise of confidentiality in order to receive information. So I don't think there was trickery involved in this case."
Mark and Lance also weighed in on the issue of their own finances. "We haven't seen anything from royalties yet. All I can say is, we're not getting rich, we're not retiring, we're not buying new houses, we're not buying mansions or anything like that. I'm not going to change my status (Laughs). And I would just say, even if it did, it's not relevant. I didn't do this for the money, Lance didn't do this for the money; we did this because we love reporting, because this is a great story, and because it's an important one, and that's why we did it," Fainaru-Wada expressed.
Lance Williams recalled his mindset when they decided to publish the book, "In my experiences, the less familiar people are with books, the more lucrative they think book writing is. If you actually read books, and understand book publishing and investigative journalism, you recognize that we don't go into it expecting to make money. We were paid enough of an advance to be able to take time off of work to write our book. We weren't doing this to make money or get rich, and if you think that I'm going through this mess in order to enrich myself, you're just confused -- that's not the way it works," he asserted.
Whether or not the source of the grand jury leak will ever be revealed remains to be seen -- all of those prosecuted in the BALCO investigation have denied being the source of the leak. And although there has been much speculation that Victor Conte, the former president and founder of BALCO, after a series of emails were accidentally revealed by the government which showed a conversation between Mark Fainaru-Wada and Conte, in which Conte jokingly offers Fainaru-Wada a CD-ROM containing the grand jury testimony. The San Francisco Chronicle has also denied Conte was the source of the leak.
However, it seems quite unequivocal that Fainaru-Wada and Williams will not reveal their confidential sources, even if facing the possibility of being imprisoned; leaving the government's investigation into the source of the leak without a solid lead.
This Wiretap article is an excerpt from Forrest Wilkinson?s column entitled ?Reporting In Shadows: The Mark Fainaru-Wada And Lance Williams Story,? which can be found by clicking read.