I believe Barry Bonds.
I believe Bonds never knowingly took steroids.
I believe Bonds--a man who won't eat buttered popcorn unless he knows its saturated fat content--would put any old thing into his body that his trainer, Greg Anderson, told him to. "I never asked Greg" what the products contained, Bonds told the grand jury for the BALCO steroids case, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "I just said, 'Whatever.'" Sounds like the carefree, trusting, tune-whistler we all know and love.
I believe Bonds--a man who has his own nutritionist and won't eat from the postgame spread, a man who studies his body the way a rabbi studies the Talmud--really thought he was using "a rubbing balm for arthritis," as he told the grand jury, not a steroid. That's why it surprises him that the elderly can't bench-press their Oldsmobiles.
I believe it was just a crazy coincidence that Bonds went from never hitting more than 49 homers in a season to belting 73 about the same time he befriended BALCO weasel Victor Conte Jr., extolled him in a muscle magazine article, gained 35 pounds and went from Ben Hogan to Hulk Hogan.
I believe Bonds didn't recognize documents, in Anderson's handwriting, detailing his alleged performance-drug use. "I have never seen anything written by Greg Anderson on a piece of paper," he told the grand jury. Hey, Bonds has only known Anderson since they were kids. How many chances do you get to see a friend's handwriting?
I believe Bonds paid Anderson $15,000 in cash for "weight-lifting services." And you're just a cynic if you think he might have paid cash for steroids because he didn't want to leave a paper trail.
I believe Bonds had no idea there were BALCO documents that allegedly detail his use of human growth hormone, testosterone and Clomid, a drug for female infertility. And so what if there were? Maybe he's trying to start another family--in a Pyrex beaker.
I believe New York Yankees star Gary Sheffield lied when he told the feds that Bonds hooked him up with the designer steroids ("the cream" and "the clear") and with "red beans," identified by prosecutors as Mexican steroid pills. Besides, cream, clear and red beans could be special meal number 5 at El Torito, right?
I believe that even though Yankees star Jason Giambi admitted to the grand jury that he took steroids given to him by Bonds's trainer, and that Sheffield admitted that he used the steroid cream given to him by Bonds himself, Bonds was utterly innocent, like the schlub who explains to the cops he was only holding the bag of Rolexes until the thief came back.
I believe baseball commissioner Bud Selig really is going to get something done about steroids this time, and not just because six MVP seasons since 1996 now look more suspicious than carnival-stand diamonds.
I believe the players' union bosses when they say they really are concerned about the health of the players, not just the health of their portfolios, even though they block effective steroid testing at nearly every turn. In fact, if players start dying, I'm sure they'll start a flower fund.
I believe ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian is right for saying Bonds would still be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, while adding, "but that's not to condone anything." I also believe in rehabbing peeping toms by locking them up in Carmen Electra's house, but that's not to condone anything.
I believe Bonds should go straight to the Hall of Fame, too, even though I know that he's a cheater and that the second half of his career was as phony as Cheez Whiz. Hey, at least he didn't cheat like Pete Rose by betting on his team several times to win. Now that will kill a sport.
And I believe track star Marion Jones when she insists she never took a steroid, even though Conte has said that he hooked her up with everything but liquid Drano and saw her inject human growth hormones into her quad. Hey, Conte's old and wears glasses. Maybe it was some other statuesque three-time Olympic gold medalist.
And I believe Jones should be able to keep all her medals and Bonds all his MVP awards because it will give them something to hang on their cell walls if they perjured themselves in front of a grand jury.
And I believe Sammy Sosa would've gotten tested for steroids that day, in July 2002, I invited him to go to a private lab. He freaked out only because he thought I wanted to check his bats, too.
And I believe Ron Artest never meant to hurt anybody, Notre Dame didn't really want Urban Meyer, and that wasn't Carmelo Anthony's weed in his backpack.
And I believe reindeer fly, President Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman, and Rogaine really can regrow your hair.
Now, if you'll kindly move out of the way, I believe I'm about to get sick.
• If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to email@example.com
I believe Barry Bonds really thought he was using "a rubbing balm for arthritis," as he told the grand jury, not a steroid.
PETER READ MILLER