As reporters on the San Francisco Chronicle’s investigative team, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams broke the story of the BALCO sports doping scandal – the biggest stain on American sports in decades. In March 2006, they wrote the best-seller Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroid Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports. The book reached No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list and convinced baseball commissioner Bud Selig to hire former Sen. George Mitchell to investigate steroid use in the game.
Their work not only earned them a string of national honors but it also catapulted them into the middle of their own story. In May 2006, the reporters were issued subpoenas to appear before a grand jury and reveal the confidential sources that helped reveal the story. The reporters refused, and four months later they were held in contempt of court and sentenced to up to 18 months in federal prison. In February 2007, after litigation and Congressional intervention, prosecutors dropped their efforts to jail the reporters or force them to testify.
Their experience covering BALCO has been an exhilarating, chaotic and sometimes frightening four-year roller-coaster ride; it has included everything from meeting the President of the United States to appearing on the David Letterman show, from enduring the sometimes-vicious wrath of San Francisco Giants fans to facing the prospect of a year-and-a-half in prison for standing on their principles.
In addition to conducting hundreds of media interviews, Fainaru-Wada and Williams have spoken before dozens of professional and academic groups about their experiences covering the biggest sports scandal of our generation. As well as discussing steroids in sports, Barry Bonds and the BALCO case, Fainaru-Wada and Williams have shared the story of their very personal battle to keep a promise after being threatened with 18 month in prison for refusing to disclose their confidential sources.
They also have made presentations about investigative journalism, the ethics of sports and the ongoing First Amendment battle to establish a federal shield law for whistleblowers. Academic venues have included Stanford, Northwestern, Brown, UC-Berkeley, Penn State, the University of Michigan and the University of Hawaii. They also have addressed audiences at the World Anti-Doping Agency, The California Society of Addiction Medicine, California’s National Steinbeck Center, the American Bar Association, a national meeting of state insurance officials and several journalism organizations, including the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Association.