"I've never seen these documents," Barry Bonds said.
He was testifying before a federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, and had just been shown what prosecutors say was a positive steroid test conducted on a player named Barry B.
"I've never seen these papers," Bonds repeated, according to Thursday's indictment charging Bonds with perjury and obstruction of justice.
Those test results may now be the vital linchpin to proving he lied under oath.
Bonds's lawyers are expected to fiercely attack their reliability, much the way O.J. Simpson's legal team undermined the football star's murder case by questioning the handling of his blood samples.
Bonds's attorney, Michael Rains, declined to comment. But BALCO founder Victor Conte offered some insight yesterday into how the slugger's legal team might cast doubt on the evidence.
It was November 2000, and Bonds was preparing for the season in which he would shatter Mark McGwire's season home run record.
According to Conte, himself a convicted steroids dealer, Bonds would visit the lab on Saturdays and after normal business hours with an entourage that included his trainer, Greg Anderson, and his personal physician, Arthur Ting.
Anderson had convinced Bonds to use BALCO to develop a dietary and supplement regimen, which Conte designed based on the results of the blood and urine samples.
Conte said Bonds was put through the same tests as other elite athlete clients, including tests to detect the use of 30 different steroids.
Conte hired Quest Diagnostics to do a "quick and dirty" analysis of the samples, to save money.
The lab charged Conte $80 per test, rather than its usual $120, after Conte agreed to cut out much of the paperwork and elaborate protocol that typically accompany drug tests.
The indictment does not explain where prosecutors obtained the results, but Conte said they were seized when federal agents raided his lab in September 2003.
"If that's the smoking gun," Conte said, "it doesn't have any bullets."
The US Attorney's office in San Francisco declined to comment.
Meanwhile, American anti-doping officials hailed the indictment as an example of how far the United States has come in the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.
"This is just another story related to the big picture that Americans don't like cheaters," Scott Burns, deputy director of White House drug policy, told the Associated Press at the world anti-doping summit in Madrid, Spain.
World Anti-Doping Agency leader Dick Pound had another take.
"It's not fair that some goon who can hit a ball that's still rising as it leaves the county gets paid 12 times as much as I do, and I'm a shortstop that's at least as skillful as this other guy," Pound said. "There's a fraud on the public, a fraud on the players."