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Doping Out BALCO
March 01, 2004
SI legal expert Lester Munson poses, and answers, eight essential questions about the federal probe that could change the shape of sports
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March 01, 2004

Doping Out Balco

SI legal expert Lester Munson poses, and answers, eight essential questions about the federal probe that could change the shape of sports

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Q: Other steroid investigations have come and gone without making a difference. What sets this one apart?

A: Over the course of 18 months FBI and IRS agents used virtually every technique in their arsenal. They combed through garbage from Bay Area Lab Cooperative ( BALCO), gathered bank and credit card records, retrieved e-mails from computers seized in raids on BALCO, tailed suspects around Northern California and allegedly seized syringes dirty with steroids in BALCO's medical waste. This is not just another fact-gathering mission conducted by commissioners, union officials, sanctioning bodies or agents who are ambivalent about the use of steroids, and who may even have a vested interest in not finding abusers. This is an investigation that will be resolved by prosecutors, grand juries and judges who view the sale and use of steroids as a crime.

Q: With all that's going on in the world, is this really such a high priority for the government?

A: Yes. President Bush mentioned steroids in his State of the Union address and the attorney general himself, John Ashcroft, announced that four men—Barry Bonds's personal trainer, Greg Anderson, track coach Remi Kor-chemny; and BALCO officials Victor Conte Jr. and James Valente—had been indicted for steroid peddling and money laundering. Interest in this case starts at the very top.

Q: About 25 athletes, including Bonds, Jason Giambi, Marion Jones and Bill Romanowski, testified before a grand jury. Are they in trouble?

A: Not if they didn't use steroids or lie to the grand jury. Basically, an athlete subpoenaed to testify in December had three choices:

1) take the Fifth Amendment; 2) admit buying and using illegal drugs and face a possible minor misdemeanor charge; or 3) deny using drugs. A source close to the investigation said that at least some of the athletes who testified took option number two. Bonds, that same source said, denied using steroids.

Q: What could happen to an athlete who is found to have lied?

A: The worst-case scenario involves charges of perjury and obstruction of justice and serving a few months in jail. At the very least, someone convicted of those crimes would be placed on probation.

Q: That covers the criminal justice system. What penalties could athletes who are revealed to have taken steroids expect from their respective sports?

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