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Is This Dr. Evil?
George Dohrmann
October 09, 2006
A legend in the sports netherworld, chemist Patrick Arnold--inventor of THG--breaks his silence on his role in the BALCO scandal and hints of a future filled with scary science
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October 09, 2006

Is This Dr. Evil?

A legend in the sports netherworld, chemist Patrick Arnold--inventor of THG--breaks his silence on his role in the BALCO scandal and hints of a future filled with scary science

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Having dropped out of the University of New Haven after his freshman year, Arnold was working in construction when he tried steroids for the first time. A guy in a gym got him a cheap counterfeit steroid that contained just enough methyltestosterone that "it added 10 pounds of muscle in all the right places," Arnold says. The side effects were minimal, and Arnold became convinced (as he still is) that steroids had been given a bad rap.

His interest piqued, he returned to New Haven and got his bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1990, then took a lab job in New Jersey that allowed him enough free time to research performance enhancers. He took classes on organic synthesis at the University of Connecticut and Montclair State. He also devoured books on supplements and steroids, studying both approved and unapproved Western drugs and those used by the East Germans in their doping heyday.

Through message-board exchanges starting in 1996, Arnold befriended Dan Duchaine, author of Underground Steroid Handbook, a legendary instructional pamphlet then circulated in West Coast gyms. Duchaine had served time for dealing steroids and the so-called date-rape drug GHB, but like Arnold today he was venerated rather than scorned by the bodybuilding set. Duchaine (who had a lifelong kidney disease and died in 2000 at age 47) introduced Arnold to Stan Antosh, the owner of Osmo Therapy, a supplement company then based in San Francisco. Antosh persuaded Arnold to move his research to a small company in Seymour, Ill., called Bar North America.

"I showed up [in 1996], and there was no real lab. It was an old schoolhouse," Arnold says. "There was barely any equipment."

BNA's business was to develop and manufacture machines that process soybeans, which it then sold to Third World countries. But saving the world rarely pays the bills, so "we had to do other things to make money," says owner Ramlakhan Boodram, 51, who is originally from Trinidad. "Stan had ideas for supplements, and he told me he was sending me a brilliant young chemist eager to get into the industry." The three had an understanding that if Arnold developed any supplements with money-making potential, they would form a partnership to market and sell the products.

Arnold lived in a nearby hotel for six months and then in a dilapidated farmhouse for a year. He did nothing but study and develop potential supplements, and it would prove to be one of the most productive stretches of his career. He loved reviewing old patents, looking for drugs that had never made it to market or were used only briefly. "I relied on research other people had done and took it a step further," Arnold says.

In late 1996 Arnold introduced andro in the U.S. When McGwire's use of it became public two years later and products containing andro flooded the market, Arnold's reputation within the industry began to grow. But because their company, LPJ Research, didn't sell andro directly to consumers--only as an ingredient to other supplement makers-- Arnold missed out on a financial windfall. That would soon change. In 2001 the company introduced 1-AD. Like andro, 1-AD is a prohormone that is easily converted by the body into testosterone, and it sold so well that the company, now called Proviant Technologies, was able to move into a new facility in Champaign, eight miles away, in 2003. But the boom was short-lived. In January '05 an amendment to the federal Controlled Substance Act banned prohormones.

"We lost 60 percent of our product sales when the ban went in place, and we have not been profitable since," Boodram says. "Last year we lost almost $2 million."

But Arnold's legend was secure long before the ban. Through his message-board postings and interviews for bodybuilding websites and magazines, he became known as the expert on performance enhancers. So when Conte called Arnold in 2000 seeking undetectable drugs, he was simply contacting the most acclaimed scientist in the field.

It is late, and Arnold is sitting at a bar across the street from his apartment, smoking a Parliament Light. All night he has avoided talking about Conte, but after the wine at dinner and a beer at the bar, he takes a puff of his cigarette and dives in. "It all started because Victor called me up and asked me if any of the prohormones I made could be used by athletes and not be detected. I told him, 'You shouldn't use them because I can't guarantee [that they won't be detected].' But this was a friend, a guy whose knowledge I respected, and so I also told him, 'A better way would be to try [norbolethone, which Arnold had synthesized in 1998], because I don't think it will show up on any drug test.' And that sort of opened up Pandora's box."

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