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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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Arnold finishes his cigarette and lights another.

"I knew all about sports doping. I knew a lot of the behind-the-scenes details about how people use. I knew it was a game of cat and mouse. But I didn't feel I was jumping into anything more than [a potential problem] with a sports governing body. I wanted to see how effective [norbolethone] would be in well-trained people who were ultraresponsive to changes in their diet or drug regimen. The results came back very positive. I took a little pride in that fact."

In 2001 Arnold switched Conte from norbolethone to THG, which he'd just developed, because the former had begun to draw scrutiny from drug testers. Conte continued to pass Arnold's products on to prominent athletes, dropping the names of sprinter Marion Jones and others when he updated Arnold on their successes. ( Jones denies ever using performance-enhancing drugs.) But Arnold rarely watches sports. His primary interest is in physical improvement. Once it became obvious that THG was as effective as he'd hypothesized, he didn't care about world-record times or home run totals. "I'm sitting there at home alone, and this guy catches a touchdown [pass], and no one cheers for me," he says. "So I was like, 'Who f------ cares?' But I also knew that if they got caught, I was going to get busted."

Arnold says he advised Conte on whether a testosterone cream could be used to up the testosterone levels of athletes, but he didn't supply any to him. And he didn't send Conte regular shipments of THG; it was taken in such small doses (just a couple of drops under the tongue) that a few shipments proved to be almost all Conte needed. "A couple of times he said to me, 'Patrick, you need to invent something else,' but I had reached a point where I couldn't do it anymore," Arnold says. "So I washed my hands of it. Too many [athletes] were getting too much better than the rest. Even before the government got involved, I felt Victor was making a mess of sports."

Arnold won't divulge what he was paid for supplying THG to BALCO but says it wasn't enough to cover his legal fees. Despite his trouble with the law, he doesn't second-guess his decision to develop THG; he believes that all adults should have the right to use steroids and that doctors should prescribe them for cosmetic (muscle-building) or antiaging purposes.

"I know there were athletes who didn't have access to [THG], and I regret that [the playing field was not level]," Arnold says. "Another regret is that this has furthered the stigma of steroids. People have used it as an opportunity to demonize steroids even more and increase the penalties for possession and sales. Testing organizations have used it to demand more funding. All we hear is that [steroids] make athletes big and strong and then they die five years later. But what if they can really help someone?"

After BALCO was raided in September 2003, Arnold knew it was only a matter of time before authorities came after him. The feds finally arrived at his door in September 2005. "There were agents asking, 'Where is the THG?'" he says. "I was like, 'Why on earth would I have it two years later?' They expected to find this massive steroid operation, and instead they spent 13 hours going through everything and found out it was a legitimate company. That is why I was indicted and not my business."

As part of his plea agreement, Arnold didn't have to name athletes and coaches to whom he gave drugs. He allows that none were big names or professionals from the four major sports leagues. "Track and field, especially the sprinters, they were more sophisticated in whom to seek out," he offers as a hint. Arnold says he was not questioned about Bonds or the other BALCO athletes during the investigation because, he says, he never had direct contact with them. (Nonetheless, he was recently subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney's office as it tries to determine whether to indict Bonds on perjury charges.)

"I don't know anything about Barry, but I know this whole thing would have died had he retired last year," Arnold says. "I don't know why the government keeps throwing money at this. What more do they have to prove?"

Outside the bar Arnold pauses before crossing the street and heading home. "They are superstars making millions, and I'm getting a pittance," he says of the athletes who used his drugs. "I'm the one getting maligned in the press and going to prison, and they are still playing. I got the raw end of the deal."

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