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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 SI legal expert Lester Munson poses, and answers, eight essential questions about the federal probe

March 01, 2004
March 01, 2004

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March 1, 2004

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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 SI legal expert Lester Munson poses, and answers, eight essential questions about the federal probe

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

This is an article from the March 1, 2004 issue Original Layout

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 Korchemny; 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?

A: Under baseball's drug policy there would be virtually no
repercussions for a player who is a first-time offender. An NFL
player's punishment would be at the discretion of the
commissioner and could include a fine and/or suspension.

Q: What about the track and field athletes?

A: If the investigation reveals drug use by three-time Olympic
gold medalist Marion Jones or sprinters Tim Montgomery or Kelli
White--who also testified before the grand jury--they could be
suspended for two years by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Q: Will the BALCO investigation affect the Athens Olympics?

A: It could, and dramatically. The women's 100-meter final could
be a duel between Jones and White. But Jones was listed as a
BALCO client on the company's website, and White trained under
indicted coach Korchemny and tested positive last summer for
modafinil, a now-banned stimulant that BALCO allegedly
distributed to athletes.

Q: What happens next and when does it happen?

A: There is no time frame, but it seems likely that investigators
will now attempt to pressure the four men who were indicted into
ratting out their former customers and clients. Usually, the feds
start with drug users and progress upward toward the dealers, but
in this case they are methodically working their way down to the
famous athletes who are their ultimate prize.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY TIM BOWER
"Four decades later Abdul-Jabbar will contribute to his original
favorite team."
--RETURN OF A NATIVE, PAGE 26