SAN FRANCISCO -- After months of Congressional hearings and
allegations of cheating heightened the debate about how to
eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from American sports, the
focus of the steroid scandal returns this week to where it started
-- with two important hearings set for the Bay Area.
Tim Montgomery, the world's fastest man, heads into a secret
arbitration hearing Monday in San Francisco challenging a potential
lifetime ban that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency recommended for his
alleged use of banned substances.
The following day, barring last-minute plea agreements, Barry
Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, is scheduled to challenge
in federal court here the police raid of his Burlingame house that
led to his indictment in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative
scandal, which has also led to the arrest and indictments of three
others, including BALCO founder Victor Conte. Conte and BALCO vice
president James Valente were also to challenge the 2003 raids on
the Burlingame BALCO offices, but announced late Friday a change in
their legal strategy.
Valente's attorney, Ann Moorman, said "We are looking forward
to our day in court and are pressing ahead to trial." Trial for
all four is tentatively set for Sept. 6 here, even as rumors of
plea deals have been circulating for months.
Montgomery, who set the 100-meter world record in 2002, never
has tested positive for a banned substance. Still, USADA is seeking
to ban him from competition based on secret documents the U.S.
Senate obtained last year from the BALCO investigation and then
forwarded to the doping agency.
Montgomery is challenging USADA's recommendation before the
Court of Arbitration for Sport during a closed-door hearing in a
San Francisco office building that is expected to last several
"I think it's a bit of a witch hunt," said Howard Jacobs, one
of Montgomery's lawyers. "It's a stretch to even make the claims
they are making. They are alleging he used a number of steroids and
other banned substances, although he's never tested positive to
anything, and he's certainly been subject to a lot of drug
Meanwhile, an evidentiary hearing is scheduled Tuesday in U.S.
district court concerning Anderson, Bonds' trainer. He is seeking
to have charges dismissed on allegations his house was illegally
searched in 2003 because, among other things, authorities did not
immediately disclose to him the search warrant.
So the drugs, statements and other evidence the authorities
seized should be thrown out, his attorneys maintain, because they
were the fruits of a poisonous search. The Justice Department
disputes the allegations.
Federal agents stated in court records they seized calendars and
other documents detailing the use of steroids by professional
baseball players during the search of Anderson's home. A federal
agent wrote in court papers that, during the raid at BALCO
headquarters, "Conte openly acknowledged giving testosterone-based
cream, itself a steroid, to numerous professional athletes."
Anderson's hearing, however, may be supplanted by even larger
events in the case: A possible plea deal between the government,
Conte, Valente, Anderson and track coach Remi Korchemny, the fourth
man charged in the case. All have pleaded not guilty.
"It's not unusual for a case to settle on the eve of an
evidentiary hearing," said Anna Ling, Anderson's attorney. She
declined further comment.
Still, the fallout from BALCO has become more significant than
the case itself, with steroid use becoming a front-burner issue
from Capitol Hill to baseball clubhouses, and from schools to
Earlier this year, major league baseball toughened its
drug-testing policy, mandating suspensions for initial violations
for the first time. Now, commissioner Bud Selig is pushing for even
more stringent penalties, such as a 50-game suspension for a first
offense and a lifetime ban for a third infraction.
Congress also has gotten into the act, threatening to implement
a federal drug-testing policy for the NFL, NBA, NHL and the major
leagues, with a two-year ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban
for a second violation, as well as more frequent testing.
USADA, often using documents obtained in the BALCO case, has
punished many top track athletes for steroid use, and the agency
hints at more suspensions.
Some of the biggest names in sports, including Bonds, Jason
Giambi of the New York Yankees and track star Marion Jones have
been under a cloud of suspicion based on BALCO grand jury
transcripts that were leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, as
well as public accusations against Jones by Conte and others.
"Certainly, the impact on the sports world is the most
significant part of the BALCO case," said Rick Collins, a New
York-based lawyer specializing in steroid defense cases. He said
his caseload has increased significantly since the 2003 BALCO raid.
"It's somewhat hard to quantify, but I can tell you everybody in
my office is experiencing a much higher volume of phone calls then
He suspects that, either through a plea agreement or trial, the
four BALCO defendants won't face much prison time, if any. THG was
not a banned substance at the time of their arrests and the
government has achieved its objective in the case by shining a
light on the problem of performance-enhancing drugs in sports,
Luke Macaulay, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan in San
Francisco, said the office had no comment.
Travis T. Tygart, USADA's general counsel, declined to discuss
Montgomery's arbitration hearing.
The BALCO probe, he said, already has led to the downfall or
investigation of at least 13 top athletes. The latest came last
month when Michelle Collins declined to contest the agency's
imposition of a four-year ban, including forfeiture of her
200-meter world indoor and U.S. indoor titles in 2003.
"It's been basically two years of investigation and dealing
with cases associated with BALCO," Tygart said.
Much of the evidence USADA is expected to use against Montgomery
was made public last year by the San Jose Mercury News, which
published details of a plan the sprinter and Conte allegedly came
up with in 2000 to turn Montgomery into the world's fastest man.
"Project World Record" called for Montgomery to take the
undetectable steroid THG, the paper reported, citing anonymous
sources and court documents. Montgomery's attorney rejects those
Montgomery set the 100-meter record of 9.78 seconds in September
2002, breaking Maurice Greene's mark by .01 seconds.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Montgomery testified
to the grand jury in 2003 that Conte gave him weekly doses of human
growth hormone and a substance called "the clear" -- which was
later determined to be THG. However, that testimony was not turned
over to USADA and will not be part of this hearing.
Montgomery did not qualify for last year's Olympics. He is the
boyfriend of Jones, a former three-time Olympic champion. She is
suing Conte in federal court here for telling a national television
audience that she used banned substances. Conte called the lawsuit
"nothing more than a PR stunt."
Jones, who did not win any medals at the Athens Olympics, has
been under investigation for about a year by USADA, but has not
been sanctioned. Her defamation case is to be tried once the BALCO
criminal matter is over.