BALCO's 'clear' supplier pleads guilty

SAN FRANCISCO -- A noted scientist in the field of sports nutritional supplements pleaded guilty Friday to supplying the BALCO lab with the performance-enhancing drug known as "the clear."

Patrick Arnold pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids. He's scheduled to be sentenced in August and most likely will face three months in jail and three months of home detention.

"I agreed to distribute and in fact I did distribute anabolic steroids to two individuals who then knowingly provided these steroids to athletes," Arnold told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

Arnold left the federal courthouse without talking to reporters.

A federal grand jury indicted Arnold in November for conspiring with Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte to distribute the once undetectable substance tetrahydragestrinone. He initially faced three conspiracy counts, but two were dropped in exchange for his plea.

Arnold's plea comes as a grand jury investigates whether San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds lied about using "the clear" to another grand jury that investigated BALCO more than two years ago. It was unclear if the plea agreement requires Arnold to testify before the grand jury.

So far, the BALCO probe has netted guilty pleas from Arnold, Conte, Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson, BALCO vice president James Valente and track coach Remi Korchemny.

Arnold, 39, was snared after federal agents raided his Champaign, Ill., lab last year.

Prosecutors said Arnold was intimately involved with distributing steroids through BALCO from 2000 to 2003, and at one point wired a large sum of money to China for the ingredients to make the drugs.

Arnold was "involved knowingly with a conspiracy to illegally distribute steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to professional and elite athletes," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nedrow said in court.

Nedrow said witnesses and documents seized from Arnold's home and BALCO's Burlingame, Calif., labs would have buttressed their case.

Defense attorneys refused to comment outside court.

According to leaked excerpts of Bonds' testimony reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonds told the BALCO grand jury he used a "clear" substance and a cream given to him by Anderson.

Bonds, who is approaching Babe Ruth for second place on baseball's career home run list, testified that Anderson informed him the substances were the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis.

Arnold was known for introducing the steroid precursor androstenedione to the United States. Nicknamed "andro," the chemical came to public attention in 1998 when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire said he used it when he broke baseball's single-season home run record.

The indictment against Arnold alleged he trafficked in performance-enhancing drugs that were designed to avoid detection by sporting leagues, including the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Major League Baseball and the NFL.

Illston asked Arnold if his plea was voluntary and told him he couldn't change his mind once he accepted the agreement with prosecutors.

"Mr. Arnold I think you're guilty of this offense, and I think you are pleading guilty because you are guilty," she said at the close of the hearing.

Bonds hit his 711th career home run in San Francisco's 9-7, 11-inning loss to New York on Wednesday, placing him three homers behind Babe Ruth for second on the career list, trailing Hank Aaron (755).