Troy Ellerman, one of the most influential but least-known figures connected to the BALCO performance enhancing drug scandal, said he illegally leaked grand jury testimony to reporters because he thought prosecutors were covering up for well-known athletes who used PEDs and that prosecutors were hypocritical in their stated reasons for pursuing the case in an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines."
Ellerman, the lawyer for key BALCO defendants, leaked documents in 2004 that allowed the public to see how some of the world's most famous athletes -- Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi among them -- had been doping.
Ellerman, who has not spoken publicly to date about his actions, told OTL that while he believes he was wrong to violate the sanctity of the grand jury system, he wanted to "send a message" about steroid use.
"I sincerely believed in my heart that I was doing something I thought was right," he said. "It was a choice I made. I paid for that choice."
When the four principal defendants were indicted in 2004, "The U.S. Attorney released a press release and said, 'we are doing it because we are going to send a message to the youth, that there are no shortcuts to success,' " Ellerman said. "You then read the indictment and every one of the players' names is scrubbed out. To say you are cleaning up baseball on one hand and give them a pass and wipe their names from the indictment on the other hand -- I strongly believe that that was hypocrisy."
The leaking of the testimony to reporters at the San Francisco Chronicle sent the then-year-old BALCO case into a frenzy.
The Chronicle published stories from the testimony that rocked the worlds of sports and journalism, especially after the newspaper's reporters, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who now works for ESPN, were sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for refusing to reveal their Ellerman as their source. But while the reporters were out pending appeal, an informant solved the mystery of sport's "Deep Throat" by approaching the FBI in 2006; the leaks came from Ellerman, the defense attorney for BALCO vice president James Valente.
Ellerman ended up serving 16 months of a 30-month sentence in a federal prison, and forfeiting his license to practice law.
Ellerman, a former rodeo rider who was the commissioner for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association from 2005-2007, pleaded guilty in 2007 to violating a judge's order, filing a false declaration and obstruction of justice. He was released from prison in 2009 after serving 16 months.
T.J. Quinn is a reporter and Justine Gubar is a producer for ESPN's Enterprise/Investigations Unit.