Former elite cyclist Thomas indicted in steroids probe

Former elite cyclist Thomas indicted in steroids probe
December 14th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Former elite cyclist Thomas indicted in steroids probe

Former elite cyclist Thomas indicted in steroids probe


Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Prosecutors sent another clear message Thursday to Barry Bonds and everyone else suspected of misleading the federal steroids investigation: lie to us, and we'll come after you.
Former elite cyclist Tammy Thomas, 36, was the latest sports figure to be indicted for hindering the 3-year-old probe. She faces three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice and is the first from her sport and the first woman to be charged with lying to the grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.
She was ordered to appear in court on Jan. 5. Each count carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Thomas did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Kevin Ryan, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, said Thursday's indictment, along with last month's obstruction of justice charges against track coach Trevor Graham, marks a new phase in the BALCO probe.
"A third stage has begun as we bring charges against individuals who lied to investigators or committed perjury while testifying under oath to a federal grand jury," he said.
The first stage, Ryan said, netted guilty pleas from four distributors connected to BALCO, the Burlingame nutritional supplement company that doled out steroids to elite athletes. Among those convicted was Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, who served three months and is back in prison for refusing to testify against Bonds.
Authorities suspect Bonds, like Thomas, lied to the grand jury in 2003 when he said he never knowingly used steroids. An investigation of the San Francisco Giants slugger for perjury and possible tax evasion charges is ongoing.
The second stage involved the conviction of Patrick Arnold, the rogue Illinois chemist who created the banned substances distributed by BALCO, Ryan said.
Thomas was banned from competition in August 2002 after the performance enhancing drug norbolethone, an obscure and previously undetectable steroid, was found in her urine. Thomas's positive result was the first discovery of an elite athlete taking the so-called "designer drugs" made to evade detection.
"That was the first proof that there were these designer drugs out there," said Don Catlin, a UCLA Olympic analytical Laboratory chemist. "It told me that there would be others coming."
Norbolethone was originally tested by Wyeth Laboratories in human trials during the 1960s as a potential treatment to help severely short people grow and for conditions causing weight loss. The company abandoned development of the steroid in the early 1970s and it was never marketed.
It languished in obscurity until Arnold dusted off Wyeth's recipe and made new batches to boost athletic performance.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency wasn't testing for the steroid until Catlin determined Thomas had used the once-obscure steroid. They also uncovered THG, the designer drug created by Arnold at the heart of the BALCO investigation.
The substance, also known as Genabol, had also been popular among Olympic athletes during the 2000 Sydney Games.
Thomas' indictment also adds cycling, a sport often associated with doping, to a probe that has already exposed steroid use in professional baseball, football and track and field.
The Yazoo City, Miss. native, was a silver medalist in individual sprint at the 2001 World Track Cycling Championships. Her efforts to gain a place on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team ended shortly before the games when her testosterone levels were found to be high. She has always maintained her innocence and said the results may have been triggered by contraceptives she was using.
The indictment accuses Thomas of lying when she told the grand jury in October 2003 that she never used performance-enhancing drugs. She is also said to have lied when she testified that she did not get illegal drugs from Arnold, who is currently serving a three-month sentence in a federal prison in West Virginia.
Thomas was granted immunity from prosecution if she told the truth, according to the indictment.
She was subpoenaed to testify after agents raided the BALCO laboratory and allegedly found evidence linking her to steroid use.
The BALCO probe has also netted convictions of its founder, Victor Conte; BALCO vice president James Valente and track coach Remi Korchemny.
Graham, the coach for track stars Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery, was indicted last month for allegedly lying when he said he did not dole out steroids to his athletes or tell them where they could be obtained. He has pleaded not guilty.
Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, declined to comment on the specifics of the Thomas indictment.
"We have continually stressed the need to bring more resources to bear in order to eliminate doping from every segment of sport," he said. "This is a national issue, and nothing less than an aggressive, sustained effort with significant leadership from the U.S. Government will solve the problem."

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