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Judge Denies USADA Request

Illston rules that a review of grand jury testimony in BALCO case will not be allowed.

July 10, 2004|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge on Friday rejected the U.S. Olympic anti-doping agency's bid to review sealed testimony of top sprinters questioned during a federal probe into an alleged steroid ring.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency wants to review the grand jury testimony of Tim Montgomery, Chryste Gaines, Michelle Collins and Alvin Harrison -- all charged by the agency with using performance-enhancing drugs.

All four sprinters appeared last fall before a federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Each has denied using banned substances.

BALCO's founder and three other men connected to the lab were indicted for allegedly distributing illegal steroids.

All four men have pleaded not guilty.

The USADA request came as the four athletes were set to begin competing in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Sacramento, which continue through July 18.

The USADA is trying to prevent them from participating in the Olympics if they have admitted using steroids.

"Did these people take these substances or didn't they?" Bob Vizas, a USADA attorney told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in explaining why the agency wants the transcripts. "We want to see the right people compete in the Olympics."

The judge agreed with the government that USADA failed to provide an adequate legal basis to gain access to the sealed testimony. By law, such testimony usually remains sealed unless it is admitted as evidence in a case generated by the grand jury indictment.

Federal prosecutor Carter Stewart said USADA's request was made with "good reason," but added, "good reasons are not enough."

He said the Justice Department believed that aiding USADA would "undercut the ability of witnesses to come into these grand jury proceedings and testify truthfully."

Travis Tygart, USADA's chief lawyer, said in statement: "Judge Illston ruled that our request was premature, and we respect that ruling. As our process continues, we may revisit this matter."

The four sprinters were among the dozens of athletes who testified before the BALCO grand jury, which indicted BALCO's founder, Victor Conte; vice president James Valente; track coach Remi Korchemny; and Greg Anderson, the trainer for San Francisco Giant slugger Barry Bonds. Trial is pending.

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