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Two Important Steroid Hearings Set

June 05, 2005|From Associated Press

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, Montgomery's alleged supplier -- Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte -- and Barry Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, are expected to challenge in federal court the police raids that led to their indictments for distributing steroids.

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 days.

"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 testing."

Meanwhile, an evidentiary hearing is scheduled Tuesday in U.S. district court concerning Conte, BALCO vice president James Valente and Anderson, Bonds' trainer. They are seeking to have charges dismissed on grounds the BALCO office in Burlingame and Anderson's nearby house illegally were searched in 2003.

Drugs, statements and other evidence should be thrown out, they maintain, because they were found during what the defendants claim was an illegal 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."

That 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 living rooms.

Earlier this year, major league baseball toughened its drug-testing policy, mandating suspensions for initial violations for the first time.

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.

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