Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 20 News List

US athletes turn up for grand-jury doping probe

AP , SAN FRANCISCO

Two US track and field champions were among the first group of athletes to testify to a grand jury probing a nutritional supplements lab.

Shot putter Kevin Toth and 1,500m runner Regina Jacobs were among four track and field athletes testifying on Thursday before a grand jury probing a California lab that supplies some top athletes with nutritional supplements. The grand jury eventually expects to hear from baseball players such as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, several NFL football players and boxer Shane Mosley.

Jacobs and Toth have been customers of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, which is the target of the probe. Both also have tested positive for the new designer steroid THG that has been linked to BALCO.

"Regina was here. She did nothing wrong," attorney Douglas Schwartz said after Jacobs had completed her afternoon testimony. "I really feel sorry for these athletes, because they've really become the victims here."

An appearance before the grand jury, or being subpoenaed to testify, does not imply any of the athletes is a target of the probe. Federal officials have refused to discuss the scope of the grand jury or its secret proceedings.

But a source familiar with Thursday's daylong proceeding said the athletes were asked whether they had taken THG or the endurance-boosting hormone EPO.

The source, who requested anonymity, said the athletes were asked whether they had obtained THG or EPO from BALCO. An attorney for Victor Conte, BALCO's founder, has said his client is the target of the grand jury probe and is innocent of any wrongdoing.

The source also said the athletes were asked whether they had knowingly purchased steroids from BALCO, or whether they thought they were buying legal nutritional supplements.

"Did you meet Conte?" the source said the athletes were asked. "Did he tell you to be quiet?"

Jacobs and Toth were among four US athletes who tested positive for THG at the US track and field championships in June at Stanford University, according to another source close to the investigation who spoke to reporters on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Jacobs and Schwartz refused to comment Thursday when asked outside the grand jury room whether she had tested positive for THG at that meet. Jacobs, 40, won her 12th national outdoor title in the 1,500 at Stanford.

Toth, who has the longest throw in the world this year and won his first national title in June, would not comment after his grand jury appearance.

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