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Tuesday 30, Dec 2008

  Did the government commit an illegal act during the BALCO steroid investigation?

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balco-steroidsAn AP report focuses on the high-tech side of the most massive doping scandal in the United States referred to as the BALCO Affair.

There is an ongoing legal dilemma amongst federal judges relating to the seizure of urine samples of more than 100 major league players not originally involved in the BALCO steroid investigation.

The battle is now at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in which an 11-member panel must decide whether prosecutors had the legal right to seize the names and urine samples of the 104 players during a raid carried out in 2004.

“There has to be limits when the government seizes vast amount of information on a computer,” Major League Baseball Players Association lawyer Elliot Peters said.

The federal agents who took the material from the Long Beach-based Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. had a search warrant for the test results of just 10 players, but discovered on a computer spreadsheet the test results of additional players.

The players’ association went to court, and lower-court judges ruled the additional names were seized illegally. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed those decisions twice in 2-1 votes, but the entire 9th Circuit set the reversal aside and decided to hear the case en banc.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Wilson argued Thursday the government had a legal right to investigate all of the players who tested positive because their names and test results were on a single document containing the names of the 10 players listed in the search warrant. Wilson said since the government was entitled to 10 players’ test results, it was entitled to the entire spreadsheet.

Wilson’s argument was attacked early and often by at least six judges, who expressed doubt that a computer spreadsheet is analogous to a paper document, which investigators have a right to seize so long as it contains evidence listed in the search warrant.

“When you are talking about computers, a single document can contain vast amounts of information,” Judge Kim Wardlaw said.
Judge Mylan Smith was even more pointed, complaining that allowing the government on narrowly focused investigations to seize computer databases, hard drives and spreadsheets containing large amounts of information “would probably be frightening to the public because there’s no end to it.”

The BALCO Affair has involved several famous athletes and has resulted to congressional hearings and independent investigations. Most prominent of these investigations is the Mitchell Report, which has probed the use of steroids in the Major League Baseball.

Several personalities were prosecuted and jailed because of their involvement in said scandal including BALCO’s founder Victor Conte, chemist Patrick Arnold who designed “the clear”, containing testosterone, an anabolic steroid, and track athlete Marion Jones.

Friday 31, Oct 2008

  Doping princess Marion Jones meets Talk Show Queen Oprah Winfrey

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Marion Jones steroidsFormer track superstar Marion Jones’ first interview since her release from a Texas federal prison last month was with the Talk Show Queen Oprah Winfrey.

Jones openly and tearfully talked about her fall from grace because of her use of anabolic steroids. She was confident to answer though that even without the illicit drugs she would still have won the gold medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

“I’ll ask myself, `Well, if you hadn’t been given “the clear” do you think you would’ve won?”‘ Jones said on a taped episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” broadcast Wednesday.
“I usually answer, ‘Yes.”

Jones described her confrontation with the prosecutors when they showed her a vial of the designer steroid known as “The Clear”. Jones said she instantly knew it was the steroid Trevor Graham, her former coach, had given her. However, she opted to lie about it, saying she thought Graham was providing her with a flaxseed oil and that she only learned that it was actually tetrahydrogestrinone through the prosecutors.

“I made the decision I was going to lie and try to cover it up,” Jones said on Winfrey’s show. “I knew that all of my performances would be questioned.”

Jones was imprisoned for six months for lying about her use of steroids and her involvement in a check-fraud scam.

Since the BALCO scandal exploded in 2003, Jones had vehemently denied doping until her appearance before a federal court last year where and when she finally confessed that she was on “The Clear” from September 2000 to July 2001. Subsequent to her admission, Jones was stripped of all her medals she won in Sydney – three gold medals and two bronzes.

Jones also offered her apologies to her teammates who had also been stripped of their medals because of her doping infringement. She was part of the US relay teams that won gold medals in the 400-meter and 1,600-meter events in Sydney.

“When I stepped on that track, I thought everybody was drug-free, including myself,” Jones said. “I apologize for having to put everybody through all of this.

“I’m trying to move on. I hope that everybody else can move on, too.”

Monday 08, Sep 2008

  Victor Conte’s tell-all book on athletes on steroids undergoes glitch

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The upcoming intense presidential election is one of the reasons why Victor Conte’s book is not telling anything until 2009. Another intervention is Shane Mosley’s legal offensive against the former BALCO chief.

From the New York Daily News:

Nasty legal warfare has broken out over Victor Conte’s forthcoming tell-all book about his leading role in the world’s biggest steroid conspiracy.

Skyhorse Publishing originally hoped to release “BALCO: The Straight Dope on Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and What We Can Do To Save Sports” in September, but Conte’s book may not hit shelves until 2009, said Skyhorse president Tony Lyons.

Conte has submitted the manuscript, but the imminent presidential election and other intervening factors have led Skyhorse to reconsider the timing of the book’s release.

Among the factors is an expensive barrage of defamation litigation launched against Conte by boxer Shane Mosley, one of the athletes whose BALCO doping regimens Conte promises to describe in detail, and Mosley’s threats to sue the book’s publisher.

Conte admits that Mosley’s defamation suits are a “distraction”. According to Conte, he has devoted anecdotal reports on Mosley regarding the boxer’s used of performance-enhancing drugs in Straight Dope. Conte says that Mosley knew “exactly and precisely what he was doing” and had used both “the cream” and “the clear”, both designer drugs then. Mosley, however, claims that he thought the products he was supplied with by BALCO were legal.

Mosley is represented by the notorious New York attorney Judd Burstein.

The most recent of Burstein’s actions against Conte is a motion filed Wednesday asking a U.S. District Court in California to sanction Conte’s defense attorney for submitting what Burstein called an “outrageous and entirely frivolous” motion to recover $75,654 in attorney fees from a defamation suit that Burstein initiated and withdrew.

Burstein showed the Daily News an Aug. 14 e-mail from Lyons in which the publisher  the idea of canceling Conte’s publicity tour and giving Mosley two or three pages in the book to “explain his side of the story.”

This is NOT a firm offer,” Lyons wrote.

Burstein rejected Lyons’ overtures. He has promised to sue Skyhorse and its insurers.

In early August, Mosley’s camp filed a $12 million defamation suit in a New York state court while pulling out a similar complaint in a federal court in San Francisco.

Conte’s attorney, James Wagstaffe, had argued that federal claim violated California’s anti-SLAPP statutes. A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by encumbering them with the cost of a legal defense thereby inhibiting their criticism or opposition.