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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.

Sunday 04, May 2008

  Graham vs Heredia – A Likely Face-off in Steroid Scandal

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trevor graham steroids‘Interesting’ might be a lackluster word to describe the likely confrontation of Trevor Graham and Angel Heredia in the continuing saga of the BALCO Affair, a nasty exposè in the use of steroids in professional athletics.

As the trial of the now infamous track and field coach Trevor Graham looms, there is now a consensus among legal experts and other observers that Heredia would be a key witness in the long-running federal investigation in the use of steroids by famous athletes.

Angel Guillermo Heredia is identified as Source A in the felony indictment and has cooperated with federal investigators to be a witness three years ago. Well, let’s put it this way – Heredia was given no choice but to cooperate considering investigators presented him with a pile of evidence of his steroid-dispensing and money-laundering activities. Even with steroids in his system, bet you he would never surmount the obstacle, and so he agreed. And since his momentous decision, Heredia has provided prosecutors valuable documentation of this huge steroid scandal including the names of many elite track athletes and Olympic medal winners whom he alleged had used steroids. Heredia has implicated Coach Trevor Graham.

But Graham, who is charged with three counts of making false statements to federal agents, says that he is innocent. Graham is quite vehement that he does not have direct knowledge of and involvement on the athletes’ use steroids. As a defensive maneuver to dismiss the accusations, Graham’s camp says the government’s key witness is a tainted one. They say the case had been built on accusations by Mr. Heredia that “are not true and are merely an effort to attempt to divert attention from his illicit drug dealing and the illicit drug usage by athletes.” They say that up to now Heredia is still a conduit of steroids. Such maneuver, however, has been denied.

Graham’s trial, scheduled on May 19, would surely have an effect of the sports of track and field in particular and the upcoming 2008 Olympics in general.

Graham sums it all up: “The problem with my trial now, you’ve got the Olympic Games coming up. There’s going to be a lot of publicity on a lot of people’s parts who did a lot of things behind closed doors. . . . Now it’s all going to be dragged out in front of the whole world. It’s going to embarrass the United States and it’s going to embarrass these athletes. These athletes are retired. They’ve moved on.”