Athletes Visit Grand Jury In Sports Dope Case


Several star athletes testified yesterday in a federal gand jury investigation of sports doping, the San Jose Mercury-News reports. Among the witnesses at closed proceedings in San Francisco were sprinter Marion Jones, wide receiver Johnnie Morton of the Kansas City Chiefs, and four players for the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders.

The Mercury News said it was the third week of testimony in a federal investigation of Balco Laboratories, a Burlingame, Ca., sports nutrition center suspected of providing athletes with illicit performance-enhancing drugs. The jury is hearing from dozens of clients of Balco, after which it will decide whether to hand up indictments.

Balco and its president, Victor Conte Jr., have been identified by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as the likely source of THG, a designer steroid discovered this summer. After THG was identified, the substance was found in the urine samples of five athletes who competed in June at the U.S. outdoor track and field championships at Stanford University.

The athletes’ reactions underscore the sense of embarrassment they must feel at having to testify. Although they are witnesses, not targets of the investigation, they were clearly uncomfortable and rebuffed questions from reporters. Previous witnesses have been Olympic track and field athletes and one cyclist, Tammy Thomas.

When running back Tyrone Wheatley of the Oakland Raiders approached the courthouse entrance, Noah Berger, a freelance photographer on assignment for the Associated Press, stepped up to photograph him. Witnesses said Wheatley tried to push Berger’s camera out of the way and hit the photographer’s arm. The Associated Press filed a complaint with the Federal Protective Service, which handles security for the building.


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