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Suspended Oakland pitcher trained with reputed steroid supplier

Bartolo Colon, the Oakland Athletics pitcher suspended today for testing positive for testosterone, had his best year in baseball after training with a reputed steroid supplier, according to Major League Baseball's Mitchell Report on the game’s steroids era.

In 2005, when he won the Cy Young Award while pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, Colon worked out with personal trainer Angel “Nao” Presinal, according to the report. At the time, Presinal had been “declared a pariah” and banned from baseball clubhouses because of his ties to banned drugs, according to the report.

The 2007 report, written by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, did not tie Colon to the use of steroids.

But it mentioned Colon in a narrative concerning suspected steroid distribution by Presinal, who was described as a “prominent personal trainer for a number of professional baseball players, operating out of facilities in the Dominican Republic.”

According to the report, Presinal was linked to steroids in 2001, when Canadian authorities at the Toronto airport discovered a duffel bag containing steroids and syringes among luggage belonging to the Cleveland Indians, who were in town to play the Blue Jays. Presinal was in Toronto because he was a personal trainer for Juan Gonzalez, the Indians’ slugging outfielder.

In an interview with an Indians security officer, Presinal admitted that he had packed the bag of steroids but said they belonged to Gonzalez. The security officer said Presinal admitted supplying steroids to other major leaguers as well, but Presinal later denied saying any such thing, according to the report.


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Doping bans spur athletes to concoct creative alibis

Confronted with a positive steroid test, Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera employed a fake website and a phony cover story to deflect the consequences, the New York Daily News has reported. Major League Baseball found him out, and Cabrera was suspended for 50 games.

Cabrera’s ruse may have been distinctly elaborate. But over the years, elite athletes facing doping bans have come up with a long list of defenses – unusual, dubious and even preposterous. Here, from court records and interviews, are some remarkable ones.

Doctor’s orders. U.S. sprinter Kelli White won two gold medals at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, but she tested positive for the stimulant modafinil.


With the aid of Victor Conte, founder of the BALCO steroid lab, White said she created a cover story. White claimed she had suffered for years from the sleep disorder narcolepsy and had been prescribed modafinil. Conte even arranged for a doctor to vouch for White’s diagnosis. White's story crumbled, and she later confessed and was suspended from track.

The morning-after pill. In 2002, bicycle racer Tammy Thomas tested positive for the use of the designer steroid norbolethone and was banned from cycling. But she disputed the ban, saying that her use of contraceptives had caused a false positive test. In 2003 she repeated her denials before a federal grand jury. 


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Barry Bonds put on probation in BALCO steroids case

Barry Bonds, holder of baseball’s career home run record and former San Francisco Giants superstar, was put on probation today for obstructing justice in the BALCO steroids scandal.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston rejected a plea by federal prosecutors to punish Bonds with a 15-month prison term on his felony conviction for obstruction of justice. She also agreed to postpone imposing the sentence pending appeal.

In April, the former slugger was found guilty of equivocating under oath about his use of banned drugs in 2003 testimony before a federal grand jury. In Bonds’ trial, the jury deadlocked on three perjury charges. Bonds’ lawyers have said they would appeal his conviction.

Bonds declined to speak at the hearing. He listened impassively as the judge read the sentence.

The judge put Bonds on two years' probation. She ordered 30 days of electronic monitoring and restricted him to his Beverly Hills home for that time. He also was ordered to perform 250 hours of community service with youth programs and fined $4,000.


"I think the jury got it exactly right," the judge said of the verdict. "Mr. Bonds did make an effort to obstruct justice here, but he didn’t succeed." Despite Bonds' evasive testimony, federal investigators managed to take down the steroid ring centered at the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative in Burlingame, convicting the drug dealers.

Sports leagues also cracked down on steroid use, she noted, and the nation was educated on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs.


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With Bonds' sentencing, BALCO scandal ends

Bicycle racer Tammy Thomas lied to a grand jury about her use of steroids, then fought perjury charges in court. Convicted, she was sentenced to house arrest.

It was the same story for elite track coach Trevor Graham, who lied to a federal agent trying to unpack the BALCO steroids scandal: Found guilty, he too was put on house arrest.

Now, tomorrow in San Francisco, the same federal judge who showed mercy to those sports figures must sentence a far more famous athlete convicted of equivocating about banned drugs: Barry Bonds, the former Giants slugger and holder of baseball’s career home run record.

Prosecutors want Bonds imprisoned for 15 months for dodging a grand jury’s questions about his use of designer steroids from the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative.

Up to now, Judge Susan Illston has balked at imprisoning athletes for lying about banned drugs.

If she is consistent, Bonds also will avoid prison on his conviction for obstruction of justice, said New York defense lawyer Patrick Mullin, an expert on federal sentencing issues. But by law, “she has no obligation to be consistent – (sentencing) is a case-by-case situation,” he said in an interview.

Nationwide, more than half of the defendants convicted of obstruction of justice in federal court serve some prison time, Mullin said, citing U.S. Sentencing Commission data.


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Prosecutors seek prison time for Barry Bonds

Federal prosecutors want former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds to serve 15 months in prison for obstructing their probe into the BALCO steroids scandal.

In documents filed late yesterday, the legal team that prosecuted baseball’s home run king urged Judge Susan Illston to reject the recommendation of a probation officer who said Bonds should be sentenced only to community service.

After a three-week trial in April, the retired baseball star was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving evasive answers to a grand jury that was probing steroid dealing at the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative in Burlingame. The jury deadlocked on charges that Bonds lied under oath when he denied that he used steroids and other banned drugs. Sentencing is set for next Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

In their filing, the prosecutors said Bonds’ offense was too serious to merit what the probation officer suggested – probation with community service.

When Bonds testified before the BALCO grand jury in 2003, he intended to “obfuscate and distract the grand jury from its role in getting to the truth,” they wrote.

“His answers that he did not know he was taking steroids and human growth hormone were patently false, and the United States’ allegation that he lied when he said he had not been injected by anyone other than a doctor was proven at trial through the testimony of Kathy Hoskins.”


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Bonds should not serve prison time, probation officer says

A federal probation officer says former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds should not be required to serve prison time for his conviction on a charge of obstruction of justice, Bonds’ lawyer revealed in a filing today.

Bonds was found guilty in April for evading a federal grand jury’s questions about his use of steroids and other banned drugs from the BALCO drug lab.

His jury deadlocked on three perjury charges. Sentencing is set for Dec. 16, and by law, Bonds could face more than two years in prison.


But after a pretrial investigation, a probation officer concluded that Bonds’ “illegal and criminal” behavior  appeared to be “an aberration when taken in context of his entire life,” defense lawyer Allen Ruby wrote, quoting from the report. The report itself is not public.

The probation officer also opined that Bonds’ sentence should not take into account Bonds’ “steroid use and how this use impacts his stature” as a ball player, Ruby wrote, quoting from the document, but should focus on the crime for which he actually was convicted.

Rather than a prison term, the probation officer suggested that Bonds be sentenced to community service, especially with young people.

“It is believed Mr. Bonds can use his status, as well as his past record of giving to youth-related causes for some beneficial and significant impact to society,” the probation officer wrote, by the defense lawyer’s account.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston may consider the probation officer’s recommendation before imposing a sentence. Prosecutors have not yet expressed an opinion on Bonds’ sentence.


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Hollywood's 'Moneyball' downplays steroid use

From 2000 to 2004, the Oakland Athletics were the greatest baseball team that never won the pennant.

Film fans can get that idea from “Moneyball,” the new Brad Pitt movie about Billy Beane, the club’s computer-genius general manager.

In that stretch, the A’s won 98 games per year – 20 in a row at one point. First baseman Jason Giambi and shortstop Miguel Tejada both were named the American League’s Most Valuable Player, and pitcher Barry Zito won the Cy Young Award. Oakland was in the playoffs four straight years – and lost in the first round every time.

There’s another idea fans might not get from the movie: The "Moneyball" A’s were loaded with steroid users.

Nine men who played for the A's between 2000 and 2004 used banned drugs, according to the Mitchell Report, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell's official investigation of baseball’s steroid era.

Three were customers of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative steroid mill. They said they bought drugs from Greg Anderson, who was a weight trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. All three also testified for the prosecution in Bonds’ perjury trial earlier this year.


Five more were customers of Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets bat boy who became a major steroid supplier for major league players. Another Athletics player had an online pharmacy express-mail steroids to him at the ballpark.


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Bonds won't face retrial on perjury charges

Baseball slugger Barry Bonds will not face a retrial on steroids-related perjury charges.

Federal prosecutors today dismissed three felony charges of lying under oath to the grand jury that investigated the BALCO steroids scandal. In April, a jury deadlocked on the three counts.

But the jury convicted Bonds of another felony, obstruction of justice, for giving evasive testimony to the BALCO grand jury. The government contended that Bonds was using banned drugs obtained from his trainer, confessed steroids dealer Greg Anderson, and from the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative steroids lab in Burlingame.

Bonds is scheduled to be sentenced on the obstruction felony Dec. 16. He could be sentenced to federal prison, though experts believe a term of house arrest is more likely.

Lead prosecutor Matt Parrella filed the dismissal in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The dismissal was made “without prejudice,” meaning the government could change its mind.

The government had the right to retry Bonds because the jury failed to reach unanimous verdicts on the three counts. In interviews, jurors said they deadlocked 11-1 on a perjury charge involving Bonds' denial that he had ever been injected by anyone other than a physician. Bonds’ former personal shopper testified in the trial that she saw Anderson give Bonds an injection in the navel. Human growth hormone is injected in the abdomen.

The jury deadlocked in favor of acquitting Bonds on charges that he lied when he said he had never used steroids or human growth hormone.

Correction: This post was updated to correct the fact that the dismissal was made "without prejudice," meaning the government could still choose to refile the charges.


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Judge upholds Barry Bonds' conviction for obstruction

A federal judge tonight rejected baseball slugger Barry Bonds’ plea to overturn his felony conviction for obstruction of justice in a trial on steroid-related perjury charges.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Ilston clears the way for the former San Francisco Giants’ star’s sentencing. He faces a potential term of more than two years in prison, although many experts believe he may only be sentenced to house arrest.

Bonds, who holds baseball’s career record for home runs, was indicted on charges of lying to the federal grand jury that investigated the BALCO sports steroids scandal. In his 2003 testimony, he denied knowingly using steroids.

He was charged with lying under oath to the grand jury and with obstructing justice for allegedly interfering with their probe.

After a two-week trial that ended in April, the jury failed to reach unanimous verdicts on three perjury charges. They deadlocked 11-to-1 in favor of convicting Bonds for lying about receiving an injection from his weight trainer, confessed BALCO steroid dealer Greg Anderson, and they deadlocking in favor of acquittal on two other perjury counts.

In her ruling, the judge rejected all of Bonds’ arguments. She wrote: “The record supports a finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the question was material to the grand jury’s investigation of BALCO and Greg Anderson for unlawfully distributing performance enhancing drugs, and that defendant endeavored to obstruct the grand jury by not answering it when it was first asked.”

The judge has not set a sentencing date.


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Judge to rule on tossing Bonds felony conviction

UPDATE: This post was updated with coverage of the hearing Thursday

A federal judge said today she would rule in writing on baseball slugger Barry Bonds’ plea to overturn his felony conviction from a trial on steroid-related perjury charges.

At a hearing in federal court in San Francisco, Judge Susan Illston listened to arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys on the legality of Bonds' conviction for obstruction of justice, the lone count on which the jury returned a guilty verdict. She gave little indication of what her ruling would be and no timeline.

Bonds’ lawyer, Dennis Riordan, urged the judge to toss the verdict, saying evidence was insufficient. But federal prosecutor Merry Chan said the jury had ample cause to convict the former San Francisco Giants star.


In April, a jury found Bonds guilty of obstruction for giving a rambling, evasive answer to a question from a federal grand jury in 2003. The panel was investigating elite athletes’ use of banned drugs obtained from BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in Burlingame.

On the witness stand, Bonds was asked whether he had ever received injectable drugs from his weight trainer, Greg Anderson, who later confessed to dealing BALCO steroids.

In a discursive reply, Bonds never addressed the question head on. At one point, he told jurors he had been “a celebrity child, not in baseball by my own instincts.”


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