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'This Is Very Clever Chemistry'

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2004; Page D11

The steroid known as "the clear," which in recent days has been linked to Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Marion Jones and is at the center of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal, is an extremely powerful drug, three scientists familiar with the substance said yesterday.

The scientists said three recent studies have shown "the clear" -- also known as THG -- closely resembled traditional anabolic steroids such as Stanozolol, used by Ben Johnson at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul when he won the 100-meter gold medal.

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"All of [the studies] . . . showed it was as least as potent as the gold standards used for steroid potency," said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Senior Managing Director Larry Bowers, who used to head the former Olympic drug-testing lab in Indianapolis.

Because THG -- tetrahydrogestrinone -- was unknown until last summer when track coach Trevor Graham anonymously mailed a syringe of it to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, discussion of its effects was largely speculative when it was first discovered. All of the other substances connected with the BALCO scandal have well-documented properties.

This week, several athletes were connected to "the clear" and another steroid known as "the cream," a testosterone-based substance allegedly provided along with THG by four men connected to BALCO -- including Bonds's trainer, Greg Anderson.

BALCO founder Victor Conte said last night on ABC News's "20/20" that he gave Jones THG and other drugs before the 2000 Summer Games, in which she won five medals. Jones has vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Bonds and Giambi acknowledged in grand jury testimony that they used clear and cream substances provided by Anderson, who along with three others with BALCO ties faces federal steroid charges but has pleaded innocent.

The Chronicle previously reported that slugger Gary Sheffield also acknowledged using the two substances.

Bonds said he did not know the substances were steroids, according to the Chronicle, which said prosecutors equated the substances to THG and the testosterone-based cream.

U.S. sprinter Kelli White said yesterday on "20/20" that the effects of THG made winning two world championships "easy," and gave her acne, unusually big muscles and changed her voice.

"It appears to be extraordinarily potent," said Don Catlin of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, who along with Shalender Bhasin carried out one of three major studies of the substance since last year. The work "will show that THG is an active steroid."

Said Bhasin: "This is very clever chemistry."

Catlin's, Bhasin's and Bowers' appraisals and White's description run counter to Bonds's assessment of the clear substance he took, according to the Chronicle story.

Bonds told the Chronicle he thought a clear substance Anderson gave him was the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil, but it was ineffective and he stopped using it.

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