Illinois chemist Patrick Arnold supplied anabolic steroids to Victor Conte, the mastermind of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) drug scandal that ensnared more than a dozen prominent U.S. and international athletes, federal authorities said in a three-count indictment released yesterday.
Arnold also provided steroids to the coach of the two Greek sprinters who withdrew from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens after skipping drug tests, according to the indictment.
Arnold, 39, a highly regarded dietary supplement manufacturer who brought to the market the now-illegal steroid product known as andro (androstenedione), is charged with creating and distributing three steroids designed to avoid detection in standard sport drug screens: norbolethone, DMT (or madol) and THG, the most well-known steroid at the center of the BALCO scandal that is also known as "the clear."
A number of prominent athletes, including baseball players Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, and sprinters Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Kelli White, had ties to BALCO.
Authorities allege that Arnold sent packages of THG to Conte, a friend in Houston and overseas to Chris Tsekos, coach of Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Ekaterina Thanou, who were accused by Greek authorities of staging a motorcycle crash to explain their absence from drug tests the night before the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Their case, which has caused great embarrassment in Greece, is now before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. Federal officials said they found vials of THG, DMT and norbolethone in a storage locker discovered during a September 2003 raid of Conte's lab in Burlingame, Calif., and that Conte referred to Arnold as "the clearman" in e-mails.
"Today's indictment is a direct result of what began as the BALCO investigation and the continuing hard work and dedication of the whole investigative team," said Roger L. Wirth, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigation.
Arnold, who was not in custody yesterday and could not be reached for comment, faces a maximum of 13 years in prison and a fine of $750,000 if convicted on the charges of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids, conspiracy to defraud by distributing misbranded drugs and the introduction and delivery of THG into the market. Two others, Conte and Bonds's personal trainer, were indicted in February 2003 on steroid charges in connection with the BALCO scandal.
Conte was sentenced to four months in jail and four months probation as part of a plea deal that was approved last month; trainer Greg Anderson received three months in jail and three months probation.
Authorities said they relied on information from 2002 U.S. Olympic bobsledder Gea Johnson, who described herself as a friend of Arnold's for two or three years, to confirm his identity in a series of postings to a public message board at Bodybuilding.com in which he boasted of having synthesized steroids since 1991.
Arnold apparently thought he had escaped sanction in connection with the BALCO scandals, writing on the message board Aug. 1: "I have learned that the only crime in selling one of these compounds is a minor FDA violation . . . really, as much as the feds may want to make an example of me, with the way the law is written there is not much that can be done. Certainly they may make a media and political controversy out of it. But I don't care."
Arnold's lab was raided by federal investigators in September.
Arnold also said in a June 2001 e-mail to his Houston-based friend Miles Werre, who authorities said admitted making a testosterone-based cream for Conte, that "I am sending you . . . a designer roid dissolved in propylene glycol. The designer stuff is very secret and very potent. It is currently being used by several high profile athletes, some of whom are having phenomenal success in their sports right now."
The indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of California also said Conte warned Greek track coach Andreas Linardatos that athletes should stop using THG because authorities had discovered it.
Arnold, who helps run Proviant Technologies in Champaign, Ill., and sells supplements through the Ergopharm line, first gained fame after his andro was used in 1998 by former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire.