BALCO Raid Puts Athletes in Crosshairs

After years of criticism, befuddlement and apparent anticlimax, the federal drug investigation run by U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan's office — which netted several steroids dealers but gave the alleged steroid-using athletes immunity — is apparently targeting athletes.

A much-publicized affidavit disclosed today says that federal agents yesterday raided the house of an Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley, who apparently admitted to having a drug regimen somewhere in between that of Keith Richards and the 1970s vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger. On an earlier visit to Grimsley’s house, in late April, the journeyman relief pitcher agreed to chat with the investigators rather than submit to a wholesale search.

“Grimsley stated that throughout the course of his Major League Baseball career, he has purchased and used the athletic performance-enhancing drugs, anabolic steroids, amphetamines, Clenbuterol, and human growth hormone,” IRS Agent Jeff Novitzky wrote, adding that “Grimsley described himself as a former user of amphetamines, which he referred to as ‘greenies’ and “beans.’ Grimsley further stated that ‘they work.’”

A week later, he hired a lawyer and stopped cooperating. But Grimsley had already given the names of players who used and suppliers who provided steroids. And in doing so, he apparently helped investigators in their ongoing probe of steroid users. That’s surprised some of the lawyers who over the last few years have represented steroid suppliers like BALCO head Victor Conte — who served jail time in connection with the case — and didn’t expect the case to turn toward drug users, especially after four years of probing steroid providers.

Of course, the landscape looks different now. But, the lawyers point out, prosecutors may have backed themselves into a hole by giving immunity to dozens of athletes so they would testify in the BALCO probe, making it awkward now to pursue charges against them since none of the information they’ve provided on their own can be used.

And then there’s the whole question of whether the feds should be going after drug-using baseball players at all. “It’s just opportunistic bullshit in my opinion,” said Laurence Lichter, who assisted in the defense of Greg Anderson, the trainer for Barry Bonds who pleaded guilty last summer to conspiring to distribute steroids. “They throw so much money at sports,” Lichter added. “These players, few of them come from privileged backgrounds. If you can use surgery to improve your pitching, why not drugs?”

Justin Scheck

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