April 27, 2006

Doping-Chemist said set to plead guilty in BALCO case

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A chemist accused of supplying
steroids to the BALCO lab at the center of a global sports
steroid scandal is poised to enter a guilty plea on Friday,
according to a court calendar and an official who did not want
to be named.

Federal prosecutors charged Patrick Arnold, an Illinois
resident, in November with supplying BALCO with THG, a steroid
that sports testing initially could not detect.

The BALCO scandal has damaged the reputations of top
athletes in track and field as well as American baseball and
football, and led to prison sentences for the company's owner,
Victor Conte, and for Greg Anderson, baseball slugger Barry
Bonds' personal trainer.

Arnold pleaded not guilty to all three criminal counts
against him in November, but a calendar item for Judge Susan
Illston's federal courtroom on Friday says a "Change of
Plea/Trial Setting" is planned in the case.

"We're expecting him to plead guilty tomorrow," said an
official familiar with the case.

The sentence under the plea bargain was expected to be
short, as the indictment came before steroid punishments were
recently increased, the official said.

According to the indictment, Arnold synthesized THG from
gestrinone, a steroid for which he paid thousands of dollars to
people in China. The chemist is alleged to have then sent the
refashioned substance to the California-based BALCO.

Among the three charges against Arnold are conspiracy to
distribute steroids with Conte, as well as the introduction and
delivery of THG.

Arnold's case is not the only one still pending related to
the BALCO probe.

Seven time Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player
Bonds, who told the grand jury he never knowingly used steroids
according to his lawyer, is now under grand jury investigation
for possible perjury. The legal scrutiny comes as he is just
three home runs behind Babe Ruth for second place on the
all-time U.S. home run list.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that Bonds'
physician, Arthur Ting, and Giants trainer Stan Conte -- who is
not related to Victor Conte -- were expected to appear on
Thursday before a grand jury looking into the matter behind
closed doors.

Reporters at the federal courthouse throughout the day did
not see either of the two men.

(Additional reporting by Kathleen Haley in San Francisco)