April 28, 2006

Steroid chemist pleads guilty in BALCO case

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A chemist accused of supplying steroids to the BALCO lab changed his plea to guilty on Friday in U.S. federal court in a scandal that has tarnished top athletes in global sport, including San Francisco Giants baseball star Barry Bonds.

Patrick Arnold, an Illinois resident, was charged in November by federal prosecutors with supplying BALCO with THG, a steroid that evaded sport testing detection until a coach turned over a used syringe to anti-doping authorities.

Arnold entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to distribute steroids. He had pleaded not guilty to three criminal counts against him in November.

Under a plea bargain with federal authorities, Arnold will be sentenced on August 4 by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston to three months in prison to be followed by three months of home detention.

"I agreed to distribute and I did in fact distribute anabolic steroids," Arnold said in court. He said he made distributions were made to middlemen, coaches and athletes.

Arnold will be the third person in the BALCO scandal to serve time behind bars.

BALCO owner Victor Conte and Greg Anderson, personal trainer for Bonds, received short prison sentences and home detention for their activities with illegal steroids. Two other BALCO defendants received probation.

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

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

Bonds, a seven-time National League Most Valuable Player who according to his lawyer told a federal grand jury he never knowingly used steroids, is now under grand jury investigation for possible perjury. The legal scrutiny comes with Bonds just three home runs away from tying Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time U.S. home run list.