Request narrowed; Conte attends expo

Updated: March 5, 2004, 1:48 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal grand jury withdrew subpoenas issued to the two agencies used by Major League Baseball -- Comprehensive Drug Testing of Long Beach, and Quest Diagnostics of Teterboro, N.J. -- and issued new ones Thursday.

The grand jury, which is investigating Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and allegations of steroid use among professional athletes, had sought records of last year's survey drug testing, which under baseball's labor contract were to remain anonymous. The companies had until Thursday to comply.

"My understanding from counsel is that the government withdrew the original subpoenas and issued new subpoenas, which are narrower in scope, with a return date of April 8," said Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the players' association.

Officials of the commissioner's office and the union had suggested that the subpoenas could be limited to the tests of those involved in the inquiry.

BALCO founder Victor Conte's attorney, Robert Holley, said Thursday that U.S. District Judge Susan Illston had given Conte permission to attend The Arnold Classic Fitness Expo this weekend in Columbus, Ohio.

About 70,000 people are expected to attend the expo, which includes strength competitions such as the Hummer tire lift and male and female arm-wrestling.

The annual expo, which will feature an appearance by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a top event for weightlifters and bodybuilders -- exactly the clientele Conte targets for his nutritutional supplements, such as the zinc-magnesium supplement ZMA.

When asked about Conte's whereabouts, Holley said: "He is a very powerful and good businessman and he is promoting his ZMA product back at the Arnold Schwarzenegger convention, the same as they have done the last five years."

Holley and Troy Ellerman, who represents BALCO vice president James Valente, reiterated Thursday that Barry Bonds never received steroids from the lab.

The attorneys also called for an investigation into how information was leaked to a newspaper that reported Bonds was given steroids and human growth hormone by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson -- who allegedly got them from BALCO.

The San Francisco Chronicle, quoting information it said was given to federal investigators, reported Tuesday that steroids were given to Bonds, New York Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, three other major leaguers and one NFL player.

Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield have repeatedly denied taking steroids.

"Our clients have adamantly stated they have no evidence of Bonds doing any wrongdoing," said Ellerman. "There's no evidence that Bonds did anything, other than rumor and innuendo."

Valente, Anderson, Conte and track coach Remi Korchemny have pleaded not guilty to steroid distribution charges.

Holley was asked whether Schwarzenegger, a seven-time Mr. Olympia who has admitted using steroids during his bodybuilding career, had taken any of Conte's supplements.

"I don't know, but I'm sure that we'd be happy to send him a free sample of ZMA," Holley said.

Schwarzenegger has for years strongly supported the Arnold Classic that bears his name. The governor also attended the Mr. Olympia contest in Las Vegas in October, 19 days after unseating Gov. Gray Davis in a recall election.

The competition, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday, includes martial arts, gymnastics, fencing and cheerleading as well as strength events.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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