- Shaun Assael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The federal government's ongoing investigation into steroids has broadened to include a bodybuilder who designed workouts for clients of BALCO, the sports supplement laboratory that allegedly funneled a designer steroid to prominent athletes.
It also touched California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last weekend, as federal agents descended on The Arnold, the bodybuilding convention he co-owns, to serve subpoenas in connection with the expanding probe.
In December, agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided the Fullerton, Calif., home of bodybuilding champion Milos Sarcev, a former Mr. Yugoslavia, confiscating his computer among other things. Sarcev had designed workouts for many of the clients of Victor Conte, who has been indicted by a federal grand jury on steroid distribution and money laundering charges in connection with his San Francisco-based BALCO lab. Sarcev personally trained BALCO client Tim Montgomery before the sprinter set the world record in the 100 meters in September 2002.
A second federal grand jury has been convened in Des Moines, Iowa, to look into the illegal distribution of steroids, ESPN has learned. Sarcev's attorney, Rick Collins, said he was aware of the grand jury and that "it is possible" his client is a target. "Whether the grand jury is looking at a particular individual or many is anyone's guess."
Collins, who also serves as counsel to the International Federation of BodyBuilders, maintains that Sarcev "is not a steroid dealer, and never has been. Not one steroid was found there. Zero. Zip. This is a witch hunt," he said. "There are too many corporate dollars in baseball, football and the Olympics, so it's not surprising that their focus is to scapegoat a fringe sport."
In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News last October, Sarcev talked about his work with Montgomery: "Victor asked me to come to Burlingame and help Tim with his strength training. So I prepared a program for Tim. He accepted it and he improved dramatically. Tim was very grateful for my work."
Efforts to reach Montgomery's agent, Charlie Wells, were unsuccessful.
The grand jury subpoenas were served last week in the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The subpoenas require the recipients to testify later this month, Collins said. The attorney said he believes at least five bodybuilders received subpoenaes.
Al Overbaugh, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Des Moines, refused to confirm that his office had convened a grand jury investigation into the world of bodybuilding. Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the DEA, refused comment.
The Arnold, a three-day supplement convention that also includes bodybuilding shows, was first held in Columbus in 1989 and now draws 600 exhibitors, 80,000 ticket buyers and 11,000 athletes.
In a speech at the convention that was met with a standing ovation on Sunday, Schwarzenegger told attendees that he believes the Food and Drug Administration should not regulate dietary supplements because "I have very rarely seen the government do anything that was effective."
A spokesman for the governor, Lee Thomas, said, "The governor's press office will have no comment because it was not a government event." She directed questions to Jim Lorimer, Schwarzenegger's partner in Classic Productions, who did not return a phone message left at his office.
It is unclear if the agents were present at the same time as the governor. But their presence did overlap with Conte's, who was there to pitch ZMA, his mineral supplement. Montgomery and Marion Jones, both Olympic medal winners, were among those athletes who testified before the grand jury that ultimately indicted Conte.
Conte's indictment has sent shock waves through Major League Baseball, where seven players who testified before the grand jury, including Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, have had the results of drug tests that they took last spring subpoenaed. Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was among four people indicted in the BALCO case. All have pleaded not guilty.
The furor over steroid use in sports also led to the Senate Commerce Committee to call baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players union chief Donald Fehr, as well as their NFL counterparts, Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, to testify on Capitol Hill earlier this week.
Shaun Assael is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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