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Thursday, October 30, 2003
Jacobs, Toth answer questions

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two U.S. track and field champions, 1,500-meter runner Regina Jacobs and shot putter Kevin Toth, were among the first group of athletes to testify to a grand jury probing a nutritional supplements lab.

Jacobs and Toth were among four track and field athletes who appeared before the federal panel on Thursday. Both Jacobs and Toth have been customers of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, which is the target of the probe.

Dozens of other athletes, including baseball's Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi and boxer Shane Mosley, have been subpoenaed in the case.

An appearance before the grand jury, or being subpoenaed to testify, does not imply any of the athletes is a target of the probe. Federal officials have refused to discuss the scope of the grand jury or its secret proceedings.

But a source familiar with Thursday's daylong proceeding said the athletes were asked whether they had taken the newly discovered designer steroid THG or the endurance-boosting hormone EPO.

The source, who requested anonymity, said the athletes were asked whether they had obtained THG or EPO from BALCO. An attorney for Victor Conte, BALCO's founder, has said his client is the target of the grand jury probe and is innocent of any wrongdoing.

The source also said the athletes were asked whether they had knowingly purchased steroids from BALCO, or whether they thought they were buying legal nutritional supplements.

"Did you meet Conte?" the source said the athletes were asked. "Did he tell you to be quiet?"

Jacobs and Toth were among four U.S. athletes who tested positive for THG at the U.S. track and field championships in June at Stanford, according to another source close to the investigation who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Jacobs and her attorney, Douglas Schwartz, refused to comment Thursday when asked outside the grand jury room whether she had tested positive for THG at that meet. Jacobs, 40, won her 12th national outdoor title in the 1,500 at Stanford.

"Regina was here. She did nothing wrong. She left the grand jury to carry on," Schwartz said after Jacobs had completed her afternoon testimony. "I really feel sorry for these athletes, because they've really become the victims here."

Toth, who has the longest throw in the world this year and won his first national title in June, would not comment after his grand jury appearance.

BALCO was raided by the Internal Revenue Service and local drug agents in September. Conte also has been accused by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of supplying athletes with the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG.

Conte also was fingered by British sprinter Dwain Chambers, who admits he tested positive for THG during an out-of-competition test Aug. 1 in Germany. Chambers said through an attorney that he was assured by Conte the supplements he was given were within international rules.

Authorities in track and field, and other sports, have begun retesting samples for THG since the discovery of the previously undetectable steroid. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday declared THG an illegal drug.

EPO, or erythropoietin, boosts endurance by stimulating the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the body. A banned substance, EPO is considered among the most abused drugs in sports.