Players face possible courts-martial

Updated: July 7, 2004, 1:16 AM ET
Associated Press

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Two suspended Air Force football players are facing steroid charges and a possible courts-martial.

The school announced the charges against running back Matthew Ward and linebacker Overton Spence Jr., along with two other cadets, on Tuesday.

The charges are the result of a campus-wide probe into drug use first announced in May. Another cadet remains under investigation.

Ward and Spence were suspended from the football team during the investigation, academy spokeswoman Capt. Kim Melchor said.

"We will be disappointed if it turns out the young men on our team were involved in this type of activity," coach Fisher DeBerry said.

Spence, who faces up to 25 years in prison if found guilty, was charged June 28 with using methandrostenolone as well as distributing and possessing 67 pills of the steroid. Ward, who faces a maximum 10-year sentence, was charged June 1 with using the same kind of steroid and possessing 30 pills.

Spence and Ward both waived their right to a hearing and the school's superintendent will decide whether either should face a court-martial.

The two other cadets charged were Eric M. Swartz and Jonathan S. Belkowitz.

Swartz was charged June 21 with wrongful use, importation, introduction and distribution of a controlled substance. Those charges carry a maximum 65 year sentence.

Jonathan S. Belkowitz was charged with making a false official statement, wrongful use, importation, introduction and distribution of a controlled substance. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of 55 years.

Both could also face courts-martial.

Melchor said a decision on whether Spence and Ward will be allowed to return to the team will be made after their cases are complete.

Ward was the team's fourth-leading rusher last season with 384 yards and four touchdowns. Spence played in 11 games as a reserve linebacker. Both are juniors.

"If the players are found in violation, this would be a tremendous loss to the 2004 Fighting Falcons since each has considerable playing experience," DeBerry said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press