Injured ex-Raider raises issue of ' 'roid rage'

Updated: January 27, 2005, 11:39 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bill Romanowski might be forced to address his suspected steroid use in court proceedings in the coming months.

Feds raid Conte's home
FBI agents raided BALCO founder Victor Conte's home Wednesday as part of a federal probe into how the San Francisco Chronicle obtained federal grand jury testimony for stories that blew the lid on the sports-doping scandal.

The Chronicle, citing "informed sources," reported the story in its Thursday editions. The sources, the paper said, asked not to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Agents numbering more than a dozen arrived before 8 a.m. at Conte's home and seized his computer and other undetermined items, the Chronicle's sources said.

The raid was prompted by the newspaper's stories in December that reported on 2003 grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi in the BALCO case, the sources told the Chronicle.

Giambi admitted that he took steroids and human growth hormone, according to transcripts of testimony obtained by the paper. Also under testimony, Bonds acknowledged using BALCO substances that he said he was told were flax seed oil and arthritis balm.

Grand jury testimony is taken in secret. After the stories were published, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston called for the Justice Department to investigate how the Chronicle had learned what the athletes said. By raiding Conte's home, the FBI was attempting to find evidence that would identify the paper's sources, the sources said.

The probe was being directed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, according to the sources, apparently because local law-enforcement officials also may be questioned about the news stories.

Phil Bronstein, editor of the Chronicle, re-emphasized Wednesday that the paper would not divulge its sources.

Conte didn't respond to the Chronicle's request for comment.

The linebacker, who played 16 years in the league, faces questions about steroid use in connection with a $3.8 million lawsuit brought against him for attacking a former Oakland Raiders teammate and leaving him with an apparent career-ending injury, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in Thursday's editions.

Marcus Williams, a former Raiders tight end, claims he suffered a brain-related injury after being hit by Romanowski when the two were in training camp together in August 2003.

Romanowski confronted Williams, ripped off Williams' helmet and punched him in the face, breaking his left orbital bone, damaging his nose and chipping a tooth. Williams, a second-year pro who played mostly on special teams in 2002, was placed on injured reserve 48 hours after the fight, was waived by the team that October and hasn't played since. At the time he was waived, Williams was cleared to play by two doctors, but his agent said Williams was still experiencing problems with his eye.

In the days after the fight Romanowski was remorseful and apologetic, saying he held himself accountable and that injuring Williams "was a classless move by me."

Williams' legal team is now efforting to link " 'roid rage" to the altercation, and has pushed Romanowski, the Raiders and the NFL for information about Romanowski's possible use of the performance-enhancing drugs, according to the Chronicle's report.

Romanowski was one of dozens of athletes to appear before a grand jury investigating BALCO, the nutritional supplements lab accused of providing steroids to top sports stars. He was known to keep a fishing-tackle box full of pills in the locker room.

Bill Romanowski
Romanowski

Marcus Williams
Williams

According to court records obtained by the Chronicle, BALCO founder Victor Conte told investigators Romanowski had received designer steroids known as "the clear" and "the cream." And BALCO vice president James Valente said Romanowski had received a supply of the drugs shortly before his attack on Williams.

Valente allegedly told investigators that "BALCO has been providing Bill Romanowski with steroids and human-growth hormone since his playing days in Denver. The reason that Romanowski has never tested positive is because he's taking things that aren't tested for." Romanowski played for the Broncos between 1996 and 2001.

Romanowski's attorneys have fought attempts by Williams' lawyers to gather information related to steroids, and Romanowski has refused to answer questions regarding steroid use, going so far in a pretrial deposition as to invoke the Fifth Amendment to protect against self-incrimination, the Chronicle reported.

However, a judge in the lawsuit recently ruled that Romanowski must answer questions about steroid use in the month preceding the fight with Williams. The judge also declined to block Williams' attorneys from subpoenaing the Raiders and the NFL for documents showing Romanowski was taking drugs at that time.

Williams' attorneys convinced the judge to rule in their favor by presenting work from Dr. Don Catlin -- the UCLA expert who discovered THG -- that stated side effects of the steroids include "aggressive behavior; hyper irritability; mood swings; violent, even homicidal, feelings; confusion; hostility; acute mania; and anxiety."

Romanowski has been known for fanatical behavior during his 16-year NFL career. He has been called a racist for, among other things, spitting in the face of 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes during a game in 1997. He has been deemed a headhunter for a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on quarterback Kerry Collins.

He has had off-field troubles as well. Romanowski was acquitted in July 2001 on charges of illegally obtaining a prescription diet drug in 1998, and related charges against his wife, Julie, also were dropped.

According to the Chronicle, Williams has also sought information about some of those episodes that underscored his reputation as a "bad-boy" in the league.

The Chronicle reported that, in a deposition, former Raiders coach Bill Callahan testified it wasn't unusual to see training camp fights and that Romanowski didn't "appear to be in any kind of rage" when he was asked to leave the field after the altercation.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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