<
>

Shortt agrees to plead guilty in steroids case

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A doctor accused of writing illegal
steroid prescriptions to football players has agreed to plead
guilty to one federal conspiracy charge as part of a plea
agreement, according to court documents.

Alternative medicine physician James Shortt will plead guilty to
one count of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and human
growth hormone. In exchange, prosecutors will drop 42 similar
counts against the West Columbia doctor, according to papers filed
Monday in U.S. District Court in South Carolina.

Shortt, 59, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Johnny Gasser said in these
types of cases, sentencing usually occurs two or three months after
the plea agreement has been reached.

Shortt has been free on bond since he was indicted last September.

The indictment didn't specify who received the drugs Shortt
prescribed. But a person familiar with the indictment said they
were current and former members of the Carolina Panthers,
bodybuilders and at least one police officer. The source spoke to
The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the
investigation was ongoing, and did not name players.

A report last spring on CBS' "60 Minutes Wednesday" identified
Panthers center Jeff Mitchell, tackle Todd Steussie and punter Todd
Sauerbrun as having filled steroid prescriptions written by Shortt.
Other former Panthers have also been named as Shortt's patients in
subsequent media reports.

Of the players identified by CBS, only Mitchell remains with the
team. Steussie is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Sauerbrun was
traded to the Denver Broncos. None of the players linked to Shortt
were suspended or fined.

Shortt's trial was scheduled to begin March 6.

Last week, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Joe Anderson said he
would allow some parts of Shortt's interview on HBO's "CostasNow"
program to be shown to jurors in his trial. In the interview,
recorded in August, Shortt said he treated about 18 NFL players
with anabolic steroids or human growth hormones to help them heal
from injuries, not to enhance their performance.

Shortt's attorney, Allen Burnside, did not respond to a phone
message left at his office after hours.