Shortt agrees to plead guilty in steroids case

Updated: February 13, 2006, 8:05 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

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

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press