Prosecutors in Thomas trial claim side effects showed cyclist used steroids
SAN FRANCISCO -- The first trial connected to the Northern California performance-enhancing drug ring that has ensnared slugger Barry Bonds ended Wednesday with prosecutors airing a list of medical oddities they say showed former cyclist Tammy Thomas lied when she denied taking steroids.
The slender, former member of the U.S. Olympic cycling team sat quietly and primly in court at the defense table with her lawyer while assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Nedrow told the federal jury that Thomas' medical records showed that she once grew a beard, suffered from male pattern baldness and underwent a dramatic voice change.
Nedrow said those side effects overwhelmingly showed Thomas used steroids and that her denials before a grand jury investigating sports doping on Nov. 6, 2003, to the contrary were not only false, but hindered the probe.
"This is a simple case," Nedrow said. "Even as children we get it pretty quick."
Thomas pleaded not guilty to making false statements and obstructing justice for allegedly lying under oath when she told the grand jury that she never knowingly used steroids. She also is charged with lying when she testified that she never received performance enhancing drugs from the rogue chemist Patrick Arnold, who was charged and pleaded guilty in 2006 to making and distributing steroids designed to evade detection.
Prosecutors charge that Thomas' alleged lies prevented them from indicting Arnold three years earlier when the operators of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative drug ring and Bonds' personal trainer were charged with steroids distribution.
Assistant U.S. attorney Matt Parrella said Thomas' denial that she knew Arnold and testimony that she never bought any drugs from him forced them to interview other witnesses.
"Because she lied about what she got and her relationship with Patrick Arnold, the brakes had to be put on the Arnold investigation," Parrella said.
Thomas' seven-day trial was seen as a preview of the government's case against Bonds, who has also pleaded not guilty to similar accusations that he lied when he denied using performance enhancing drugs during his successful pursuit of Hank Aaron's homer record.
Like Thomas, Bonds' dramatic body growth also is expected to be one of the key pieces of evidence that prosecutors will use if the free agent goes to trial.
During closing arguments Wednesday in the Thomas trial, her lawyer, Ethan Balogh, told the jury that the government's recital of her the unflattering and obvious steroid side effects was unfair.
"They shamed her and played dirty," Balogh said.
Balogh argued that the two designer drugs Thomas is accused of taking weren't listed by the federal government as steroids until after her grand jury testimony. Further, Balogh said that Thomas tried to acknowledge taking banned steroids when she was competing in the late 1990s, but was cut off during her grand jury testimony by prosecutors more interested in knowing about her use of the two designer drugs.
Balogh also said Thomas answered truthfully when she said that she never received drugs from Arnold. Balogh said that it was Arnold's girlfriend, rather than the chemist himself, who shipped the designer drugs to Thomas.
Balogh conceded that Thomas -- who was banned from her sport for life in 2002 for testing positive for a banned drug -- "bent the rules" to succeed in her sport.
Balogh also said that Thomas sought to "minimize" her drug use during her grand jury appearance, but that her testimony didn't effect the government's investigation of the chemist Arnold, who was released from prison last year and testified against Thomas last week.
"She didn't obstruct anything," Balogh said. "She's not on trial for anything she did in sports."
Balogh urged the jury to acquit Thomas, arguing that she has already paid a steep price for taking steroids, including getting kicked off the Olympic team and being banished forever from cycling.
"She traded her life for glory and got shame," Balogh said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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