Mark Block suspended for 10 years
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- An anti-doping arbitration panel has suspended agent and coach Mark Block for 10 years after finding he trafficked in drugs supplied by BALCO and gave them to his wife, sprinter Zhanna Block.
In hearings last December, the arbitration panel heard testimony from Jeff Novitzky, a key investigator into the doping scandal at the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative that landed a number of athletes in trouble, including Barry Bonds, who goes on trial next week for perjury.
The arbitrators' ruling, announced Friday by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said Block tried to mislead them about his involvement with BALCO and its founder, Victor Conte. It cited evidence that Block traded and trafficked in designer drugs the "clear" and the "cream" and other banned substances from BALCO for his wife's use.
USADA said Block is the 24th person with links to BALCO to be sanctioned in a case brought by the agency. Block is the third non-athlete on that list.
"The decision confirms our commitment to rid sport of those in the system, such as agents, event managers and coaches, who will influence athletes to cheat with dangerous drugs in order to win," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. "This is an important step in that ongoing commitment."
Block's attorney, Cameron Myler, said she did not believe the evidence supported the panel's conclusion "and their interpretation of trafficking is legally erroneous."
"In light of all the facts and circumstances, we feel the sanction is excessive," she said.
The case offered some of the same testimony that might be seen in the Bonds trial -- including evidence of doping calendars and blood and urine tests used by athletes to test themselves. The arbitrators also found that Block shared information with Conte about the effectiveness of some of the drugs.
The case offers another glimpse into the BALCO drug conspiracy -- the cornerstone of a doping scandal that covers dozens of athletes and multiple sports.
Among those testifying in this case was sprinter Michelle Collins, who served more than three years of a doping ban for a BALCO-related suspension. Her original eight-year penalty was reduced to less than four years because she cooperated with USADA.
The international track association (IAAF) applauded the decision.
"A 10-year ban sends out a strong message to all athlete support personnel acting in a position of responsibility and is in line with our commitment to seek the strongest possible sanctions for doping where aggravating circumstances exist," the IAAF said in a statement.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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