Trial begins for championship cyclist

March 24, 2008 12:55:36 PM PDT
The first case to go to trial in a sports steroids probe began with jury selection in a federal courtroom in San Francisco this morning.

Former championship cyclist Tammy Thomas faces five counts of false statements and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying about her steroid use in testimony before a grand jury in 2003.

Thomas won a silver medal in the World Track Cycling Championship in Belgium in 2001, but was banned from competition for life in 2002 for having used norbothelone, a then-obscure steroid. She is now a law student in Oklahoma.

Ten other sports figures, coaches and laboratory officials have been charged in the steroids investigation centered on the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, or BALCO, but Thomas is the first to go to trial.

Eight of those charged, including BALCO founder Victor Conte, Illinois chemist Patrick Arnold and track star Marion Jones, pleaded guilty to steroid distribution, money laundering or lying during the probe. Two others, home run champion Barry Bonds and track coach Trevor Graham, are awaiting trial on perjury or false statements charges.

Thomas's trial is scheduled to last about a week in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston. Opening statements are expected to begin either later today or on Tuesday after the jury is selected.

Thomas is accused of making false statements by telling a grand jury in San Francisco on Nov. 6, 2003, that she never took anabolic steroids and never received any products or performance-enhancing drugs from Arnold except a pro-hormone called 1-AD.

Prosecutors said in a trial memorandum filed earlier this month that they will present allegedly "overwhelming" proof, including testimony by Arnold, that the statements were false.