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Bonds will testify in supplement case

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds will testify in December before a federal grand jury that has subpoenaed several dozen athletes as part of its probe into a laboratory that supplies some of the nation’s top sports stars with nutritional supplements.

Bonds’ attorney, Mike Rains, said Tuesday the San Francisco Giants slugger received a subpoena about a month ago asking him to appear Dec. 4. Rains said he was told by a prosecutor that “Barry is a witness and not a target of the grand jury.”

Other athletes subpoenaed by the panel include New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi, sprint champion Kelli White and U.S. shot put champion Kevin Toth.

The company at the center of the investigation is the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, which was raided by the Internal Revenue Service and local drug agents in September. An attorney for BALCO founder Victor Conte confirmed Monday his client is the target of the grand jury probe.

Conte’s attorneys reiterated Tuesday that the lab founder is innocent, and noted that a grand jury probe is “a one-sided process” that includes only evidence presented by prosecutors.

The statement from attorneys Robert Holley and Troy Ellerman calls Conte “a scientist and businessman who has dedicated his life to helping others including high-profile athletes.” It vows that BALCO’s subsidiary, SNAC Systems, will continue to make and sell nutritional supplements such as the zinc-magnesium product ZMA.

Conte has estimated gross retail sales of ZMA during the past four years were about $100 million worldwide.

The scope of the investigation is unclear, and federal officials have refused to comment.

Meanwhile, Conte has been accused by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of supplying athletes with a new designer steroid that is rocking the world of track and field.

Bonds has been a BALCO client since 2000, and in the June issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine credited Conte for a personalized program that includes nutritional supplements.

The home of Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was raided last month in conjunction with the raid on Conte’s lab.

“When Barry gets a grand jury subpoena and his trainer’s door gets kicked in by drug enforcement agents, that’s when I get involved,” Rains told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“All of that has certain ominous appearances to anybody.”

Conte has said in e-mails that he was told by athletes that 40 Olympic and professional athletes have been subpoenaed. Being subpoenaed does not imply any of the athletes has done anything wrong.

IRS spokesman Mark Lessler wouldn’t comment, referring reporters to his agency’s Web site for a description of the responsibilities of the IRS criminal investigation unit.

“CI’s top priority is the investigation of violations of the tax law,” the site says.

“However, CI special agents lend their financial investigative expertise to money laundering and narcotics investigations conducted in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies.”

Conte also was named by an anonymous track coach as the source of a substance that turned out to be a previously undetectable steroid, tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG. Conte has denied he was the source.

The USADA said last week it retested hundreds of samples from track and field athletes after identifying THG, and that several tested positive during the U.S. track championships in June.

They now face two-year suspensions.

On Tuesday, track and field’s world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, said it will retest all urine samples — about 400 — from the World Championships.

Any positive findings would lead to retroactive disqualifications, including stripping of any medals, and two-year bans.

Also Tuesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency said the method of detection for THG has been sent to its accredited laboratories throughout the world.

The test was developed by the anti-doping lab at UCLA, where the designer steroid was identified from a used syringe sent anonymously to the USADA.

“This sends a strong message that there will be no delay in catching those who cheat or who believe they can stay one step ahead of the system,” said WADA Director General David Howman, who called on all drug-testing bodies to retest stored samples for THG.

On Monday, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league might retest its samples for the presence of THG. Steroid use is banned by the NFL.

Major league baseball has said it will be unable to retest samples taken this year for THG, but plans to discuss with players whether to add it to the list of banned substances.

A doctor associated with BALCO was the one who supplied White with the stimulant modafinil, which White says she took for the sleep disorder narcolepsy.

White tested positive for modafinil this summer at the World Championships, putting her gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters at risk.