Olympic, NFL Stars Testify in Drug Probe
Friday, November 14th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Olympic star Marion Jones and five NFL players appeared before a grand jury probing a nutritional supplements lab, and the one making perhaps the biggest impact was Oakland Raiders running back Tyrone Wheatley.
Wheatley hit a photographer outside a federal courthouse Thursday, hours prior to testifying before the grand jury.
Wheatley was one of four Raiders, including former NFL defensive player of the year Dana Stubblefield, to appear Thursday before the panel. Also there was Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Johnnie Morton.
Jones, who won an unprecedented five track medals in the 2000 Sydney Games, appeared in the afternoon, after the football players had finished.
``I can't make any comment, you guys. I would if I could, but I can't,'' Jones said as she left the grand jury room.
Wheatley threatened and cursed at a group of photographers and TV cameramen outside the building, then raised his right fist and slapped photographer Noah Berger hard on the right wrist after Berger took a photo of him Thursday morning.
Berger, a freelance photographer on assignment for The Associated Press, said he was not hurt. He filed a report with the Federal Protective Service, but it was not clear whether Wheatley would be charged.
Wheatley, who appeared before the grand jury in the afternoon, declined to comment when asked repeatedly about hitting Berger.
The five players _ also including Raiders fullback Chris Hetherington and defensive tackle Chris Cooper _ were the first non-track and field athletes to testify in the case.
Stubblefield, the NFL defensive player of the year in 1997 while with the San Francisco 49ers, declined to comment after his morning appearance. His attorney, Michael Armstrong, also refused to comment.
Morton, who had four seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving for the Detroit Lions before joining the Chiefs two years ago, also refused to comment after his morning appearance.
Track and field stars including Tim Montgomery, the world record-holder at 100 meters and Jones' boyfriend, have appeared before the panel in previous weeks. Dozens of other athletes, including baseball's Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi and boxer Shane Mosley, also have been subpoenaed.
It's not clear what, if any, drug charges might result from the investigation. An appearance before the grand jury, or being subpoenaed to testify, does not mean an athlete is a target of the probe.
Federal officials have refused to discuss the grand jury or the scope of its secret proceedings, but two sources familiar with the grand jury have said the probe is focusing on drug use by athletes as well as possible tax evasion by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
An attorney for BALCO founder Victor Conte has said his client is a target of the grand jury investigation.
BALCO also is at the center of an investigation by anti-doping agencies into the newly discovered steroid THG. An unidentified coach who turned in a used syringe containing THG said he got the substance from Conte, who has denied being the course of the substance.
At least five track and field athletes already have tested positive for THG, and face two-year bans.
Also Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that more than 5 percent of this year's steroid tests came back positive, triggering automatic testing starting next season.