PtG Article 19.01.2007

Little support for Balco reporters from anti-doping agencies

Two American sports journalists who face jail for refusing to name the source of leaked grand jury testimonies about top athletes’ use of steroids in the Balco case, get support from many corners of American society but should not expect much from official anti-doping bodies such as WADA and United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

24 American states, 36 news organisations and a group of legal scholars have filed so-called court briefs to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an attempt to convince the judges to overturn the decision to send Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada to prison unless they talk. But the anti-doping agencies are not planning on any public displays of support for the case of Williams and Fainaru-Wada whose investigative journalism in the Balco case helped sensitize the American population to the widespread doping abuse in elite sport..

”USADA has not provided input and is not otherwise involved in the matter since it is an on-going criminal investigation being handled by U.S. law enforcement,” was the curt reply from Carla O'Connell, Publications & Communications Director at USADA when Play the Game asked if USADA planned any form of legal or moral support for the two reporters.

Elisabeth Hunter, Director of Communictions at WADA, does not have any plans for actively supporting the reporters either. But she offers general support to the idea of investigative journalism in the area of doping.

”WADA encourages hard-hitting investigative reporting in sports to help expose not just the cheaters, but those who facilitate and profit from doping. Doping undermines the integrity of sport and the health of its athletes. Left unchecked, doping becomes a severe threat to public health because of the inordinate influence sports stars have on youth.  Strong investigative journalism in sport is not only needed, it is necessary,” she says to Play the Game.

Fainaru-Wada and Williams currently remain free while the appeals court considers the case. A hearing in their case is scheduled for 12 February 2007.

Meanwhile, the FBI has confirmed a report on  that it is investigating defense attorney Troy Ellerman, for being the source of the leak. Ellerman, represented BALCO founder Victor Conte Jr. and vice president James Valente at times during the  trial that linked world-class athletes to performance-enhancing drug use.

"We do have an investigation on those allegations that [Ellerman] was responsible for the leak," FBI spokesman Joe Schadler told the Associated Press