Source: By Elliott Almond and Mark Emmons: Mercury News
A prominent Southern California bodybuilder said Friday that he and other top competitors in the sport have been questioned by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in connection with a second grand jury investigation into a mushrooming drug scandal.
Shawn Ray also confirmed that federal agents subpoenaed at least five bodybuilders last weekend at the Arnold Fitness Weekend, an annual three-day athletic convention in Columbus, Ohio, that is co-owned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ray said those bodybuilders included Craig Titus, Nasser El Sonbaty and Flex Wheeler, who is a San Jose resident.
Titus said he was subpoenaed, but then he declined to comment Friday. El Sonbaty and Wheeler could not be reached.
``If they're cracking down on the NFL and baseball, bodybuilding is no different,'' said Ray, the International Federation of BodyBuilders' athletes representative.
Ray said DEA agents came to his Placentia home in February.
``It was an information-seeking mission that was working on behalf of what the president was talking about in the State of the Union,'' Ray said, referring to President Bush's call for sports to tackle steroid use. ``They were just following up on leads, all of which I think they had the answers to.''
The issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sport has exploded into the national conscience in recent months with the investigation of Burlingame's Balco Laboratories. About 30 athletes and coaches testified in a subsequent grand jury probe into Balco that resulted in indictments against four men, including its founder, Victor Conte Jr., and Barry Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson.
Conte has connections to bodybuilding, including Milos Sarcev, a former Mr. Yugoslavia who at Conte's request helped design a workout program for Tim Montgomery when the sprinter set the 100-meter world record. On Nov. 29, DEA agents raided Sarcev's home in Temecula.
ESPN reported Thursday that a second grand jury has been convened in Des Moines, Iowa, to explore the illegal distribution of steroids. Rick Collins, Sarcev's attorney, told ESPN that his client might be a target in the Iowa grand jury.
Collins and Sarcev did not respond to phone messages Friday. In an earlier interview, Collins predicted that bodybuilders would feel the brunt of the focus on banned substances -- not athletes in major league baseball, the NFL or Olympic sports.
``I suspect there might be some isolated examples to hold up to the public,'' said Collins, the author of ``Legal Muscle: Anabolics in America.'' ``But it will only scratch the true extent of use among elite athletes. I think this will fall hardest on the bodybuilders.''
Ray said DEA agents asked him about bodybuilding giant Joe Weider, IFBB executive Wayne DeMilla and Conte, and that they wanted to know if there was pressure to take steroids. He added that agents told him he ``was at the tail end of a long list of bodybuilders'' they had questioned. Ray said he told them that bodybuilders never ``sit down and discuss drugs and talk about trafficking. We don't get into our personal routine about how we prepare for bodybuilding competitions.''
Since testing positive for steroids at the 1990 Arnold event, Ray said he has competed drug-free.
The Arnold Fitness Weekend drew a record 100,000 spectators, along with two men who may have had good reason to avoid each other.
One was Conte. The other was Ron Kramer, identified by Reuters news service Thursday as an informant who tipped narcotics investigators about Conte's alleged steroid dealing. The two did not come in contact.
Kramer, 40, of Arizona, is a body-building promoter who also markets a supplement. From the early 1990s through 2001, he lived in Santa Cruz and on the Peninsula and was arrested several times, including a steroids-related charge in 1997. It has been rumored for weeks that he was an informant in the Balco case, but he has declined to comment.
Although unavailable for comment Friday, Wheeler spoke to the Mercury News in December about his own performance-enhancing-drug use in hopes of discouraging others who might try to follow in his footsteps.