Cyclist Tammy Thomas Awaits Jury Verdict

The jury in cyclist Tammy Thomas’ doping perjury trial did not reach a verdict after the first day of deliberations (“Thomas jury deliberations to continue,” April 3).

Thomas, whose case is the first to go to trial in the five-and-a-half-year Balco investigation, was charged with making false statements to a grand jury in 2003 about substances she is suspected of receiving from Arnold. For the jury to convict Thomas, it must conclude that her statements were false and that they were material to the government’s investigation.

I am certain that Tammy Thomas is anxiously awaiting the verdict. Not only is her freedom in jeopardy but also a future career as an attorney. She has been silent about the case and has not spoken to the media; however, she has been very outspoken in her fashion statements outside the courtroom where she was photographed wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball cap, no doubt in support of other athletes who have been targeted for perjury by this federal investigation.

The Steroid Report feels that Thomas’ defense attorney Ethan Balogh has successfully created reasonable doubt with his arguments.

The government’s case against cyclist Tammy Thomas for perjury is surprisingly weak. The government’s case is largely based on the assertion that Tammy Thomas ingested “anabolic steroids” and/or “controlled substances” and/or “banned substances” obtained from chemist Patrick Arnold and she lied about it.

The inconvenient fact is that tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) and norbolethone were NOT legally classified as “anabolic steroids” until the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 was passed; Norbolethone and THG were two of the 26 compounds added to the Controlled Substances Act with this legislation. Consequently, THG and norbolethone were NOT controlled substances until the passage of the legislation. Furthermore, THG and norbolethone were not on the WADA/IOC banned substances list at the time.

Of course, not everyone agrees. Steroid Nation feels Balogh’s statements in court in defense of Tammy Thomas were simply “ludicrous.”

It irritates this writer that a lawyer would argue that point in court without his tongue turning black and his eyes bleeding out.  As ludicrous as a woman shaving every morning, not thinking she is taking an anabolic androgenic steroid.

However, juries do not hinge deliberations on the issue of ludicrous statements.

The statements upset Dr. Gaffney because they are medically (pharmacologically) inaccurate; this is true. As I commented, his statements about THG and norbolethone may be scientifically correct, but not necessarily legally correct.

But this is a legal case and the arguments are legal arguments. THG and Norbolethone were NOT LEGALLY classified as anabolic steroids. Read the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 – THG and norbolethone are not included. Then read the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 and notice that this amendment LEGALLY CHANGED the status of THG and Norbolethone to “Anabolic Steroids.”

 Admittedly, a steroid is a steroid is a steroid. No amount of semantic bickering or legal lobbying will change that. But for better or worse, criminal justice is deliberated by rule of law (not pharmaceutical rules) and juries are instructed to base their verdicts on the law no matter how ludicrous the arbitrary legal definitions may appear to them.

As I further commented, legal definitions don’t change pharmacological definitions. But they matter in the criminal justice system.

The arbirariness of legal definitions regarding steroids is really quite silly. Over the past decade, we have learned that a pharmacologically defined (anabolic-androgenic) steroid can be legally defined as (1) a “dietary supplement”, (2) an “anabolic steroid”, and (3) an “unapproved new drug.”

The legal status obviously does nothing to change the pharmacological definition. But the legal defintion (no matter how arbitrary) has very important implications in our criminal justice system.

It will be very interesting to see if the jury accepts defense attorney Ethan Balogh’s argument, in whole or in part.

Banned cyclist Tammy Thomas, shown outside court in San Francisco, is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. Associated Press photo by Noah Berger

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