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Thomas trial begins in San Francisco

The first trial involving the BALCO steroid distribution scandal that rocked athletics and baseball began in San Francisco Monday with former Olympic cyclist Tammy Thomas facing perjury charges.

Thomas, who was indicted while in her second year of law school in late 2006, pleaded innocent to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. She is accused of lying in October of 2003 to a federal grand jury looking into the BALCO affair by saying she did not take performance-enhancing drugs.

Chemist Patrick Arnold, the creator of THG, and federal investigator Jeff Nowitzky are among those involved with the BALCO scandal expected to testify in the trial, which opened with jury selection.

While this is the first BALCO-related trial, eight other people have already entered guilty pleas to BALCO-related charges in exchange for reduced sentences.

Disgraced former athletics star Marion Jones, stripped of the three gold and two bronze medals she won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after admitting taking steroids, began serving a six-month prison sentence earlier this month for lying to authorities about doping and her role in a check fraud scheme.

Awaiting BALCO-related court trials are home run king Barry Bonds and Jones’ former athletics coach Trevor Graham, who has admitted to supplying the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with a sample of the previously undetectable designer steroid THG.

Bonds must wait until June 6 to see rewritten charges from prosecutors who claim the former San Francisco Giants star lied when he told a BALCO grand jury that he never took performance-enhancing drugs.

The Bonds case is similar to Thomas’ trial, with both athletes facing the same charges for lying to the same grand jury. Federal District Court Judge Susan Illston is slated to hear both cases, which will be handled by the same prosecutors.

The Thomas trial could indicate subjects that could help Bonds’ defense lawyers as well as show prosecutors where potential weak spots in future cases might lurk.

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