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Reporters who uncovered alleged steroid abuse subpoenaed

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   CALIFORNIA   ·   Confidentiality/Privilege   ·   May 10, 2006

Reporters who uncovered alleged steroid abuse subpoenaed

  • The U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed two reporters in an attempt to discover who leaked grand jury testimony in the investigation of a company which allegedly supplied steroids to several prominent athletes.

May 10, 2006  ·   Two San Francisco Chronicle reporters were subpoenaed last week by a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles who is trying to force the reporters to reveal to a grand jury who gave them transcripts of grand jury testimony involving an investigation of a steroid manufacturer.

Reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada wrote three articles in 2004 about the federal grand jury investigation of Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), which allegedly supplied steroids to athletes including baseball players Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. The reporters used information in the stories which could only have come from grand jury testimony. The reporter’s recently published book, “Game of Shadows,” delves into BALCO, steroids and the athletes who allegedly use the drugs.

U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang filed the subpoenas on Friday in an attempt to discover who leaked the testimony to the reporters.

The newspaper will “fight the subpoenas vigorously,” attorney Eve Burton, who represents the Chronicle, said in a statement.

Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein said in a statement that Williams and Fainaru-Wada “broke no laws, nor is the government accusing them of having done so. Reporters are not subject to the rules governing grand jury secrecy, which apply only to some of the people in the room during those proceedings.”

The stories rocked Major League Baseball as Bonds had recently set numerous home run records — all of which now are under a cloud of suspicion that he used steroids to achieve those records.

“We believe that our ability to report on this issue is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution,” Bronstein said. “In the case of the steroid story, the public was well served by that reporting, which sparked a national discussion and debate about steroid use in sports and ultimately led to enactment of stricter steroid policies by Major League Baseball. The stories also prompted Congressional action and praise from President Bush.”

(Media Counsel: Eve Burton, Hearst Corp., New York, N.Y.)CM

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