Tammy Thomas perjury trial set for Monday

The trial of former US track sprinter Tammy Thomas, accused of lying to a grand jury in October 2003 over allegations of steroid abuse, is scheduled to begin Monday in a San Francisco federal courtroom. According to AFP, Thomas faces five charges of perjury after testifying before a jury in the BALCO steroid case that she did not knowingly take performance enhancing drugs during her career. Thomas was charged in December 2006 and entered a plea of not guilty in January 2007.

All previous cases related to the BALCO scandal have ended in plea deals, and therefore Thomas' trial is expected to be closely monitored by lawyers representing other athletes implicated in the same investigation. US baseball star Barry Bonds faces similar charges to Thomas and has also pleaded not guilty.

Now 37 years old, Thomas was first charged with a doping offence in 2000 when she was found to have an elevated ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in her urine. That case was settled when Thomas agreed to a one-year suspension and also to not compete in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Thomas tested positive again in March 2002, when an out-of-competition control carried out by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) showed traces of the anabolic steroid norbolethone. USADA handed down a lifetime suspension, and despite an appeal by Thomas, the sanction was upheld by an arbitration panel in September 2002.

The San Francisco based Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) supplied performance enhancing drugs to its clients until 2003 when US athletics coach Trevor Graham sent a syringe containing traces of a previously unknown designer steroid to the USADA. A test was subsequently developed for the steroid, known to athletes as THG or 'the clear' due to its invisibility in doping tests.

According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 15 elite athletes have now been sanctioned by authorities in relation to the BALCO case. The most high-profile being that of US sprinter Marion Jones who was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators in the BALCO case.

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