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Izzo's testimony ties him to drugs

Patriot was supplied by Bonds's trainer

By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / February 17, 2009
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After years of downplaying his role in the steroids scandal, Patriots special teams captain Larry Izzo is prepared to testify at Barry Bonds's criminal trial that Bonds's personal trainer, Greg Anderson, gave Izzo performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 with instructions and a schedule for using them, according to federal prosecutors.

Izzo will testify that he contacted Anderson by phone, then met with the trainer and submitted a number of urine samples in the process of obtaining the performance-enhancing substances, prosecutors stated in a document outlining their witness list for Bonds's trial.

Izzo, 34, a 13-year NFL veteran and three-time Pro Bowler, previously has acknowledged testifying before a federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), a California firm at the center of the steroid scandal in sports. But he has not publicly admitted obtaining performance-enhancing drugs.

Izzo and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return messages left on their cell phones, and the Patriots declined to comment on the development.

The government's witness list, filed last week in US District Court in San Francisco, did not specify the types of performance enhancers Izzo received from Anderson or whether Izzo used them. Anderson, who was convicted in 2005 of conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering for his role in the BALCO scandal, was considered by numerous athletes to be an expert in helping them pass doping tests.

Izzo is the only NFL player on the government's witness list. Like many athletes who have admitted obtaining performance-enhancing drugs, he has not been charged with a crime. The only sports figures who have been prosecuted during the steroids scandal are those who have been accused of lying under oath or otherwise trying to cover up their involvement.

The government's disclosure about Izzo comes less than 18 months after the NFL suspended Patriots safety Rodney Harrison four games for purchasing a banned substance, human growth hormone, through an Internet site with a bogus prescription he obtained from a doctor who never examined him.

An NFL spokesman said the league had no comment on the news about Izzo.

Court documents indicate Izzo acknowledged to prosecutors that he reached out to Anderson between the last game the Patriots played in 2002 - a 27-24 overtime victory against the Dolphins Dec. 29 in Foxborough - and his appearance in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu Feb. 2, 2003.

"Mr. Izzo will testify that he was a professional football player and that he first contacted Greg Anderson by phone in approximately January 2003," the prosecution's court filing states. "Mr. Izzo will also testify that he first met Anderson in person in approximately May 2003 at BALCO and submitted a urine sample at BALCO at Anderson's request. Mr. Izzo will also testify that [he] submitted additional urine samples to Anderson at later times as well.

"Mr. Izzo will also testify about receiving performance-enhancing substances from Anderson, about instructions from Anderson about how to administer the substances, about the schedule Anderson gave to him for administering the substances, and about what Mr. Anderson told him about the efficacy of those substances."

Izzo's next season with the Patriots, in 2003, was his most productive to that point, as he played in all 19 games and led the team in special team tackles with 31 in the regular season and five in the postseason, en route to victory in the Super Bowl.

A number of athletes told the grand jury investigating BALCO that Anderson gave them performance enhancers known as "the cream" and "the clear" that were considered undetectable in doping tests. They also testified that they provided urine samples to Anderson before he gave them the performance enhancers. Those athletes included baseball players Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, who testified before the grand jury Dec. 11, 2003, the same day as Izzo. (He sandwiched his appearance between Patriots games against the Dolphins Dec. 7 and the Jaguars Dec. 14, both in Foxborough.)

"I'm not concerned at all about it," Izzo told reporters in January 2004 about his grand jury appearance. "I went out and had a legitimate relationship with a supplement company and unfortunately had to testify. But it's all done and there were no repercussions."

Izzo was among 10 NFL players subpoenaed in 2003 to appear before the grand jury. After one of those players, Dana Stubblefield, pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to investigators in the case, the Globe asked Izzo again about his involvement with BALCO and his grand jury testimony.

"It was a long time ago and it's in the past," he said. "I testified and said what I needed to say, so there's no reason to worry about it. I know what my situation is. I really don't want to get into the details of that; it's grand jury testimony and it's sealed. I went out there and told the truth. That's all I need to say about it."

Izzo will become an unrestricted free agent Feb. 27, and the Patriots have appeared open to him returning for his ninth season with the team (he spent his first four pro seasons with the Dolphins). He has established himself as one of the team's most popular rank-and-file players, especially with his charity work for members of the armed forces. As part of the effort, he has raised more than $600,000 through his annual "Larry-oke" benefits and has traveled the world to visit US troops.

Prosecutors in San Francisco also notified the court last week that they are prepared to present 10 pages of documents related to Izzo's involvement with Anderson and BALCO. They also filed a list of exhibits that include syringes, human growth hormone kits, and vials of "the cream" and "the clear," though they did not specify who allegedly used the items.

In addition to Izzo, the government's list of 39 potential witnesses includes seven current or former Major League Baseball players. Four of them, including Benito Santiago and Bobby Estalella, played with Bonds for the Giants. The others include Giambi and his brother, Jeremy, who testified that he began receiving performance-enhancing substances from Anderson in November 2002. The Red Sox acquired him from the Phillies a month later.

The defense submitted a much shorter list of potential witnesses, including two medical experts and two former trainers for Bonds. Both sides reserved the right to opt out of calling any witness. The trial is scheduled to start March 2.

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.

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