Former cyclist Thomas gets home confinement for lying about drug use

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge on Friday sentenced a former elite cyclist to six months of home confinement for lying to a grand jury about her steroid use.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston rejected a federal prosecutor's request that Tammy Thomas be sentenced to 2½ years in prison, noting the ringleaders at the center of the BALCO doping investigation received four months in prison or less.

A jury in April convicted Thomas of three felony counts of perjury and a count of obstruction of justice.

"I am sorry and shamed at the mistakes I made," Thomas told the judge. "I feel that I already have been punished substantially for my conduct."

Thomas was the first person connected to the BALCO case to go to trial. She is appealing her conviction.

Barry Bonds has pleaded not guilty to similar charges -- 14 counts of making false declarations to a grand jury and one count of obstruction of justice. He's accused of lying when he said he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs during his 2003 grand jury testimony. His trial is scheduled to start March 2.

Prosecutors declined to comment outside court.
Mike Rains, a lawyer for Bonds, said in an interview with The New York Times that Illston's decision was "an indication that the government isn't always going to get what the government wants from this judge, nor should it."

The sentence "gives me reason to be happy that we got a judge that I think is fair and decent for Barry's case," Rains said, according to the Times.

The jury found Thomas guilty of falsely telling the grand jury she had never taken steroids and had never received any performance-enhancing drugs from Patrick Arnold. He pleaded guilty in 2006 to making two undetectable steroids and served three months in prison.

Thomas made her denials even though she was banned from cycling for life in August 2002 after the performance-enhancing drug Norbolethone was detected in her urine.

The drug, once an obscure steroid used in human tests in the 1960s, was rediscovered by Arnold, who supplied the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

Thomas is the tenth BALCO figure to be convicted. A jury found track coach Trevor Graham guilty of lying to a federal investigator during the government's sports doping probe. He's scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 21.

Eight others, including sprinter Marion Jones and BALCO founder Victor Conte, have pleaded guilty to various charges of perjury, drug and money laundering charges. Jones was released from prison after serving six months, and Conte served four months. And Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson was sentenced to three months for helping to distribute steroids obtained from BALCO.

On Friday, assistant U.S. attorney Matt Parrella argued unsuccessfully for a harsher sentence for Thomas because, he said, lying to a grand jury "strikes at the integrity of the system."

Given the prison sentences of the "other miscreants" in the BALCO case, the judge said it would be unfair to send Thomas to prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.