Flexing His Muscle

The Air Force Academy discovered that prosecuting accused steroid-abusers is as tricky as attorney Rick Collins says.

But this time around he had a different story. Apparently he'd been wrong: There was no such thing as a legal steroid. "Since that testimony, I have checked, and I think I was in error," VanCleave admitted during questioning.

"We got some eyes rolling when we got that testimony," Muhr recalls.

But Muhr insisted there were legal steroids. (Participants in the trial seem to have confused anabolic steroids, which are illegal, with steroid precursors, or prosteroids, some of which may be purchased legally over the counter. One of these, DHEA, is legal. Another, androstenedione, or andro -- Mark McGwire's supplement of choice -- was legal until the passage of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004.)

The confusion paid off for Ward. On September 17, Ward, too, was found not guilty. Unfortunately, Muhr says, the pressure of the prosecution got to the cadet, and several months later, he was booted from the academy for poor grades. Ward, who currently lives in Florida with his parents, declined to comment.

The prosecutions marched on. On January 15, 2005, the Air Force finally got its first conviction. Jonathan Belkowitz, a cheerleader, was found guilty of lying to investigators and "soliciting another to purchase and use steroids" and summarily expelled from the academy. Neither Belkowitz, who is finishing his engineering degree at the Colorado School of Mines, nor his attorney, Frank Spinner, responded to numerous phone calls and letters for this article. Westword's Freedom of Information request for documents related to the case has languished with the Air Force for more than two months.

What is obvious, though, is that the prosecution wasn't totally successful. Belkowitz had been charged with four offenses but was found guilty only of the least onerous of them.

Spinner, his attorney, was outraged. Suggesting a disparity between the treatment of the young men on the football team and that of his client, he noted that Belkowitz -- a senior whose 3 1/2 years at the academy had just been flushed -- was not trying to cheat at sports, but merely trying to look a little more attractive.

"There is no balance here," Spinner told the military judge on the day of Belkowitz's dismissal. "We are sending young men and women mixed signals about steroid use.

"I don't understand," he added. "We have a society where professional athletes can use steroids.

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