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THE BEN JOHNSON STEROID INQUIRY : San Gabriel Doctor Says He Will Testify

Times Staff Writer

Robert B. Kerr, the San Gabriel sports doctor who openly prescribed steroids for athletes before California outlawed the practice, said Wednesday that he will testify at the Canadian inquiry into Olympic athletes’ use of body-building drugs.

Kerr, 53, said he had talked several times in recent months with investigators conducting the probe and will appear as an “expert witness” in mid-April.

Kerr declined to disclose the specifics of his testimony, but said: “I think it might show that maybe Ben Johnson isn’t quite as guilty as people are implying at this point.”

Johnson, the Canadian Olympic gold medal winner in the 100-meter race, was stripped of his medal and world-record time after tests showed banned steroids in his system.

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Kerr indicated that his testimony would include information provided to him by an unspecified third party and that information already had been relayed to Canadian investigators.

He said he never has met either Johnson or his coach, Charlie Francis.

Kerr said he had discussed his office notes with investigators, after a patient had given permission to do so. He said he could not reveal the identity of the patient or discuss any treatment he might have provided to individuals.

In his testimony at the hearing Wednesday, Francis said that Canadian athlete Angella Taylor Issajenko had received treatment from a Los Angeles doctor who prescribed body-building drugs. Francis also said that the Los Angeles physician, whom he did not name, later gave advice to Jaimie Astaphan, the physician for all athletes on Francis’ Toronto-based track club and Ben Johnson’s personal doctor as well.

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Asked if he had treated Issajenko, Kerr replied: “I can’t talk about that. It’s privileged.”

Kerr added during an interview in his San Gabriel home: “I really don’t even remember seeing her. I don’t remember the situation at all.”

Even if he had treated Issajenko, Kerr said it would not have been specifically to prescribe body-building drugs.

“If I saw her, that was not the reason I saw her,” he said.

In any case, he said, the woman’s medical treatment was not the primary reason for his pending testimony in Canada.

“The things I have to talk about are more interesting than that,” Kerr said. “I think I have some information that may be of use to (investigators) from another party.”

He added that his testimony “might shed a lot of light on what happened. Indirectly, I think I can shed some light on this.”

Until California made it illegal two years ago for doctors to prescribe steroids and other drugs solely for strength-building, Kerr had publicly said he prescribed them to athletes to prevent them from obtaining tainted drugs on the black market.

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Unfortunately, he said, even when athletes could get the drugs legally, they supplemented their prescriptions with illicit drugs obtained on the streets or in foreign countries.

Kerr said he was a supporter of the recent California ban and now limits his practice to general medicine and minor sports injuries, such as sprains.


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