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L.A. Doctor Indicted for Supplying Steroids to Athletes, Bodybuilders : Drugs: Federal officials say the 27-count indictment stems from a nationwide probe of illegal steroid use.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A physician was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on 27 felony counts for allegedly distributing steroids to athletes and bodybuilders in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

U.S. Atty. Lourdes G. Baird said Dr. Walter F. Jekot, 50, is the first doctor in California to be indicted for illegal activity involving steroids but indicated that he would not be the last.

Baird and Assistant Atty. Gen. Stuart M. Gerson, who flew here from Washington to announce the case, said the indictment stemmed from the Justice Department’s nationwide investigation into the $300-million annual market in illegal steroids. Gerson said there are several other investigations but declined to elaborate.

“The use of anabolic steroids is very dangerous and very frightening,” Baird said.

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Jekot was described in May, 1989, as the doctor that “most American track and field athletes go to” for steroids, by Dr. Jamie Astaphan, the former doctor for Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. Astaphan was testifying at a hearing in Toronto convened in the aftermath of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where Johnson was stripped of his Gold Medal when he tested positive for using banned steroids after setting a world record in the 100-meter race.

At the time, Jekot said he had not prescribed anabolic steroids in his practice for the past two years. He admitted to The Times to previously prescribing steroids to athletes, mostly to weightlifters and football players.

According to the indictment, issued by a Los Angeles grand jury, some of the known side effects of steroid use are tumors of the liver, jaundice, shrinking of the testicles, impotence, sterility, increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, birth defects and interrupted menstrual cycles.

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the manufacture and sale of drugs, has restricted the distribution of steroids to use for limited medical conditions. The indictment states that using steroids for athletic performance enhancement is not “a medically accepted practice.”

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Gerson said the Justice Department wanted to warn young people, lured by a “cult of beauty” or the prospect of athletic acclaim, how they could be putting their health at “great risk.”

Jekot was charged with distributing steroids brought into the United States illegally, fraudulently distributing prescription steroid drugs, and of distributing a product he called “GHF 1,” which included a substantial steroid component.

If convicted of all charges, Jekot would face up to 85 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. George Newhouse, the lead prosecutor in the case.

Also, the government is seeking the forfeiture of a San Fernando office building owned by Jekot, his condominium residence in West Los Angeles, his 1989 Mitsubishi sedan and all the personal property and equipment located at Jekot Health Center offices in Los Angeles and Santa Ana.

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Baird said the forfeitures were sought because it is believed that all the property was either obtained with proceeds obtained through illegal activity or used in the course of illegal activity.

Gerson said this case is the second prosecution nationally of a doctor on steroid charges. On June 27, a federal jury in Harrisburg, Pa., convicted Dr. George T. Zahorian on 12 counts of illegal distribution of steroids, mainly to professional wrestlers, and ordered him to forfeit an office condominium worth about $3.7 million.

Wednesday’s indictment was the product of a yearlong investigation by several agencies, including the U.S. Customs Service and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

Jekot’s attorney, Victor Sherman of Santa Monica, contended that the government was trying to make an example of his client because of a “national scare about steroids.”

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Sherman said Jekot had done nothing illegal. “His dispensing of steroids was within his medical practice, to patients, for medical reasons. . . . He has been an outspoken spokesman of the legitimate use of steroids and they want to silence him.”

The lawyer said that law enforcement authorities seized 300 files from Jekot’s office and talked to hundreds of his patients.

Sherman said steroids accounted for 20% of the doctor’s business in the past, and that he is not distributing them now.

Prosecutor Newhouse presented a different picture of Jekot’s practice. “One of his principal businesses was to distribute anabolic steroids,” Newhouse said.

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In February, 1988, according to the indictment, Jekot signed a declaration promising the Medical Board of California that he would not dispense steroids “for the purpose of muscular development or enhancement” unless steroids gain general acceptance in the medical community for those purposes, which they have not.

Nonetheless, the indictment charges, Jekot continued to distribute steroids for muscle enhancement.

Although Jekot operates several medical clinics, Newhouse said no other physicians were involved in the illegal activities.

The indictment cites more than 20 distributions of steroids. Among those who allegedly received the drugs were actor David Hasselhoff, who starred on the television show “Night Rider.” Newhouse said he expected Hasselhoff to testify at Jekot’s trial.

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The indictment also states that Jekot on three occasions in 1986 paid James Insko for providing him with black market steroids. Insko was indicted that year in San Diego with several others for distributing counterfeit steroids from Tijuana.

Wednesday’s indictment is the second major steroid case filed by the U.S. attorney’s office in recent months. In June, the office indicted Lawrence Wood of Los Angeles and Daniel R. Ducahine, a Venice man known as the “Steroid Guru,” on charges of distributing and promoting gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB), an illegal drug touted for bodybuilding and weight control.

Times staff writer Elliot Almond contributed to this story.


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