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Doctor Given 5-Year Term for Steroid Distribution

TIMES LEGAL AFFAIRS WRITER

A federal judge sentenced a Los Angeles physician Thursday to five years in federal prison after his guilty plea for conspiracy to receive and distribute steroids to bodybuilders and athletes.

“This is the longest sentence ever handed down for this type of offense,” said Justice Department lawyer James E. Arnold, one of the prosecutors.

Five years is the maximum penalty that U.S. District Judge John G. Davies could have given Dr. Walter F. Jekot, who pleaded guilty last year. His lawyer had asked for a sentence of probation.

During sentencing, the judge said that Jekot, 52, displayed conscious and reckless disregard for the safety of the people to whom he distributed the illegal drugs.

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Among Jekot’s customers, according to court records, was actor David Hasselhoff, star of the television shows “Night Rider” and “Baywatch.”

The judge also found that Jekot falsified diagnoses, medical records and insurance claims to conceal that he was distributing anabolic steroids and human growth hormone for illegal purposes.

Arnold said that evidence introduced at a hearing last month showed that Jekot’s claims that he used anabolic steroids to treat AIDS patients were untrue.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark A. Byrne, the other prosecutor, said the government presented evidence in August that Jekot obtained more than 300 boxes of human growth hormone from local hospital pharmacies and sold the drug for profit in the local black market.

Jekot is the third doctor convicted of federal charges stemming from illegal steroid distribution. In earlier cases, doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area and Harrisburg, Pa., received three-year terms, Arnold said.

A federal grand jury indicted Jekot on 27 felony counts in August, 1991. According to the indictment, some of the known side effects of steroid use are tumors of the liver, jaundice, shrinking of the testicles, impotency, sterility, increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, birth defects and interrupted menstrual cycles.

But at the time, Justice Department officials said there was a $300-million annual market in illegal steroids, fueled by a “cult of beauty” and lust for athletic acclaim.

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

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Jekot, who has publicly advocated the legal use of steroids for years, was described during a May, 1989, hearing as the doctor that “most American track and field athletes go to” for steroids.

That statement was made by Dr. Jamie Astaphan, the former doctor for Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. Astaphan was testifying in Toronto at a proceeding convened in the aftermath of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where Johnson set a world record in the 100-meter dash but was then stripped of his gold medal when he tested positive for using banned steroids.

Victor Sherman, Jekot’s lawyer, called the sentence unfair and said he would appeal. Davies ordered Jekot to report to prison Dec. 13.


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