Boxer Shane Mosley, sprinter Dwain Chambers take different paths after BALCO allegations

Boxer Shane Mosley and sprinter Dwain Chambers huddled with Victor Conte to improve their athletic performance and used illicit substances they purchased from Conte's Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). Each produced a sensational athletic achievement immediately afterward.

Mosley defeated Oscar De La Hoya by decision in 2003, affirming his 2000 triumph over the "Golden Boy," by winning the late rounds on the judges' scorecards. Chambers, meanwhile, punctuated his standing as Europe's fastest man in 2002 and was expected to fare well in the next few 100-meter Olympic sprints.

Chambers, however, tested positive for the banned BALCO-distributed steroid THG later in 2003, and was ultimately dealt a lifetime ban from the Olympics.

Mosley never failed a drug test. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, and other boxing bodies, did not check for the steroid THG or the energy-boosting drug, EPO, a substance favored by cyclists.

However, in grand jury transcripts from 2003, released last month, Mosley admitted to knowingly using EPO, provided by BALCO. Mosley was also questioned about using designer steroids. He testified he was directed to call it flaxseed oil, admitting it was probably something else.

Today, more than half a decade after the two standout athletes received help from BALCO boosts, their lives have drifted to disparate paths.

Chambers, after originally sticking to a claim he didn't knowingly use steroids, has taken to a thorough mea culpa, explaining last year in a detailed letter to British and international sports authorities exactly how he used performance-enhancing drugs, identifying the cocktail schedule and doses in an effort he says he hopes will help testers catch future sporting thieves. He has also written a book, "Race Against Me," to be released in March, in which he describes why he used drugs.

"To break it down in simple terms, the world is not a safe place," Chambers told The Times in a recent phone interview. "There's not a level playing field out there. Originally, I walked into that world with my eyes shut and foolishly said, 'I just need to work harder.'

"My meeting with Victor [Conte] opened my eyes in a huge way, and I had to make a decision: If I wasn't going to beat them, I had to join them. That decision ended up ruining me, but I'm not alone. Look at [former world-class sprinters] Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin. The problem needs to be addressed better than it is."

Mosley is not among those making the same plea.

The Pomona boxer sued Conte for publicly saying Mosley knew precisely what he was doing while training for his De La Hoya rematch in 2003. Mosley's former conditioning trainer Derryl Hudson is also suing Mosley for defamation after the boxer said Hudson fooled him because Mosley thought the injections he took were legal "vitamins."

"I've never been convicted of anything, and I've never tested positive for anything," Mosley said this month while training in Big Bear. "There's no distractions to me. The attorneys will take care of it."

On Saturday, Mosley, 37, will enter the ring at Staples Center as the clear underdog against Tijuana's world welterweight champion, Antonio Margarito.

Leading up to the fight, Mosley tried to steer clear of BALCO questions. His publicist instructed reporters not to bring it up, and when one did during a conference call last week, his voice was muted mid-question.

"I keep myself away from the drama," Mosley said from his training camp. "I don't take phone calls. . . . I put that stuff in a box and shut it out. I don't look at the Internet. . . . I've put it aside since 2004. I don't listen to it. I don't even care."

Mosley is not the only BALCO client to have taken the stance of unknowing steroid use. BALCO client Barry Bonds maintains he believed he was taking flaxseed oil even as a perjury trial looms. Jones denied it until her connection to an unrelated check crime led her to come clean. Montgomery admitted steroid use to HBO in a jailhouse interview late last year. And cyclist Tammy Thomas was sentenced to six months' house arrest last year for perjury and obstruction of justice after lying about her steroid use to the BALCO grand jury. Prosecutors found witnesses who testified Thomas grew a beard and that her voice changed to a masculine tone.

Anyone who was around the Mosley camp for the De La Hoya fights knows how badly he wanted to win and show his talent was superior, regardless of the massive attention heaped on De La Hoya, the East Los Angeles star who won a big crowd by claiming the 1992 gold medal for his mother.

Chambers said he felt the same drive to push his speed to record times.

"It motivates a lot of athletes to show how fast a human body can go," Chambers said. "With newfound confidence and with great rewards, people will cut corners and take chances. I was just one of those who got caught."

Both men insist they are clean again. Chambers set a European record time of 10.07 seconds in 2006, and he posted an Olympic-qualifying time last year but couldn't argue to get the ban lifted. He retains hopes of pleading his case before the Summer Games come to London in 2012. He'll be 34 that year.

Chambers says he is proud of his book, happy his story is being told "without being twisted by those in the media," but he added the truth has been greeted uncomfortably. He wants to be an advisor to anti-doping agencies, but his offers are being ignored.

"It has ruined my life," Chambers said of the truth. "I didn't expect things to be easy, but I have been hung out to dry. I have received no support and been forced to the brink of bankruptcy. I don't think athletes looking at what has happened to me will follow my lead."

Conte, however, is seeking $75,000 in legal fees from Mosley and predicts the boxer's denial of performance-enhancing drug use has a larger price tag -- a tarnished reputation.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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