By Phillip Whitten
SAN FRANCISCO, November 27. AMY Van Dyken, who won four gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, was called to testify before the federal Grand Jury that is investigating Balco Laboratories and its president, Victor Conte, Jr., in what is becoming perhaps the largest sports drug scandal in American history. The story was first reported today by Elliott Almond in the San Jose Mercury News.
Van Dyken, 30, the only American woman in any sport ever to win four gold medals at a single Olympiad, is the first swimmer identified in the drugs and money probe that has focused primarily on players from the National Football League, major league baseball, and track and field. Conte and his company have been accused of producing the previously undetectable designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, a charge Conte has denied.
Rob Nelson, Van Dyken's agent and attorney, confirmed yesterday that Van Dyken appeared before the Grand Jury on November 13, the same day as sprint star Marion Jones and five NFL players, but said van Dyken had no comment on her testimony. Nelson also declined to comment on Van Dyken's relationship with Conte.
THG, a synthetic form of testosterone, reportedly has been detected in the urine of five track and field athletes and four members of the Oakland Raiders football team. Virtually all of these athletes have been identified as clients of Conte.
Van Dyken, who reportedly was also a client of Conte's, is a close friend of Bill Romanowski, one of the Raiders who reportedly tested positive for THG.
Van Dyken became the most popular female athlete of the Atlanta Games when she won gold in the 50 meter free, 100m butterfly, 400m free relay and 400m medley relay. Four years later in Sydney, she again won gold as a member of both U.S. 400 meter relays, but she failed to win a medal in an individual event, finishing fourth in the 50 meter free.
She also lost public support when she spit in the lane of Holland's Inge De Bruijn before the final of the 50 meter freestyle, one of three events the Flying Dutchwoman won in Sydney. Ironically, Van Dyken also contributed to rumors that De Bruijn had used drugs when she commented that she, too, could win a gold medal "if I were a man."