Patrick Arnold was nervous.
The chemist who invented "The Clear" wanted to have a "pre-interview." It was an unusual request, but I agreed to it. The so-called "pre-interview" is often used to help someone get more comfortable on-camera. I never provide specific questions, but there are rare times when it seems appropriate to help a nervous person relax and focus.
We joined Arnold and his co-workers for lunch. Arnold, a heavily-muscled, tight-skinned amateur body builder, ordered a huge hamburger without the bun, a high protein, low carbohydrate meal. We talked about sports, steroids and many other things, slowly getting him more comfortable with us. Finally, more than three hours after we arrived in Champaign, Illinois for the interview we started asking him questions on-camera.
In April 2006, Arnold stood before a federal judge in San Francisco and pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in the BALCO scandal. Five months later, he began serving a three month prison sentence. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston called Arnold's behavior "destructive and damaging to Arnold, damaging to the community and damaging to the nation as a whole." Outside the courthouse, Arnold told reporters "I'm very regretful for what I've done and especially since what it has precipitated in sports and society. I do believe there should be a level playing field, and that this whole things needs to be addressed."
Now, a year later, as we sat in a small conference room in Champaign, Arnold nervously recalled the BALCO scandal. Here are some excerpts that were not in our story:
Craig Cheatham: "Have you testified before a federal grand jury?"
Patrick Arnold: "Yes, I did."
Craig Cheatham: "Did you testify before you went to prison?"
Patrick Arnold: "About a month before I went to prison. They didn't ask me anything about baseball. They didn't ask me anything about professional sports."
The federal prosecutor did ask him questions about a cyclist to try to establish that the cyclist committed perjury, according to Arnold. The chemist didn't appreciate it.
Patrick Arnold: "It's ridiculous. She has to testify about questions about me. Now I have to testify about her so that they can get her about perjuring against me. I mean, let it go. I was convicted. Her testimony didn't matter, but now they have to force me to go in there and rat about this girl. I mean, let it go."
Arnold told me he has seen secret grand jury transcripts that names athletes connected to the scandal who have not been identified publicly as using steroids provided by BALCO.
Patrick Arnold: "I've seen several names in transcripts."
Craig Cheatham: "Like who?"
Patrick Arnold: "I'd be breaking federal law if I ever mentioned anything I read."
Prosecutors provided Arnold's attorney with the transcripts so that the chemist had access to the records needed for an adequate defense.
Patrick Arnold: "They didn't reveal the whole thing to me. All they did was reveal certain parts of it. Even in that I saw certain names that made me go 'Boy, I didn't know this guy, or this guy."
Arnold estimates that there are at least two dozen athletes who used steroids through BALCO that have not been identified in open court records, although Travis Tygart, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency seriously doubts it. Tygart, and other investigators who have probed the BALCO operation, believe Arnold was a "hanger-on," the kind of guy who desperately wanted to be near elite athletes and would do whatever it takes to get near them. Now, Tygart told me, Arnold is simply trying to extend his "15 minutes of fame."
Arnold admitted the raids at BALCO and other labs were "scary." He seems to genuinely regret the impact "The Clear" had on sports, especially track and field.
Patrick Arnold: "I'm not proud of what I did as far as helping cheating in sports. I don't think that's any kind of noble cause to brag about... but I kind of marvel at the way this one ended up being special in so many ways. At the same time, I would like people to know that in no way did I intend to cause such a disruption or ever envision that it would get to that point."
Arnold still believes inventing performance enhancing supplements is his "dream job." He joined the nutritional supplement industry in 1996, at the age of 29, launching LPJ Research with Ramlakhan Boodram. In 2003, they changed the name of the company to Proviant Technologies. Federal agents raided Proviant and Arnold's apartment looking for evidence in the BALCO investigation. Arnold emphasized that "The Clear" wasn't invented at Proviant. Of course, Proviant wasn't connected to the drug because it didn't exist then. Instead, it appears he invented it at LPJ. Proviant was created as federal agents began swooping down on Victor Conte, the head of BALCO labs. Proviant, LPJ and Boodram were never charged in the BALCO scandal.
Arnold insists he dumped the rest of "The Clear" in a local cornfield. "The corn probably grew fifty feet tall," he joked. Arnold says he has memorized the formula for creating the steroid, but has no plan to reproduce it.
Arnold built his reputation as a "genius" in supplements before he created "The Clear." He was also known as the "father" of prohormones, powerful supplements that include Androstenedione, also known as Andro. Arnold is widely regarded as the guy who brought Andro to the national market. In 1998, The Sporting News chose Patrick Arnold as one of its "100 Most Powerful People in Sports." Remember, that's before he created "The Clear."
If Arnold had decided to not create the undetectable steroid that acted as a poison seed of sports, perhaps he would be remembered more for his knowledge and admirable talent as a chemist. Instead, he's famous for creating the drug that helped cheaters achieve undeserved greatness at the expense of other devoted and talented athletes. It will be very difficult for him to overcome his significant role in the biggest drug scandal in sports.
Maybe that's why he was so nervous.