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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cop Who Shoved Cyclist Fired by NYPD, Faces 4 Year Sentence

V. Williams upsets her top-ranked sister

The world No. 6, Venus Williams from the United States returns the ball from her opponent, the world No. 4, Elena Dementieva from Russia, during the quarter finals of the Women's Dubai Championships, Thursday February 19, 2009.  Williams won the match 6-3, 6-3. (UPI Photo/Norbert Schiller)
The world No. 6, Venus Williams from the United States returns the ball from her opponent, the world No. 4, Elena Dementieva from Russia, during the quarter finals of the Women's Dubai Championships, Thursday February 19, 2009. Williams won the match 6-3, 6-3. (UPI Photo/Norbert Schiller)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Venus Williams won a third-set tiebreaker Friday, upsetting her top-ranked sister Serena in the semifinals of the $2 million Dubai Tennis Championships.

Venus Williams, ranked sixth in the world, dominated the first set but Serena was strong in the second before the match evened out in the third set. Venus was able to get an advantage early in the third-set tiebreaker and claim a 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3) win.

The match was the 19th time the Williams sisters played each other in WTA action, with the win giving Venus a 10-9 series advantage.

Venus didn't lose a point on serve in taking the first set but took just 52 percent of the points on serve in the second. The third set was tight throughout, with Venus winning four more total points in the set -- the difference in the tiebreaker -- to claim the win.

She will face unseeded Virginia Razzano in the finals. Razzano knocked off second-ranked Dinara Safina and fifth-seeded Vera Zvonareva in getting to the semifinals. On Friday, she ousted 16th-seeded Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 6-2. Razzano broke Kanepi's serve six times in 11 tries.

Venus Williams owns a 2-1 series advantage over Razzano, who won the last time the pair met.

The winner of Saturday's title match will take home $350,000.

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'Cyber Soccer Players' Cloned

RoboCup competition. (Credit: Aler et al / SINC)

A team of IT scientists from the Carlos III University in Madrid (UC3M) has managed to programme clones that imitate the actions of humans playing football on a computer, according to a new article. The clones learn the players' behaviour and apply this knowledge in order to avoid their opponents and score goals.

"The objective of this research is to programme a player, currently a virtual one, by observing the actions of a person playing in the simulated RoboCup league," Ricardo Aler, one of the authors of the study and a researcher in the Computer Sciences Department of the UC3M, tells SINC.

RoboCup is an international football championship (known as soccer in the U.S.) held to promote the development of artificial and robotic intelligence. The competition's promoters are trying to develop a team of totally autonomous robots able to beat the best team of human footballers by 2050. "It's like what happened with the Deep Blue computer when it managed to beat Kasparov at chess in 1997," says Aler.

The researcher explains that there are various leagues within RoboCup, including a league of real robots, but that his team participates in the simulation league, using a software model called Robossocer. "The human player plays Robosoccer as if it were a video game, and the system observes both the stimuli that the person is receiving from the screen as well as the actions he or she is carrying out on the keyboard in order to shoot or pass the ball," he adds.

Later, the researchers use automatic learning techniques in order to construct this person's model of play, and this model is used to create the "clone agent", which imitates the human player. The results of the study show that the cloned player is able to tackle opponents and score goals in the opposing goal, in a similar way to human players.

Both the real and virtual robots in the Robocup league are normally programmed by hand by researchers, but the Spanish scientists are aiming to do this automatically. Although they have so far managed to get the clones to a point where they can carry out "low level" actions, such as moving forward, turning and shooting, their objective is to ensure they can learn "high level" actions, such as tackling or passing the ball to the most appropriate team member. In addition, they want to give the models human cognitive capacities such as being able to remember or predict the position of the ball or an opponent.

One of the fundamental ideas behind this study was that it is more interesting for a human player to challenge an opponent with the same level of skills and disadvantages, rather than playing against an adversary with robotic behaviour.

This type of study falls within a field of computer science called behavioural cloning. The objective of this discipline is to construct a model for a clone agent that can learn from the behaviour of the other agent (which may be human) by observing the stimuli this agent receives and the actions it takes in response to them.

The first studies on this subject showed that a system of neuronal networks can learn to drive a vehicle by observing a driver (ALVINN project), or to control a flight simulator by analysing the behaviour of a pilot. Today, the use of behavioural cloning is also being researched in Internet-based videogames, as well as in competitions such as RoboCup.

The last international robotic football championship event was held in Suzhou, China, and the next one will be held this summer in Graz, Austria, alongside RoboCup Rescue, a simultaneous competition based developing robots designed to help rescue people in natural disasters.

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IOC: Give Phelps second chance

BRUSSELS (AP) -- IOC president Jacques Rogge said Friday that Michael Phelps failed in his duty as a role model but deserves a second chance after being photographed with a marijuana pipe.

Rogge said the American swimmer's apology and promise not to do it again earned him the benefit of the doubt.

Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. He was suspended by the U.S. swimming federation for three months after a British newspaper published the photo of Phelps holding the pipe at a party in South Carolina.

Rogge said Phelps was not guilty of a doping offense because the incident occurred outside competition but warned, "This is not something he should repeat."

Rogge acknowledged that Phelps has to dig himself out of a deep hole.

"Michael Phelps had a duty to be a role model. It is not just enough to win eight medals," he said. "He has a role to play for youth. He has to be an example. He failed in that."

The Olympian found out this week that he won't face drug charges after a South Carolina sheriff said there wasn't enough physical evidence to charge the 14-time gold medalist.

"It's a mistake I won't make again," Phelps said in the statement.

"I tend to believe he will not do it," Rogge said Friday at the opening of an IOC liaison office with the European Union. "We have to give him a second chance."

It was not the first embarrassing episode for Phelps after an Olympic triumph.

In 2004, a few months after winning six gold and two bronze medals in Athens, the swimmer was arrested on a drunken driving charge at age 19. He pleaded guilty and apologized for the mistake.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press.

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NFL players who use steroids have more injuries

By Jordan Lite

Performance-enhancing steroids are the gifts that keep on giving. They help set home-run records and win cycling medals — never mind make for obvious nicknames like the latest instant classic, A-Roid.

But those perennial gifts aren’t all "positive": Now, it seems, in addition to bulking up users, anabolic steroids also predispose them to musculoskeletal injuries.

An anonymous survey of 2,552 retired NFL players released today found an association between joint and ligament injuries and use of steroids. Just over 9 percent of the former pro-athletes, who played as far back as the 1940s and as recently as the 21st century, admitted using the drugs during their careers, the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation study showed. Doping was common among players in positions requiring size and strength, with 16 percent of offensive linemen and nearly 15 percent of defensive linemen fessing up to the practice.

Players who took the drugs suffered more disc herniations and injuries to their knees, elbows, necks, spines, feet, toes and ankles than those who didn’t use 'roids. For example, 21 percent of those who used the drugs said they'd suffered herniated discs, compared to 10 percent of players who didn’t take them. Nearly 31 percent of users hurt their elbows, versus 17 percent of non-steroid users.

That damage may stem from their cartilage adapting slowly (or not enough) to the increased muscle growth and force generated by the drugs, or from the greater mass and stress exerted on their ligaments and cartilage, according to the study. (Concussions have been shown to have lasting effects on football players, and players also have high rates of arthritis, but those conditions weren't studied in relation to steroid use.) "Our findings speak to the 'snowball effect' or compounded medical problems that appear to accompany steroid use," co-author Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina's department of exercise and sport science, told the Associated Press.

Steroids do, however, seem to keep up muscle fiber density and cell nuclei (which boost the synthesis of proteins important to muscle development) even after people stop using them, researchers reported at last year's American Physiological Society meeting.

We're eager to hear if there are any “side effects” from the latest athletic supplement, Viagra. In the meantime, you can learn more about the science of football, why players dope, and whether juicing makes you a better athlete.

Image © iStockphoto/Stefan Klein

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Year after tragedy, Bathurst basketball team triumphs News Staff

The Bathurst High School boy's basketball team celebrates after winning the provincial AA championship in Fredericton, N.B. on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Andrew Vaughan)

The Bathurst High School boy's basketball team celebrates after winning the provincial AA championship in Fredericton, N.B. on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Andrew Vaughan)

A year after a highway crash killed seven of their players, a New Brunswick boy's basketball team found a way to turn tragedy into triumph.

In front of a crowd of several hundred, the Bathurst High School Phantoms defeated the Campobello Vikings 82-50 to take home the provincial AA championship Saturday.

"We did the impossible pretty much," Bathurst basketball player Alex Robichaud told CTV Atlantic.

Seven players and the wife of a former coach were killed in January 2008 when their van swerved into the path of a transport truck in poor highway conditions as they travelled back from a road game.

The crash devastated the small northern N.B. town and touched the hearts of many around the globe.

"It really has been joyful to watch and experience this," John McLaughlin, superintendent of the Bathurst School District, told CTV Newsnet.

Bradd Arseneau, right, and Brad States, left, of the Bathurst High School Phantoms, battle Dustin Calder of the Campobello Vikings in Fredericton, N.B. on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Andrew Vaughan)

Bradd Arseneau, right, and Brad States, left, of the Bathurst High School Phantoms, battle Dustin Calder of the Campobello Vikings in Fredericton, N.B. on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Andrew Vaughan)

"They lost some pretty good friends and I'm sure they were playing for them."

Forward Bradd Arseneau, who survived the crash and was the only returning player, scored 25 points in the game and wore the number 7 in honour of his late friend Nathan Cleland.

Arseneau, who was named the game's MVP, declined to be interviewed after the game.

But his mother, Peggy O'Neil-Arseneau told The Canadian Press, "I've never seen him play any better."

"The joy . . . and the love in this room is just overwhelming," she told CTV Atlantic during the game.

The team suffered another setback this season when head coach Alan Doucet collapsed during a pratice and was rushed to hospital. He was in Montreal for tests and missed the final game.

Assistant coach Brad McLellan said he was surprised by his team Saturday.

The Bathurst, N.B. crash victims are seen in these undated handout photos. Left to right, top to bottom, Nicholas Kelly, Codey Branch, Nickolas Quinn, Javier Acevedo, Daniel Hains, Justin Cormier, Nathan Cleland. (Elhatton Funeral Home / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The Bathurst, N.B. crash victims are seen in these undated handout photos. Left to right, top to bottom, Nicholas Kelly, Codey Branch, Nickolas Quinn, Javier Acevedo, Daniel Hains, Justin Cormier, Nathan Cleland. (Elhatton Funeral Home / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

"I didn't expect to get out in front quite like that early. ... Campobello is a hell of a team and they battled hard, but our kids were ready to play," he said.

After winning, Bathurst players stayed on the court for a long time, taking in every moment of their unlikely victory. They cut down both nets before retiring to the locker room.

"It's a huge deal, coming back from that accident," said forward Brad States. "Obviously, it's huge."

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Garnett to miss 2-3 weeks with knee injury

Image: Garnett
Douglas C. Pizac / AP
Kevin Garnett hops around in pain after injuring his knee Thursday against the Jazz.

The Boston Celtics say forward Kevin Garnett will miss two to three weeks because of a strained muscle behind his knee.

Garnett returned Friday to Boston after injuring the knee on the team’s West Coast trip. Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss says Saturday that team doctor Brian McKeon diagnosed the muscle strain after tests and an MRI.

Garnett injured his knee while going up for an alley-oop late in the first half of Boston’s 90-85 loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday. He landed gingerly and immediately motioned to the bench for a substitute.

After the game, the team decided to send him back to Boston as a precaution when the soreness in his knee persisted. The Celtics play in Phoenix on Sunday.

The Associated Press

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Amid the grieving, a rare act of sportsmanship

Associated Press

The coach never considered any other option.

It didn't matter that his DeKalb, Ill., High School basketball team had ridden a bus two and a half hours to get to Milwaukee, then waited another hour past game time to play. Didn't matter that the game was close, or that this was a chance to beat a big city team.

Johntel Franklin scored 10 points in the game following the loss of his mother.
Something else was on Dave Rohlman's mind when he asked for a volunteer to shoot two free throws awarded his team on a technical foul in the second quarter. His senior captain raised his hand, ready to go to the line as he had many times before.

Only this time it was different.

"You realize you're going to miss them, don't you?" Rohlman said.

Darius McNeal nodded his head. He understood what had to be done.

It was a Saturday night in February, and the Barbs were playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison. It was the third meeting between the two schools, who were developing a friendly rivalry that spanned two states.

The teams planned to get together after the game and share some pizzas and soda. But the game itself almost never took place.

Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin died at a local hospital. Carlitha Franklin had been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer, but she began to hemorrhage that morning while Johntel was taking his college ACT exam.

Her son and several of his teammates were at the hospital late that afternoon when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system. Carlitha Franklin was just 39.

"She was young and they were real close," said Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr., who was at the hospital. "He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn't have time to grieve."

Womack was going to cancel the game, but Franklin told him he wanted the team to play. And play they did, even though the game started late and Milwaukee Madison dressed only eight players.

Early in the second quarter, Womack saw someone out of the corner of his eye. It was Franklin, who came there directly from the hospital to root his teammates on.

The Knights had possession, so Womack called a time out. His players went over and hugged their grieving teammate. Fans came out of the stands to do the same.

"We got back to playing the game and I asked if he wanted to come and sit on the bench," Womack said during a telephone interview.

"No," Franklin replied. "I want to play."

There was just one problem. Since Franklin wasn't on the pre-game roster, putting him in meant drawing a technical foul that would give DeKalb two free throws.

Though it was a tight game, Womack was willing to give up the two points. It was more important to help his senior guard and co-captain deal with his grief by playing.

Over on the other bench, though, Rohlman wasn't so willing to take them. He told the referees to forget the technical and just let Franklin play.

"I could hear them arguing for five to seven minutes, saying, `We're not taking it, we're not taking it," Womack said. "The refs told them, no, that's the rule. You have to take them."

That's when Rohlman asked for volunteers, and McNeal's hand went up.

He went alone to the free throw line, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and looked at the rim.

His first attempt went about two feet, bouncing a couple of times as it rolled toward the end line. The second barely left his hand.

It didn't take long for the Milwaukee players to figure out what was going on.

They stood and turned toward the DeKalb bench and started applauding the gesture of sportsmanship. Soon, so did everybody in the stands.

"I did it for the guy who lost his mom," McNeal told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It was the right thing to do."

They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they'll remember what happened in that gym that night.
? Dave Rohlman, head coach of the opposing DeKalb team on what his players will take away from this experience.

Franklin would go on to score 10 points, and Milwaukee Madison broke open the game in the second half to win 62-47. Afterward, the teams went out for pizza, two players from each team sharing each pie.

Franklin stopped by briefly, thankful that his team was there for him.

"I got kind of emotional but it helped a lot just to play," he said. "I felt like I had a lot of support out there."

Carlitha Franklin's funeral was last Friday, and the school turned out for her and her son. Cheerleaders came in uniform, and everyone from the principal and teachers to Johntel's classmates were there.

"Even the cooks from school showed up," Womack said. "It lets you know what kind of kid he is."

Basketball is a second sport for the 18-year-old Franklin, who says he has had some scholarship nibbles and plans to play football in college. He just has a few games left for the Knights, who are 6-11 and got beat 71-36 Tuesday night by Milwaukee Hamilton.

It hasn't been the greatest season for the team, but they have stuck together through a lot of adversity.

"We maybe don't have the best basketball players in the world but they go to class and take care of business," Womack said. "We have a losing record but there's life lessons going on, good ones."

None so good, though, as the moment a team and a player decided there were more important things than winning and having good stats.

Yes, DeKalb would go home with a loss. But it was a trip they'll never forget.

"This is something our kids will hold for a lifetime," Rohlman said. "They may not remember our record 20 years from now, but they'll remember what happened in that gym that night."

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Nate Robinson Jumping Over Dwight Howard In Everyday Life

ORLANDO, FL—Since leaping over Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to claim his second NBA dunk title Saturday, 5-foot-9 New York Knicks guard Nate Robinson has apparently dedicated himself to the sole task of jumping over Howard as the 7-footer goes about his daily life.

According to Howard, Robinson bounded over him roughly two dozen times on Tuesday alone, most notably while the All-Star center was putting gas in his car, as he was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, immediately after he woke up in the morning, two minutes later when he was taking a shower, and right afterward as he began to shave.

"I can't do anything without that guy jumping over me," said Howard, who glanced over his shoulder every few seconds during his press conference Wednesday. "He's everywhere. When I took my mom to her doctor's appointment last Monday, at church communion, and every time I get off my couch to put in a new DVD. And I watch a lot of DVDs."

"I don't know where he's coming from or how he's getting into my house, but I—" Howard added before he was interrupted by a pair of green shoes and shorts sailing over his head. "Oh, for Christ's sake."

Following the leap, Robinson recreated his post-dunk celebration, performing a dance step with his right foot while making an odd gliding/flying motion with his arms as Howard watched.

"I don't quite get this," Howard said.

Howard admitted that he had played along when Robinson first started bounding over him in a non-dunk-competition setting, saying that he thought the spectacle was good media fodder for All-Star weekend and that he believed it to be temporary. But that all changed Monday when Howard was trying on pants in the dressing room of an Armani Exchange in downtown Orlando. As Robinson flew overhead, Howard realized the leaping would continue indefinitely, even when there was no one around to notice or record the event, and even though Robinson does not live in Orlando.

"It was eerie," Howard said. "We locked eyes after the jump, and Nate just ran off without saying anything. Then he must have exited the store and reentered through the back, because the next thing I knew he was jumping over me again while I looked at belts."

Though the locations and times of Robinson's flights over Howard vary, Howard said he has learned that if he finds himself in a situation in which he is standing up and leaning somewhat forward, there is a good chance Robinson will come from behind and jump over his head, as was the case Monday afternoon at Pirate's Cove Adventure miniature golf course.

"Today I thought it was finally over because Nate hadn't jumped over me once—not at the cleaners, the skate park, the gym, anywhere," Howard said. "Then I sat down to a romantic dinner with my girlfriend and as soon as I stood up to light the candles, he comes flying in, breaks the dishware, and gets baked ziti all over the carpet."

"It's upsetting," Howard continued. "But you know what angers me most? It's that he really isn't jumping over me. His crotch is barely clearing the top of my head, and he is putting his left arm on my back for an extra boost. You people are seeing that, right? You're seeing that I need to lean down so he doesn't bang his waist into the back of my head and fall to the ground and embarrass himself in front of everybody? You saw that I dunked on a fucking 12-foot hoop, right?"

According to Howard, Robinson has only hurt himself once. On Wednesday, as the Magic center was unlocking his front door, the Knicks guard apparently flew headfirst into the stained-glass window in the transom above Howard's doorway.

"Where is he?" a concussed Robinson said from the hospital's emergency room. "I got Superman's kryptonite right here."

Reports indicate that Howard is currently standing up against the safety bar at the edge of Niagara Falls.

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Glavine, Braves agree on deal

By Jerry Crasnick

Tom Glavine reached agreement on a one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves that could pay him $4.5 million if he attains all his incentives.


The deal was announced by the club Friday.

"I had a sense of unfinished business," said Glavine, who turns 43 next month. "I didn't want my career to end the way it did last year."

Glavine, who turns 43 on March 25, has a 305-203 record in 22 seasons with Atlanta and the New York Mets. He posted a 2-4 record with a 5.54 ERA last season in 13 starts for the Braves, and underwent elbow and shoulder surgery in August.

But Glavine's recovery has gone well, and the Braves expect him to pitch in spring training and be ready for the start of the regular season. Glavine is penciled in as Atlanta's fifth starter behind Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami.

"I don't necessarily want to be the guy who has to pitch 220 innings and win every time he goes to the mound," Glavine said. "I'm looking forward to this stage of my career where I don't have to deal with that kind of pressure and can be more of a complement to our rotation."

The Glavine signing comes a day after the Braves lost out to the Seattle Mariners in a bid to sign free agent outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.

"There were never any discussions in which another club was brought up," general manager Frank Wren said. "The motivation and focus was always to try to get something done here. We appreciated that."

Even though Glavine won't be reporting to camp immediately, the Braves already put up his name on an empty locker next to Chipper Jones.

"I think he's still got 13 or 14 wins in him," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "He still knows how to pitch and he's ready to prove it."

Glavine is the only one of Atlanta's Big Three still with the franchise. Greg Maddux retired in December, and John Smoltz signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.

Glavine will make a guaranteed $1 million, and an additional $1 million in his first day on the major league roster during the regular season. He'll be owed $1.25 million after 30 days, and an additional $1.25 million after 90 days, a source said. was first to report that Glavine had agreed to sign with the Braves.

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Judge rules some evidence inadmissible

By Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn

Unless the tight-lipped personal trainer for Barry Bonds suddenly decides to testify in the seven-time MVP's upcoming perjury trial, significant pieces of evidence in the prosecution's case will not be admitted, Judge Susan Illston ruled late Thursday.

Illston ordered that lab results -- including three alleged positive steroid tests from 2000 and 2001 -- drug ledgers and doping calendars will not be admitted as evidence unless Greg Anderson testifies that the material relates to Bonds.

Anderson, Bonds' longtime personal trainer, already has spent more than a year in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the seven-time MVP for perjury stemming from his September 2003 testimony in the BALCO steroids case.

Illston also ruled, however, that most of an audio recording of Anderson -- secretly made by Bonds' estranged business partner Steve Hoskins -- can be admitted into evidence. On the recording, Anderson tells Hoskins he provided Bonds with an undetectable substance believed to be the steroid known as "the clear"; the government believes Anderson also indicates on the recording that he injected Bonds multiple times. As well, Anderson tells Hoskins he was providing Bonds with "the same stuff" Marion Jones and other BALCO athletes had received.

Illston granted the defense team's request to exclude a part of the tape in which Anderson says he believed he would receive a week's notice before Bonds was tested randomly by Major League Baseball.

Prosecutors told Illston at a hearing Wednesday that Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, already has indicated the trainer will continue to remain silent on Bonds.

Without Anderson, Illston ruled that the government would be relying on hearsay to establish that urine and blood samples said to be Bonds' actually were his. And so, with no one to affirm directly the samples came from Bonds, Illston ruled there is no proof that the results of the tests or entries in doping ledgers actually refer to the ballplayer.

Illston also ruled inadmissible doping calendars believed to be made by Anderson for Bonds, as well as calendars for other ballplayers and athletes.

The trial is scheduled to begin March 2 in San Francisco, and Bonds faces 10 counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.

The government claims it has four witnesses who will testify to firsthand knowledge that Bonds used steroids or was injected by Anderson -- three who say they discussed his use with them, and one who says she saw the trainer inject Bonds.

Illston ruled Thursday that she will allow the expert testimony of Larry Bowers, the senior managing director of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, about what physical changes a steroid or human growth hormone user might experience, including the shrinking of his testicles, male-pattern baldness and increased head size.

But Illston also said that in order for Bowers' testimony to be allowed, the government has to prove that Bonds underwent such changes. The only witness the government has presented to address the issue is Bonds' former mistress, Kimberly Bell. Illston ordered Bell to provide a declaration under seal by Tuesday about physical and emotional changes she observed in Bonds.

Illston wants to determine whether the testimony would be relevant or create unfair prejudice.

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