Four former South Carolina assistant football coaches were indicted Wednesday following an investigation into the alleged illegal use and distribution of "thousands of dollars" worth of anabolic steroids at the state-supported university.

Thomas E. Gadd, now the defensive coordinator at the University of Utah, James W. Washburn and Thomas Kurucz were charged with conspiring to "conduct a program of illegal steroid use by members of the athletic community, and particularly by the university's football team."The grand jury also charged the three with importing steroids into South Carolina and distributing them without prescription.

In addition, the indictments charge Kurucz with lying to the grand jury concerning his knowledge that assistant football coaches had either provided players with steroids, had made arrangements for players to obtain steroids contrary to the law or had provided money for the purchase of steroids.

A second indictment charges former Gamecock strength and conditioning coach Keith Kephart with conspiring with other members of the university's athletic community to import and distribute steroids without prescription.

The charges are all misdemeanors, except the charge that Kurucz lied to the grand jury, which is a felony, Lide said.

John L. Carter of Bethesda, Md., was charged with felony counts of intending to defraud and mislead the Federal Drug Administration in connection with the importation and distribution of steroids to four former South Carolina players, including Tommy Chaikin.

The other players were identified as David Poinsett, Heyward Myers and George Hyder, according to the indictment.

U.S. Attorney Vinton Lide said "thousands of dollars" worth of steroids were involved.

The investigation into steroid use at the University of South Carolina has been completed, but the probe into illegal steroid use elsewhere in the state continues, Lide said. He declined to say which, if any, other schools are being investigated.

Lide said the probe is focusing on coaches and steroid distributors, and stressed that no athletes will be indicted in connection with the investigation.

"It had been my intention - and remains my intention - to treat student athletes as victims," he said at a news conference. "I have not charged, and have no intention of charging, any student athletes."

The indictments were handed up today by a grand jury that had heard testimony for five months following a seven-month State Law Enforcement Division probe.

The agency initiated the investigation after an Oct. 24 Sports Illustrated article alleged that about half of the 1986 football team used steroids. The article was co-written by Chaikin, who played at South Carolina from 1983 to 1987.

Richland County Solicitor James Anders has said Chaikin and several other former Gamecock football players have been granted immunity from prosecution for participating in the probe. Lide refused to comment on whether any of the players had been given immunity.

The investigation was part of a nationwide effort by the U.S. Department of Justice to crack down on an estimated $100 million annual black market for anabolic steroids.

"Today's indictments highlight the growing problem of the illegal use of anabolic steroids and the abuse of them by college athletes," Attorney General Dick Thornburgh said in a prepared statement.

Steroids are prescription drugs with muscle-building power that have limited medical uses, such as to treat breast cancer and anemia.

While some athletes maintain the drugs are not harmful if taken properly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that steroids have serious side effects, including liver problems, cancer and heart disease. They have documented several deaths from the use of the drug.

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Fassel on Gadd

University of Utah football Coach Jim Fassel issued this statement early Wednesday afternoon regarding the indictment of Tom Gadd in the South Carolina steroid investigation:

"Tom Gadd is one of the most ethical people I have ever been associated with. As a football coach he cares about his players and their education. Obviously, we need to find out more about the South Carolina situation and how it relates to Tom, but everything we know about him is very positive and his situation as a football coach at the University of Utah is the same as it has always been."