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Reporters Who Refused to Reveal Sources in Steriod Case Ordered Jailed

Two San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reporters in the United States who wrote about a sports drug scandal have been sentenced to 18 months in jail for contempt of court.

They remain free while their case is appealed to a higher court.

The two reporters, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, refused to testify about who leaked to them secret grand jury testimony from baseball star Barry Bonds and other elite athletes.

They published a series of articles and a book based partly on the leaked transcripts that involved the investigation of a drug laboratory BALCO or the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative charged with criminal steroid distribution.

Their information helped to prompt U.S. lawmakers into hearings on doping and tougher drug testing in U.S. professional sports. It also prompted Major League Baseball to launch an investigation into doping in the game.

Williams and Fainaru-Wada have said repeatedly they would go to jail rather than comply with a grand jury subpoena and reveal their source or sources. Authorities are seeking to prosecute whoever unlawfully leaked the grand jury transcripts.

San Francisco Chronicle executive vice president and editor Phil Bronstein said the case highlighted the need for a federal law to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said the court is hopeful that perhaps Williams and Fainaru-Wada "will reconsider their position when faced with the reality of incarceration."

The reporters agreed with the government that they are in contempt of court, but they had sought a "nominal monetary fine" and other punishment, including house arrest and weekend jailing.

The criminal conduct being investigated in the Bonds leak case includes possible perjury and obstruction of justice by government officials, defendants and their attorneys in the probe of BALCO.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.