Specter of scandal everywhere

Updated: February 27, 2004, 12:46 PM ET
Associated Press

BURLINGAME, Calif. -- The blue "BALCO LABORATORIES" emblem above the entrance to the drab storefront has been whitewashed. The rickety wooden "Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative" sign in front also has been covered with white paint.

But anonymity will not be easy for the four men charged with distributing steroids to dozens of athletes. They return to court Friday for a bail hearing, and to have future court dates set in their case.

Since their indictments Feb. 12, the men -- BALCO founder Victor Conte, BALCO vice president James Valente, track coach Remi Korchemny and Greg Anderson, the personal trainer for San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds -- have tried to maintain low profiles.

Yet events have continued to swirl around the case.

On Tuesday, British sprinter Dwain Chambers became the first athlete formally sanctioned for use of THG, one of the performance-enhancing drugs at the center of the case. Chambers was suspended for two years and banned for life from the Olympics.

The European 100-meter champion, who had been considered a gold-medal contender for the Athens Olympics this summer, has blamed his positive THG test on nutritional supplements he said were provided by BALCO.

Chambers, coached by Korchemny, said he was assured by Conte that all the supplements he was given were within international rules. Conte has denied being the source of Chambers' THG.

Bonds had to defend himself this week against comments by Colorado Rockies reliever Turk Wendell, who said it was "clear just seeing his body" that Bonds was taking steroids. Bonds repeatedly has denied using steroids.

An affidavit accompanying a search warrant used at Anderson's apartment said the trainer told federal agents he gave steroids to several professional baseball players. No athletes have been charged in the case, nor have any been identified in documents released by prosecutors.

The focus at spring training on suspicions about steroid use by baseball players led Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker, who was the Giants' manager until 2002, to complain earlier this week about a witch hunt.

"It's like McCarthyism or something. They're looking to see who looks like a Communist," he said.

All four defendants in the BALCO case have pleaded not guilty to the charges included in the 42-count indictment, and have been free pending Friday's bail hearing -- at which they will have to prove they can post bond.

Bail was set at $100,000 for Conte, Valente and Korchemny. Prosecutors asked for $100,000 bail for Anderson, but agreed to reduce it to $25,000. If any of the men cannot prove he will be able to post bond, he will be subject to arrest.

Before the bail hearing, at which U.S. District Judge Susan Illston also is expected to schedule future court dates in the case, Anderson is expected to request that defense attorney Tony Serra take over his case. Bill Rapoport has been acting as his attorney.

Serra, who wears his long white hair in a ponytail, is a flamboyant courtroom character who has taken on high-profile cases including the defense of radicals such as Black Panther Huey Newton and former Symbionese Liberation Army soldier Russell Little.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press