More money laundering charges could be brought

Updated: June 7, 2005, 9:51 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- BALCO founder Victor Conte could face additional charges in connection to the Bay Area sports doping ring, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Conte and three other men are charged with dozens of counts of distributing steroids and human growth hormone, and of money laundering in connection to raids at Burlingame-based BALCO in 2003. The government said more money laundering charges, on top of the three for which Conte has already been indicted for, could be unveiled by the end of the month.

Those new counts are not expected to be levied against the other three defendants -- Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative vice president James Valente, Barry Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, or track coach Remi Korchemny.

"There may be some other additional counts of money laundering that will not effect your clients, but will effect Mr. Conte," federal prosecutor Matthew Parrella told defense attorneys Tuesday at a closed-door hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

The Associated Press obtained the transcript of the hearing about six hours later. Illston, who ordered the new indictment to be unsealed by the end of the month, conducted the hearing via a telephone conference call with the attorneys for the four men.

Mary McNamara, Conte's attorney, said talks about settling the case with guilty pleas don't look good, and the government on Tuesday declined to initiate talks with a different judge in hopes of reaching a plea deal.

"We remain open to hearing from the government as we always have been," McNamara said in a phone interview. "So far we have not been able to reach any agreement. So we are pressing ahead and preparing for trial."

Parrella told Illston: "At this point, we will not consent to a settlement conference. However, we do recognize there are continuing discussions and if our position changes, we will make it clear to everybody concerned."

Trial is scheduled for all four men Sept. 6, and lawyers told Illston that they may file motions to have the men tried separately.

Another status conference is scheduled July 1.

The fallout from BALCO scandal has become more significant than the case itself, with steroid use becoming a front-burner issue from Capitol Hill to baseball clubhouses.

Earlier this year, major league baseball toughened its drug-testing policy, mandating suspensions for initial violations for the first time. Now, commissioner Bud Selig is pushing for even more stringent penalties, such as a 50-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a third infraction.

Congress also has gotten into the act, threatening to implement a federal drug-testing policy for the NFL, NBA, NHL and the major leagues, with a two-year ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second violation, as well as more frequent testing.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency, often using documents obtained in the BALCO case, has punished many top track athletes for steroid use, and the agency hints at more suspensions.

Sprinter Tim Montgomery is having a hearing in San Francisco this week challenging a potential lifetime ban that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency recommended for his alleged use of banned substances.

Montgomery, who set the 100-meter world record in 2002, has never tested positive for a banned substance. Still, USADA is seeking to ban him from competition based on secret documents the U.S. Senate obtained last year from the BALCO investigation and then forwarded to the doping agency.

Montgomery is challenging USADA's recommendation before the Court of Arbitration for Sport during a closed-door hearing that began Monday and is expected to last several days.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press