Feds urge judge to accept plea deal in BALCO scandal

Updated: October 3, 2005, 11:16 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal prosecutors urged a federal judge Monday to accept a plea bargain they made this summer with Victor Conte, the central figure in the BALCO steroid scandal.

Prosecutors said Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in Burlingame, should get eight months for his lead role in the scheme to give athletes undetectable performance-enhancing drugs. That's the amount of time prosecutors and Conte agreed to when the pleas were entered in July.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston is scheduled to sentence Conte on Oct. 18.

To support the sentence, the authorities told Illston in a court filing that steroid sentencing laws are weak, and that some of the substances Conte and his co-defendants were distributing became illegal only after the case was charged last year. They also point out that Conte has no criminal record, and that the BALCO investigation touched off a national furor over steroids that forced professional and amateur sports to change drug policies.

"In light of the heightened national awareness of steroid distribution to professional athletes and steroid abuse in professional sports resulting from this prosecution, sentencing a first-time offender such as the defendant to actual prison time ... sends a significant and important message of deterrence," prosecutor Matthew A. Parrella wrote.

Under terms of Conte's deal, the authorities are recommending four months' imprisonment and four months' home confinement.

BALCO vice president James Valente, Barry Bonds trainer Greg Anderson and track coach Victor Korchemny also pleaded guilty to reduced charges and are expected to receive possibly lighter sentences at the same Oct. 18 hearing.

Some of the biggest names in sports -- including baseball stars Bonds and Jason Giambi, and Marion Jones -- have been under a cloud of suspicion since being implicated in the BALCO scandal. None of the athletes connected to the case publicly has admitted steroid use.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press