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Sentencing for BALCO defendants set for Tuesday

10/17/2005 - MLB NBA NFL NHL + more

SAN FRANCISCO --The federal investigation into the steroid
scandal that forced the sports world to crack down on the use of
performance-enhancing drugs is far from over despite Tuesday's
planned sentencing of some of the key figures in the case.
Authorities are now taking aim at the alleged suppliers of the
Bay Area Laboratory-Cooperative, which counted dozens of prominent
athletes among its clients.
Last month, the authorities raided a laboratory in Champaign,
Ill., headed by Patrick Arnold, who's known for introducing the
steroid precursor androstenedione to the United States.
Androstenedione, nicknamed andro, came to public attention in
1998 when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire said he used it
when breaking baseball's single-season home run record.
Court records suggest Arnold supplied BALCO founder Victor Conte
with a steroid known as "the clear" -- a recently created
substance called tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG -- that at the time
could not be detected by doping officials.
A spokeswoman for Arnold's company, Proviant Technologies Inc.,
said he is cooperating with the investigation and broke no laws.
"While we do not wish to try this case in the press, I would
like to underscore that Patrick has always sought to conduct his
business in a professional manner and with strict adherence to the
law," Julie Ohlsson said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
"We look forward to assisting authorities in resolving this
matter, and have no further comments."
What the authorities seized from Arnold is under seal. Still,
two federal law enforcement authorities told The Associated Press
that a grand jury here is pursuing details about Arnold's
connections with the BALCO lab as well as other alleged suppliers.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy
requirement surrounding grand jury proceedings.
In documents since made public, FBI agent Jeff Novitzky wrote in
2003 following an interview with BALCO vice president James Valente
that "Valente is aware that 'the clear' is a liquid substance that
Conte got from Patrick Arnold."
The U.S. Attorney's office told the judge in a presentencing
document that relatively lenient sentences were appropriate for the
four defendants -- Conte, Valente, Greg Anderson, the personal
trainer for Giants slugger Barry Bonds, and track coach Remi
Korchemny -- because THG became a listed controlled substance only
after it was discovered in the case.
Conte, Valente and Anderson are to be sentenced Tuesday.
Korchemny is expected to get probation later.
Court records also show that a Dallas doctor supplied BALCO with
several pounds of testosterone, and that another Texas man supplied
BALCO with "whatever" was needed. Other chemicals came from
overseas, according to Novitzky's memos of interviews he had with
Conte and Valente two years ago.
Conte, the mastermind behind the scheme to supply athletes with
undetectable steroids, is expected to receive no more than eight
months when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston. He
pleaded guilty in July to money laundering and steroid distribution
charges.
Valente is expected to get probation after pleading guilty to
one count of distributing steroids.
Anderson could get up to six months under terms of his deal, but
he is asking the judge not to give him any time behind bars. He
pleaded guilty to the same charges as Conte.
"Specifically, if he were to be incarcerated, his business and
livelihood would be utterly destroyed and he would be unable to
support his minor son who needs and depends on the economic
support," attorney Tony Serra told the judge in court records.
The authorities are recommending Anderson serve a six-month
term, three months behind bars and three months' home detention.
July's courtroom plea deals, which U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan in
San Francisco said were spurred in part by weak steroid laws and by
the fact that some of the chemicals were not banned at the time,
were anticlimactic compared to the fallout of the case outside of
court.
Professional sports stiffened steroid policies and
performance-enhancing drugs burst into the public spotlight. THG, a
once-unknown steroid discovered in the probe, is now banned
throughout sports.
Dozens of top track, baseball and other athletes also have paid
the price professionally and in the court of public opinion.
Several track stars have been suspended and track sensation Marion
Jones is suing Conte for accusing her of using steroids.
Yankees slugger Jason Giambi apologized earlier this year
without publicly admitting steroid use. And Novitzky said in court
filings that Conte told him on Sept. 3, 2003 that Bonds used the
clear on a regular basis. Bonds publicly denies steroid use.
The two dozen or so athletes who appeared before a grand jury
here have not been a target of the steroid probe. They have been
granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.
The case is United States v. Conte, 04-0044.