Sentencing for BALCO defendants set for Tuesday
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press