White: Conte called substance flaxseed oil

Updated: December 3, 2004, 10:09 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Star sprinter Kelli White broke down and cried Thursday as she recounted in an interview the first time she used a substance called THG, once an undetectable steroid.

In her first newspaper interview since she received a two-year ban from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, White said she first learned of the substance four years ago when her coach, Remi Korchemny, introduced her to Bay Area Lab Co-Operative president Victor Conte.

The lab, also known as BALCO, is at the center of steroid scandal and has been linked to many prominent athletes, including baseball stars Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds.

White was interviewed in New York and her comments appeared Friday in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Conte and Korchemny, both under federal indictment on charges of distributing illegal drugs, gave White a substance and told her it was flaxseed oil, she said. A couple of weeks later, Conte changed his story, she said.

"I'm not sure if Victor felt guilty for lying to me," White said in the Chronicle. "He's the one who told me that it wasn't what he said it was."

White, who won two gold medals at the world championships in August 2003, previously said she had only taken the prescription stimulant modafinil because she suffered from the sleep disorder narcolepsy.

She confessed to taking illegal performance-enhancing drugs in May after the USDA confronted her with evidence that it found she used undetectable steroids. White accepted the two-year drug ban, costing her a trip to the Athens Olympics and every medal she's won the past four years.

Her performance in 2003 was her best year on the track, when she won the 100- and 200-meter races at the worlds. But she cried as she remembered seeing herself in the newspapers and on TV.

"I look at that person and I'm like, 'That's not Kelli White. That's not who I am, who I started out to be,"' she said in USA Today.

White said the culture of doping in sports is so pervasive that she felt compelled to cheat to have any chance of winning.

"I have no clue what it's going to take to change that," she was quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

White and Conte were scheduled to appear on ABC's "20/20" Friday night in separate segments of a show devoted to BALCO.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press