BALCO founder, Victor Conte, sentenced to eight months

By David Kravets

SAN FRANCISCO – Victor Conte was sentenced to eight months yesterday as part of a plea deal for his role as mastermind behind a scheme to provide professional athletes with undetectable performance-enhancing drugs.

Conte will spend four months in prison and four months in home confinement in the deal negotiated with federal prosecutors. Two of the three remaining defendants in the case were expected to be sentenced later in the day.

Conte started the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which court records show counted dozens of prominent athletes among its clients, including Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Marion Jones and others. The case prompted pro sports to stiffen steroid policies and thrust performance-enhancing drugs into the spotlight. THG, a once-unknown steroid discovered in the investigation, is now banned throughout sports.

Conte pleaded guilty in July to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge; dozens of counts were dropped.

James Valente, BALCO’s vice president, was expected to get probation at yesterday’s hearing after pleading guilty to reduced charges of steroid distribution. Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds’ trainer, was expected to get up to six months yesterday after pleading guilty to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge.

U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan in San Francisco has said the plea deals were spurred in part by weak steroid laws and by the fact that some of the chemicals were not banned at the time.

Track coach Remi Korchemny is expected to get probation at a later sentencing date.

Still, authorities are now taking aim at the alleged BALCO suppliers.

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 U.S. Andro came to public attention in 1998 when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire said he used it when breaking baseball’s home run record.