- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Seems you can’t put a baseball star on trial without a mistrial.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens remain perfectly bookended, each with seven major awards, one mistrial and no guilty verdict assured of sticking.

Victor Conte, whose Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative sparked the government investigations of drugs and athletes, has had enough.

“It’s a huge waste of federal taxpayer dollars at this point,” he said Thursday during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t know the tab, but probably tens of millions of dollars at this point.”

Three months and a day after Bonds walked out of a San Francisco court room following a three-week trial and a muddled verdict that could result in a retrial, Clemens hustled out of a Washington, D.C., court room when a judge ruled federal prosecutors botched their case on Day 2, saying they made a mistake unworthy of a “first-year law student.”

As baseball’s gray eminence, Yogi Berra, would say, “it’s like deja vu all over again.”

When facing off against baseball players and their best-in-the-business legal teams, the Justice Department has struggled.

Conte, the BALCO president, was sentenced to four months in prison and four months’ home confinement after pleading guilty in 2005 to one count of steroid distribution and one count of money laundering. Bonds was a BALCO client, its most famous.

Conte has two points to make on Clemens.

“Let me just say it’s my opinion and only my opinion that Roger Clemens is guilty,” he offered.

But that doesn’t mean he thinks it should be a criminal matter.

“I believe that there are higher and better tasks than these trophy hunts of trying to take these big-name athletes and make examples of them,” Conte said. “Regardless of whether or not I think he’s guilty or not, we’ve reached a point where enough is enough and it’s time to move on. Back in 2003 or when they brought the case against myself and Barry Bonds, that was a different economic climate than it is today, post 2008.”

When IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, surfing through BALCO’s trash in 2002 or 2003, found a photograph of Conte and Bonds together in the magazine Muscle & Fitness, it sparked a legal pursuit that’s still ongoing.

Like a Rube Goldberg machine, one led to another. The BALCO investigation led to the book “Game of Shadows.” A week after the book was published in March 2006, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig hired former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to investigate steroids.

Mitchell published his report in December 2007, implicating Clemens based on statements from the pitcher’s former trainer, Brian McNamee, who was forced to cooperate by federal agents after he was tied to steroids by former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. Clemens‘ denials over the following week prompted a congressional committee to ask the pitcher and McNamee to testify, leading to a February hearing where Clemens repeated that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. The was followed by a referral to the Justice Department, a grand jury investigation and an indictment last August.

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