- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

Barry Bonds’ personal trainer and a coach for some of the world’s top track stars were among four people charged yesterday with running a steroid distribution ring that provided performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of athletes.

A 42-count indictment returned by a grand jury in San Francisco described in detail how a nutritional supplements lab — Bay Area Lab Cooperative or BALCO — allegedly provided the drugs from December 2001 to September 2003 to major league baseball and NFL players, Olympic-caliber track stars and bodybuilders.

No sports figures were named, but Attorney General John Ashcroft left open the possibility some could be charged later.

The indictment names Bonds’ trainer, 37-year-old Greg F. Anderson, and Remi Korchemny, 71, a top track coach whose roster includes Kelli White, a sprinter who faces forfeiture of world championship gold medals after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

“I am saddened by the news of the indictment against my trainer and friend,” Bonds said in a statement. “I don’t know the state of the evidence and it would be inappropriate to comment on this matter.”

Also named are Victor Conte Jr., 53, and president and chief executive officer of BALCO, and its vice president, 49-year-old James J. Valente.

Ashcroft said the public’s confidence in athletes and their sports has been undermined by questions about how some players attained their greatness.

“Illegal steroid use calls into question not only the integrity of the athletes who use them but also the integrity of the sports that those athletes play,” he said. “Steroids are bad for sports, they’re bad for players, they’re bad for young people who hold athletes up as role models.”

Terry Madden, chief executive office of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which provides testing for American Olympic athletes, hailed the case as a step toward “removing drug cheats from sport.”

“We fully expect that developments in the U.S. attorney’s proceedings and our ongoing investigation will lead to the initiation of more doping cases against athletes and others,” he said.

Major League Baseball officials declined to comment. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has a year-round random testing program for players and imposes immediate suspensions on those who test positive for banned substances.

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL players union, said he hoped the indictment sends a message to athletes.

“It’s illegal and you can get in trouble for it and they can’t avoid seeing that,” he said.

A parade of top athletes, ranging from Bonds to Olympic track star Marion Jones to boxer Shane Mosley, appeared before the grand jury probing BALCO and Anderson from late October to mid-December.

Sports leagues have struggled to keep up with the rising use of performance-enhancing drugs and ways of masking them as athletes continue to look for quick ways to gain competitive advantage.

After repeated scandals among track athletes, this summer’s Olympics are billed as having the best and most expensive testing in history.

Baseball players have gotten noticeably larger in recent years, and home runs totals have surged.

Bonds and other top athletes, such as Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski, have been boosters of Conte and BALCO. Bonds has been a client since before the 2001 season, when he hit a record 73 home runs.

Bonds has been working for years with Anderson, a boyhood friend. Bonds has vehemently denied taking anything illegal.

“I visit BALCO every three to six months. They check my blood to make sure my levels are where they should be. Maybe I need to eat more broccoli than I normally do. Maybe my zinc and magnesium intakes need to increase,” Bonds said in last June’s issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine.

“Victor will call me to make sure I’m taking my supplements, and my trainer Greg will sit near my locker and stare at me if I don’t begin working out right away. I have these guys pushing me,” he said.

Steroids are compounds that are similar to the male hormone testosterone and are used by athletes to get bigger, stronger and faster than they can through traditional training.

Health experts say steroids can have many dangerous side effects, including cancer, liver damage and problems in children such as enlarged breasts in boys and irreversible male characteristics in girls.

Culmination of the 18-month investigation came three weeks after President Bush’s call in his State of the Union address for U.S. sports leagues to adopt tougher anti-doping policies. Ashcroft said the Justice Department will look for other cases to pursue.

Conte also runs a company called Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning, or SNAC, that lists on its Internet site clients such as Bonds, former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, Jones, White and the entire Seattle SuperSonics basketball team from 1992 to 1994.

The charges include conspiracy to distribute steroids, possession of human growth hormone, misbranding drugs with intent to defraud and money laundering. The four defendants, each of whom face long prison terms and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if convicted, have an initial court appearance today in San Francisco.

The drugs involved included anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, modafinil and tetrahydragestrinone, or THG, a substance the Food and Drug Administration last October called an illegal, untested drug that could pose serious health risks.

The indictment alleges that the conspiracy involved misbranding THG to cover up its true nature and marketed it to athletes as an undetectable steroid. The four are also charged with distributing a mixture dubbed “the cream” that masked steroid use and with providing athletes with cover stories in return for endorsement of legitimate products.

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