- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 14, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys for four men who pleaded not guilty yesterday to distributing steroids to athletes said it was outrageous none of those sports stars was charged.

The government charged that the four illegally supplied performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of athletes in the NFL, baseball and track and field. No athletes were named in the indictments, though dozens testified before a grand jury last year.

Those indicted Thursday were Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative at the center of the case; James Valente, BALCO’s vice president; personal trainer Greg Anderson; and world-class track coach Remi Korchemny, whose sprinters won gold medals but then flunked drug tests.

Conte’s attorney, Robert Holley, said the four indicted men were scapegoats.

“It’s like going after a fly with a bazooka, and there’s a lot of other flies around,” Holley said. “Even if they take down Conte, it won’t change the system.”

Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James set bail at $100,000 for Conte, Valente and Korchemny and $25,000 for Anderson, then released them on their own recognizance until at least Feb.27 — when they will return to show they can post their bond.

All four defendants refused comment as they left the courthouse.

Troy Ellerman, another of Conte’s attorneys, ridiculed comments made by Attorney General John Ashcroft that such prosecutions are needed to eliminate drugs from sport.

“How do you preserve any of that if you don’t go after the athletes?” Ellerman asked outside the courthouse. “They haven’t been indicted, and they’re making all the money, and they’re at the top of the game.”

Though offered limited immunity in exchange for their testimony, athletes still could face perjury charges if prosecutors believe they lied about drug use to the grand jury. Baseball slugger Barry Bonds, track star Marion Jones and other major sports figures were among athletes who testified.

“Ultimately, action like yesterday’s by grand jury members and prosecutors will also be necessary to choke off the sources and supplies of these poisons which can seduce our athletes and disillusion our fans,” baseball commissioner Bud Selig said.

Anderson’s attorney, Bill Rapoport, said President Bush’s mention of steroids in his State of the Union address and Ashcroft’s news conference show the case has become politicized.

Federal prosecutors said the accused men gave their drugs code names, wrote e-mails worded carefully to avoid detection and even provided athletes with cover stories if caught.

The charges include conspiracy to distribute steroids, possession of human growth hormone, misbranding drugs with intent to defraud and money laundering.

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