Meet The Godfather of "Legal Steroids".
It’s been a few years now since the BALCO investigation ended but have you ever wondered what happened to the people involved in this very controversial case? The case served as an eye opener for the anti-doping authorities and sports organizations in the country. It also led to the conviction of several people who were involved in the distribution of designer steroids. Professional athletes were sanctioned, banned and forfeited their records. Some of them were even jailed for lying about steroid use. It was considered as one of the successful effort of the government in dismantling the dangerous distribution of steroids to professional athletes. The BALCO BALCO or the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative was once a popular company for professional athletes in the country. BALCO provided them with products that effectively improve performance and at the same time goes undetected in the drug testing. Most of the players were given “the clear” and “the cream.” These were designer steroids produced by BALCO under the supervision of its founder Victor Conte. What happened to Conte? The BALCO founder spent time in jail after pleading guilty to illegal distribution of anabolic steroids. After serving his jail time, Conte established another supplement company, SNAC Nutrition. He now claims that all his products are clean of any designer steroid. He is also working with the US Anti-Doping Agency in its effort to curtail the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in sports. Conte is also working as training and conditioning coach of some prominent athletes. Some of the athletes who are currently using the supplements and services of Conte are WBC boxing champion Nonito Donaire and Chicago Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd. Both players are being criticized for working with Conte but they are not worried about a possible positive steroid test. They believe the supplements from Conte are clean of any banned substances. Other personalities connected to BALCO were chemist Patrick Arnold and Greg Anderson, the former trainer of Barry Bonds. Arnold was jailed for 4 months. He was responsible for the creation of the designer steroid THG that was undetected at that time. He is now working for supplement companies E-Pharm Nutrition and Prototype Nutrition. According to Mercury News, Arnold criticized the government for wasting money on prosecuting Bonds. Coaches and Trainers Coaches and trainers were also responsible why many professional athletes were involved in the BALCO case. They introduced BALCO products to their players. Some of these players contend they don’t know that the supplements were tainted with steroids. Greg Anderson is facing contempt because of his continued refusal in testifying against Barry Bonds. He may end up in jail for the third time. Anderson is also reported to be working with Conte. Track and field coach Trevor Graham is banned in the sport and given a year of house arrest after he lied to BALCO investigators. He was reported doing a part time job as a school bus driver. Sprint coach Remi Korchemny was sentenced to 1 year probation. He retired in the tract and field in 2007 as part of a deal with the USADA. He is now working with Conte and part of the coaching team of boxing champ Donaire. The Professional Athletes The clients of BALCO came from the different field of sports. Some of the athletes who lost their career because of their ties with the company were Olympian sprinters Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, and Antonio Pettigrew. Jones is building her new career in the WNBA. She is also active in outreach projects helping students. She recently published a book “On the Right Track.” Montgomery is currently serving his jail time for his involvement in check fraud and dealing with prohibited drug. Pettigrew committed suicide last August. These players were both stripped off their medals and records. The former NFL star player Bill Romanowski who also admitted taking supplements from BALCO is now running Nutrition53, a supplement company. Baseball’s home run king Barry Bonds also took supplements from BALCO but he persists he did not knowingly use anabolic steroids. He is facing perjury, giving false statements, and obstruction of Congress. His trial starts on March 21. Other professional athletes who were involved in the BALCO case were Olympian sprinter Alvin Harrison, Regina Jacob, Shane Mosley and Jason Giambi. The Steroid Hunters And who will forget the chief investigator in the BALCO case. The IRS agent Jeff Novitsky became well known for his uncanny methods in digging evidences in the BALCO case. He is now connected with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and currently handling another controversial case, the doping in cycling which involved Lance Armstrong. Another well known figure in the anti-doping investigation is Don Catlin of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory. He is now the CEO of Anti-Doping Research. His latest publication has alarmed health experts because Catlin’s research showed that anybody can still purchase steroids from online sites particularly Amazon. A report from SI also insinuated that Catlin may have helped Armstrong cover his positive drug tests in the 1990’s which Catlin denied.
Victor Conte, the Johnny Appleseed of designer steroids, is back in business.
Witness the new $190,000 Bentley parked outside the building that once housed the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, where federal agents uncovered a massive steroids ring and sparked professional sports’ highest-profile drug scandal.
Since leaving prison little more than a year ago, Conte and his 22-year-old daughter have revived a nutritional supplements business he launched two decades ago called Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning — SNAC for short.
They’re mainly hawking a zinc- and magnesium-based powder called ZMA that’s a staple for serious weightlifters who use it to repair damaged tissue and to sleep better. It’s legal and available through about two dozen distributors. Conte never has been at a loss for words, especially when it comes to self promotion.
“I’m feeling much better and the passion has come back,” he says. “Things are going well.” Conte said sales have increased 20 percent in the last year and that SNAC rings up about $300,000 a month. Many of his best customers have been professional athletes, he says, including Barry Bonds, still the prime target of the federal investigators who sent Conte to jail for four months for illegal steroids distribution. Bonds declined interview requests for this story while the San Francisco Giants were at Dodger Stadium earlier this week.
A 4-year-old photograph of Bonds and the slugger’s personal trainer, Greg Anderson, graces the home page of the SNAC Web site. Bonds and Anderson are wearing shirts and hats emblazoned with the ZMA logo. Anderson has pleaded guilty to steroids distribution and is now in prison for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating whether Bonds committed perjury when he testified that he unknowingly took steroids. “I’m absolutely a huge fan of Barry Bonds,” Conte says. He hasn’t spoken with Bonds for some time “for obvious reasons,” but Conte says the baseball player never has objected to SNAC using his image to sell ZMA. While Conte also boasts that many professional football players use ZMA, the product is not on the NFL’s approved supplements list and teams are precluded from officially handing out ZMA. That doesn’t stop Conte from dropping the names of athletes and teams and implying in his cagey manner that the rich and famous are clamoring for his product.
But for anti-doping authorities, Conte and BALCO forever will remain synonymous with high-tech cheating in sports “I certainly am not going to glamorize Victor Conte,” said Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which polices illegal drugs in U.S. amateur sports. “In the past, he has done some horrible things.” Conte remains defiant about his central role in doling out designer steroids to elite athletes endlessly searching for even the tiniest edge. He maintains he simply helped “level the playing field” in a world already rife with cheaters.
To Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Conte may as well have been pushing cocaine or heroin. “You are talking about totally illegal drug trafficking, you are talking about using drugs in violation of federal law,” Wadler said. “This is not philanthropy and this is not some do-gooding. This is drug dealing.” Such attitudes have a lot to do with why Conte no longer uses the BALCO name and has taken down the infamous BALCO sign, which was easily seen from Highway 101 and where tourists once posed for photographs flexing their biceps like body builders. In its place is a small sign that hangs above the nondescript front door.
The office space inside is half of what it was when Conte was shipping the undetectable steroid THG to athletes around the world. However modest the business now appears, its proprietor remains anything but. Conte says he’s often recognized in public.
“I’m a high-profile guy now,” says the former bassist for Tower of Power and jazzman Herbie Hancock. “People approach me wherever I go on a daily basis.” He says he taught music to fellow inmates and organized a prison track team at the minimum security Taft Correctional Institution.
“My guys always won,” he says. The hallway at SNAC is lined with game jerseys of pro athletes, and signed photographs, including track stars Tim Montgomery, Kelli White and CJ Hunter, all punished for doping. There's also Marion Jones, who Conte is pointing out in this photo.
“To BALCO,” reads the inscription on a photograph of baseball player A.J. Pierzynski from when he was a Minnesota Twin. “Thanks for all the help.” Pierzynski originally was ordered to testify before the grand jury that indicted Conte, but was dismissed without testifying and never has been accused of any wrongdoing. Chris Cooper’s Raiders jersey also hangs on the wall, inscribed with “thanks for keeping me in good health and bringing me to the top of my game.” Cooper tested positive for THG and was fined by the NFL in 2004.
The chunky Rolex hanging from Conte’s wrist is an extravagant taunt to his enemies in sport and government, whom he says sought his ruin. Then, of course, there’s the Bentley and a similarly fast Mercedes parked at home he likes to show off. The cars can reach 100 mph in about the time it takes a sprinter to cover 100 meters, and the Bentley tops out at 200 mph. But he doesn’t plan to be caught speeding. “I’m a person who doesn’t break laws anymore,” he says with a sly grin and the same carnival barker audacity he used to defend athletes caught using his performance-enhancing drugs. “But I still do like to look fast.”Meet The Godfather of "Legal Steroids". It’s been a few years now since the BALCO investigation ended but have you ever wondered what happened to the people involved in this very controversial case? The case served as an eye opener for the anti-doping authorities and sports organizat...