Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative

Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative

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The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) was an American company founded and owned by Victor Conte. In 2003, journalists Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada investigated the company's role in a drug sports scandal later referred to as the BALCO Affair. BALCO marketed tetrahydrogestrinone ("the Clear"), a then-undetectable, performance-enhancing steroid developed by chemist Patrick Arnold. Conte, BALCO vice president James Valente, weight trainer Greg Anderson and coach Remi Korchemny had supplied a number of high-profile sports stars from the United States and Europe with the Clear and human growth hormone for several years.

BALCO was founded in 1984, and its Headquarter was in Burlingame, California. Officially, BALCO was a service business for blood and urine analysis and food supplements. In 1988, Victor Conte offered free blood and urine tests to a group of athletes known as the BALCO Olympians. He then was allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. From 1996 Conte worked with well-known American football star Bill Romanowski, who proved to be useful to establish new connections to athletes and coaches such as Korchemny. Conte and Korchemny shortly thereafter founded the ZMA Track Club for marketing purposes, well-known members of it being sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. In 2000, Conte managed to contact American baseball star Barry Bonds via Greg Anderson, a coach working in a nearby fitness studio. Bonds then delivered contacts to other baseball professionals. [1]

The scandal

In 2003, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California began investigating BALCO. Coach Trevor Graham made an anonymous phone call to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in June 2003 accusing a number of athletes being involved in doping with a steroid that was not detectable at the time. He also named Victor Conte as the source of the steroid. As evidence, Graham delivered a syringe containing traces of tetrahydrogestrinone, nicknamed "the Clear."

Shortly after, Don Catlin, the founder and then-director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory and now head of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization Anti-Doping Research, succeeded in identifying and developing a testing process for tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Once he was able to detect THG, he tested 550 existing samples from athletes, of which 20 proved to be positive for THG.

On September 3, 2003 agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Food and Drug Administration, San Mateo Narcotics Task Force, and USADA conducted a house search at the BALCO facilities. Beside lists of BALCO customers in a BALCO field warehouse they found containers whose labels indicated steroids and growth hormones. In a house search at Anderson's place two days later, steroids, $60,000 in cash, names lists and dosage plans were found.

BALCO's records showed customers from a number of sports, and included the following from track and field: Hammer thrower John McEwen, shot putters Kevin Toth and C. J. Hunter, sprinters Dwain Chambers, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Raymond J. Smith and Kelli White, and middle-distance runner Regina Jacobs.

Patrick Arnold, BALCO's chemist, alleges that baseball players Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield were given "the Clear," though the athletes deny knowing about it and Arnold does not claim to have personally witnessed it. [2]

In April 2005, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada were honored with the journalist prize of the White House Correspondents' Association. In 2006, they published the book Game of Shadows,[3] which consists of a summary of about 200 interviews and 1,000 documents they collected for their research.

On July 15, 2005, Conte and Anderson agreed to plea bargains, pled guilty to illegal steroid distribution and money laundering and avoided an embarrassing trial. Conte spent four months in prison. [4] Anderson was incarcerated for 13 1/2 months. He was released on Nov. 15, 2007, the same day Bonds was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.[5]

On June 6, 2006, the house of baseball player Jason Grimsley (Arizona Diamondbacks) was searched as part of the ongoing BALCO probe. Grimsley later said that federal investigators wanted him to wear a wire in order to obtain information against Barry Bonds. He told people which players used performance-enhancing drugs. When the dust cleared, Grimsley was released by the Diamondbacks and was given a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball.

In October 2006, the reporters Fainaru-Wada and Williams were served with subpoenas to appear before a grand jury to identify the individual who leaked Bonds' name to them. They refused to do so and federal prosecutors asked that they be jailed for up to 18 months (the typical term of a grand jury).[6] [7] [8] However, in February 2007, federal prosecutors dropped charges against the reporters after a Colorado attorney, Troy Ellerman, who once represented Conte and another executive of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, admitted to leaking the testimony and pleaded guilty to federal charges of unauthorized disclosure of grand jury testimony.[9]

On May 29, 2008, Trevor Graham was convicted by a federal jury on one count of lying to federal investigators about his relationship to an admitted steroids dealer, and the jury deadlocked on two other charges.[10] He was sentenced to one year of home confinement, a $5,000 fine, and five years of probation.[11]

External links


  1. Mark Fainaru-Wada, Lance Williams: Barry Bonds: Anatomy of a scandal. San Francisco Chronicle, 25. December 2003
  2. Chemist Says Sheffield and Bonds Used Drugs, Michael Schmidt, New York Times, 25 July 2007
  3. Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada (March 23, 2006). Game of Shadows. Gotham. ISBN 1592401996. 
  4. BALCO founder Conte released from prison, Associated Press, 31 March 2006
  5. Bonds indicted on perjury, obstruction of justice charges, Lance Williams, Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 November 2007
  6. Maik Grossekathöfer: Leck im System., Der Spiegel, 40/2006, S. 140, (German)
  7. Reporters in BALCO Case Sentenced to Jail, ESPN, 22 September 2006
  8. Reporters Must Testify Over Bonds Leak, USA Today, 15 August 2006
  9. Egelko, Bob (February 14, 2007). Attorney pleads guilty to leaking BALCO testimony. The San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. Dubow, Josh; Paul Elias and Raf Casert (2008-05-30). Track coach Graham convicted in BALCO probe. Tampa Bay Online. Retrieved on 2008-05-30.
  11. "Disgraced Trevor Graham placed under house arrest", London Times, October 22, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-07.