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Balco Head Offers to Spill the Beans to Avoid Jail -- June 16, 2004

By Phillip Whitten

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 16. VICTOR Conte, the head of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) and the main target of investigations into performance-enhancing drug use by top US athletes, has written a letter to President George W. Bush, offering to tell all to avoid a jail sentence, according to a story in today's San Jose Mercury.

The Mercury has consistently been the leader in uncovering the sordid facts surrounding the growing BALCO drugs scandal.

In his letter, copies of which were sent to Attorney General John Ashcroft as well as the US Anti-Drug Agency (USADA) and federal prosecutors, Conte offered to name US athletes, coaches and officials to whom he has supplied illegal, performance-enhancing drugs so the US can send a drug-free team to Athens in August.

In return, Conte wants to avoid going to prison. In his letter, he asked President Bush for assistance in his plea bargain negotiations with federal prosecutors in San Jose.

Conte was indicted on federal steroid distribution charges in February along with Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds's personal trainer, and Remi Korchemny, a track and field coach.

Talks between Conte and federal prosecutors reportedly have broken down and the USADA has been unsuccessful in obtaining Conte's cooperation.

A number of top US track and field athletes have already been implicated in the BALCO scandal, along with professional baseball and football players and trainers.

Sprinter Kelli White, double world champion last year, has already admitted using steroids obtained from Conte and accepted a two-year ban.

Track superstar Marion Jones, whose former husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, tested positive four times and has been banned, is herself under pressure to admit to using steroids she obtained from Conte. Jones, who has adamantly denied the accusations, still has not yet adequately explained a personal check she wrote to BALCO for more than $7,300.

Thus far, no swimmers have been implicated in the scandal, although Amy Van Dyken was called to testify before a US Grand Jury in San Francisco last November.