Drugs In Sport: Prison sentence for Balco head

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The Independent Online

Conte will spend four months in prison and four months in home confinement in the deal negotiated with US government prosecutors. Two of the three remaining defendantswere also due to be sentenced.

Conte started the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which court records show counted dozens of prominent athletes among its clients, including major league baseball's Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, Olympic track champion Marion Jones and others. The case prompted professional sports to stiffen anti-doping policies and thrust performance-enhancing drugs into the spotlight. THG, a once-unknown steroid discovered in the investigation, is now banned throughout US sports.

Conte pleaded guilty in July to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge; dozens of counts were dropped.

James Valente, Balco's vice-president, was expected to get probation at yesterday's hearing after pleading guilty to reduced charges of steroid distribution. Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' trainer, was expected to be sentenced to up to six months.

US attorney Kevin Ryan in San Francisco has said the plea deals were spurred in part by weak steroid laws and by the fact that some of the chemicals were not banned at the time.

Track coach Remi Korchemny is expected to get probation at a later date.

The authorities are now targeting the alleged Balco suppliers. Last month, the authorities raided a laboratory in Illinois headed by Patrick Arnold, who is known for introducing the steroid precursor androstenedione to the US.