Victor Conte

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Victor Conte
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

Let's go back and set the stage for what happened last Friday night. A couple of years ago, a coach anonymously sent a sample of a supposed nutritional supplement to the UCLA lab that tests for performance enhancing drugs. The supplement had been manufactured and distributed out of a lab in Northern California, named BALCO. The substance had been taken at that point by several track and field athletes of Olympic caliber, several Major League Baseball players, some NFL players, and a handful of other athletes from other sports. The UCLA lab decoded the supplement, discovered it to be an illegal steroid, and named it THG. Several of the athletes known to have taken THG have since received sanctions. And several of those athletes have been found to have taken a few other illegal substances as well, also provided by the BALCO lab.

Following two years of investigations, the federal government has now charged four men with distributing illegal substances from BALCO to athletes. One of the men is Greg Anderson, superstar Barry Bonds' personal trainer. Anderson evidently provided Bonds with two substances, with street monikers of &quotthe; clear" and &quotthe; cream&quot.; Bonds has admitted using both but says he had no idea they were steroids. We know Bonds to be fastidious in his work-out routines, his diet, all his programs, so his proclaimed innocence in not knowing what he was taking does stretch the imagination. Another of the indicted four, a coach, got young track talent Kelli White onto a cycle of four substances which she admits now instantly catapulted her into a zone of speed and recovery she had never approached before.

Another man under indictment is the head of BALCO. His name is Victor Conte, Jr. Walking out of a courtroom last week, a reporter yelled through the crowd to Conte's lawyer and asked why his client agreed to a national television interview on ABC's prime time magazine, 20/20. Conte's lawyer was stunned and furious. You don't go public at a time you're being charged with crimes that could bring serious consequences. But Conte in fact gave the hour-long interview to 20/20 last Friday night and I, for one, found the whole thing abhorrent. Conte and ABC.

The reporter was the one who infiltrated and then exposed and betrayed Michael Jackson's camp for the sake of a power ratings interview. The music was dark and ominous. The lighting reminded one of a Boris Karloff flick. It looked more like The National Enquirer than ABC News. We didn't learn what motivated Conte and his colleagues to get into the business of pushing illegal substances to athletes. That would have been insightful. Let's hear from the criminal mind how he was perhaps a would-be athlete all through his youth and at BALCO he finally got the chance to not only rub elbows with the elite, but to also help them reach goals beyond their wildest dreams. But we didn't hear any of these self-revelations from Victor Conte. He spent his prime time hour in near apoplectic glee as he sullied the name and image of track sensation Marion Jones. He said he taught her how to inject human Growth hormone subcutaneously and then watched her perform the injection into her own quadriceps muscle. He said she should win an Oscar for the lies she told to the Grand Jury, to whom she swore she has never taken an illegal substance in her life.

Well, maybe Marion Jones has been a cheat. Maybe we'll find out Barry Bonds has been a cheat all along, too. But did we need tawdry tabloid television to allow a man, obviously intoxicated by his 15 minutes of fame, to drag down the athletes he hooked in the first place?

Why don't you just step up and confess your own dirty doings, Mr. Conte, instead of pointing the finger of blame at the young people you persuaded to join you in the netherworld?

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.



Diana Nyad