Feds Charge Four in Steroid Scheme

Baseball power house Barry Bonds' (search) personal trainer was charged Thursday with running an illegal steroid racket.

A world-renowned track coach and top executives of a San Francisco-area nutritional supplements lab were also charged in a 42-count federal indictment returned by a grand jury in San Francisco.

The indictment alleges the scheme provided anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin and other drugs to Major League Baseball (search) and National Football League (search) players, as well as elite track and field stars.

No athletes were charged or named in the court documents.

Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) announced the indictment at a news conference with Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Mark McClellan, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark Everson and California law enforcement officials.

Raw Data: U.S. v. Conte, et al. (pdf)

"Illegal steroid use calls into question not only the integrity of the athletes who use them, but also the integrity of the sports that those athletes play," Ashcroft said. "Steroids are bad for sports, they're bad for players, they're bad for young people who hold athletes up as role models."

Ashcroft said the "co-conspirators" distributed one steroid called "The Clear," to athletes on the selling point that the substance would provide steroid-like effects without causing a positive drug test.

Another steroid distributed, called "The Cream," included a substance that masked an athlete's use of the drug during testing.

The indictment names as defendants Victor Conte Jr., 53, the president and chief executive officer of the Bay Area Lab Cooperative, or BALCO (search), and its vice president, 49-year-old James J. Valente. Also indicted were Bonds' personal trainer, 37-year-old Greg F. Anderson, and Remi Korchemny, one of the world's top track coaches.

The charges include conspiracy to distribute steroids, possession of human growth hormone, misbranding drugs with intent to defraud and money laundering.

Steroids allow someone to more quickly become bigger, stronger and faster than through conventional training. An affidavit from an IRS agent who investigated the case cites e-mails from Conte to unidentified athletes indicating that the scheme was aimed at fooling drug-testing programs used by pro sports leagues, the Olympics and other competitions.

According to the affidavit, the four were involved in the scheme between December 2001 and Sept. 3, 2003, in which steroids were distributed to athletes on six different occasions.

The defendants allegedly hid their activities by using false names on mailing labels and by referring to the drugs using a coded shorthand. In addition, authorities say the men provided the athletes with cover stories.

The defendants each face long prison terms and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if convicted on all counts. Conte's attorney, Troy Ellerman, said the charges came as no surprise.

"We've expected it. It's no secret they were going to indict him," Ellerman said.

A parade of top athletes, ranging from Bonds and New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi to Olympic track star Marion Jones to boxer Shane Mosley, appeared before the grand jury probing BALCO and Anderson from late October to mid-December.

Five track and field athletes face two-year suspensions for use of one substance, tetrahydragestrinone, or THG. Four Oakland Raiders football players also flunked tests for the steroid, which was unmasked by anti-doping officials last summer.

The steroid was discovered only after an unidentified track coach gave the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency a syringe containing a substance that ultimately was identified as THG. That coach said Conte gave him the substance. Conte has denied the accusation.

BALCO has claimed it takes blood and urine samples from athletes and then prescribes a regimen of supplements to compensate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Bonds and other top athletes such as Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski have been boosters of Conte and BALCO. Bonds has been a client since before the 2001 season, when he set the single-season home run record of 73.

Bonds, 39, has been working for years with Anderson, a boyhood friend.

"I visit BALCO every three to six months. They check my blood to make sure my levels are where they should be. Maybe I need to eat more broccoli than I normally do. Maybe my zinc and magnesium intakes need to increase," Bonds said in last June's issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine.

"Victor will call me to make sure I'm taking my supplements, and my trainer Greg will sit near my locker and stare at me if I don't begin working out right away. I have these guys pushing me."

Conte is no stranger to the spotlight.

When four separate tests before the 2000 Sydney Olympics (search) showed U.S. shot putter C.J. Hunter had 1,000 times the allowable amount of the steroid nandrolone in his system, Conte took the blame, claiming the positive tests were the result of contaminated iron supplements he had supplied to Hunter, Jones' former husband.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.