Four plead innocent to steroid distribution charges

Saturday, February 14, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorneys for four men who pleaded innocent Friday to distributing steroids to athletes said it was outrageous that none of those sports stars has been charged.

The government alleged that the four illegally supplied performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of athletes in the NFL, baseball and track and field. No athletes were named in the indictments, though dozens testified before a grand jury last year.

Those indicted Thursday were Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative at the center of the case; James Valente, BALCO's vice president; personal trainer Greg Anderson; and world-class track coach Remi Korchemny.

Conte's attorney, Robert Holley, said the four indicted men were scapegoats.

"It's like going after a fly with a bazooka, and there's a lot of other flies around," Holley said. "Even if they take down Conte, it won't change the system."

Troy Ellerman, another of Conte's attorneys, ridiculed comments made by Attorney General John Ashcroft that such prosecutions are needed to eliminate drugs from sport.

"How do you preserve any of that if you don't go after the athletes?" Ellerman asked outside the courthouse. "They haven't been indicted and they're making all the money, and they're at the top of the game."

Though offered limited immunity in exchange for their testimony, athletes still could face perjury charges if prosecutors believe they lied to the grand jury. Baseball slugger Barry Bonds, track star Marion Jones were among athletes who testified.

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