A report obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News indicates that the owner of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative told federal investigators he gave steroids to nearly 30 athletes, including Barry Bonds and track stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.
According to the newspapers, the document summarizes an Internal Revenue Service investigator's interview of Victor Conte last Sept. 3 during a search of the company, at which time Conte volunteered the names of the athletes.
Conte's lawyers confirmed to the NY Times on Monday that in the IRS report, Conte is quoted as saying he provided steroids to high-profile athletes.
But his lawyers claim the statements attributed the BALCO founder are fabrications and that Conte made no such admissions.
And they denied that Conte provided the names of 27 athletes -- among them Bonds, Jones, Montgomery, Kelli White and the Yankees' Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield -- to whom the report states he allegedly gave steroids.
"Victor Conte adamantly denies giving up any names of any athletes, period," Conte's attorney, Robert Holley, told the paper in a telephone interview.
Holley declined to respond when questioned whether Conte had admited or denied giving steroids to athletes.
The report, however, apparently does not say if any of the athletes used the substances -- THG, testosterone cream or both -- obtained from Conte.
The story on the Chronicle's Web site, quoting
sources who requested anonymity, said Conte told federal investigators
that Jones and Montgomery received the performance-enhancing
substances in exchange for endorsements of his nutritional supplement.
Conte's attorneys question the legality of the interview
and the veracity of the IRS agent's claims. His lawyers contend the IRS report is filled with fabrications and that Conte's statements have either been falsified or were coerced, as the IRS interview was conducted under intimidating circumstances and without a tape recorder.
"The coercive nature of that interview as well as the disputed contents of what the agents claim was said in that mysteriously unrecorded statement will be the subject of pretrial motions," defense lawyers Holley and Troy Ellerman said in a prepared statement.
Ellerman told the Times investigators were "drunk with power" and accused government officials of leaking information to influence potential jurors.
"If they had any confidence in the case, they'd keep quiet," Ellerman told the paper.
Ellerman said Conte was willing to take a lie-detector test to prove he and not provided the names of any athletes to authorities.
According to the Mercury News, Conte, in the report by IRS agent Jeff Novitzky and co-signed by San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force officer Jon Columbet, is quoted as saying:
Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, brought Bonds and several other baseball players to BALCO to obtain drugs at the beginning of the 2003 season. The steroids were the allegedly giving to Bonds in exchange for his endorsement of Conte's legal supplement, ZMA -- a zinc- and magnesium-based, legal nutritional product.
Conte allegedly gave Jones steroids for free in exchange for her endorsement of ZMA. Conte stopped working with Jones in 2001.
Conte gave Montgomery steroids in 2002 just before the sprinter set the world record in the 100ms, at 9.78 seconds, in Paris.
A lawyer for Conte told the Chronicle that the lab owner denied
ever providing information to federal agents about any specific
athletes receiving steroids.
Conte said in an e-mail message to The Associated Press that he couldn't
comment. Jones' publicist, Lewis Kay, could not be reached for
Jones' attorney, Joseph Burton, issued a statement saying the
Chronicle's story was wrong.
"Victor Conte is either lying or the statement was
involuntarily coerced. This is a character assassination of the
worst kind," Burton said.
"Marion has never had an endorsement deal of any kind with
Victor Conte or any of his businesses, and most specifically she
has never received any illegal substances from Conte in exchange
for her endorsement of his products."
Jones and Montgomery, both of whom testified last fall before a
federal grand jury that indicted Conte and three other men,
repeatedly have denied steroid use. All four indicted men have
Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield -- all of whom testified before the
grand jury -- have denied using steroids. No athlete has been
charged in the case.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.