Korchemny pleads guilty to reduced charges

SAN FRANCISCO -- Remi Korchemny, the track coach ensnared in
the BALCO steroid scandal, pleaded guilty Friday to reduced
charges, a move that will likely keep him out of prison.

The expected plea, the fourth and final in the case, ends a drug
prosecution that prompted tighter testing rules in professional

Two weeks ago, the other three defendants pleaded guilty: Bay
Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte, vice president
James Valente and Greg Anderson, who is Barry Bonds' trainer.

They are scheduled to be sentenced in October. Conte faces eight
months confinement; Anderson six months and Valente and Korchemny
are looking at probation. U.S. District
Court Judge Susan Illston has not said whether she would approve of
any of the four plea agreements.

Korchemny, 73, of Castro Valley, was the coach of sprinters
Kelli White and Dwain Chambers, both of whom are serving drug

On July 15, Korchemny agreed to plead guilty with prosecutors,
but got cold feet as all four BALCO defendants waited for more than
an hour in the gallery before their cases were called.

On Friday, he pleaded to one misdemeanor count of doling out the
sleep-disorder drug modafinil, which athletes sometimes illegally
use to enhance performance, and prosecutors dropped dozens of other
charges. The charge carried a maximum one-year sentence.

The modafinil, and other illegal drugs he was accused of giving
his clients, was obtained from Conte, according to prosecutors.

"Did you know that these were illegal performance enhancing
drugs," Judge Illston asked Korchemny. "Yes I do," he answered.

His attorney, Alan Dressler, said afterward that "it's a fair
agreement." Prosecutors declined comment, but said they entered
into plea agreements with the other three defendants because of
weak criminal penalties for distributing performance-enhancing

The BALCO case, which began two years ago when authorities
learned about a new, undetected designer steroid, opened the
public's eyes to performance-enhancing drugs in sports while
forcing professional leagues to clamp down on illicit drugs.

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball toughened its
drug-testing policy, mandating suspensions for initial violations.
NFL, NBA, NHL and track and field also changed their rules.

While the case catapulted steroid use into a front-burner issue
from Capitol Hill to baseball clubhouses and from schools to living
rooms, the plea agreements prevented several key athletes suspected
of steroid use from having to testify in open court.

Some of the biggest names in sports -- including baseball stars
Bonds and Jason Giambi -- have been under a cloud of suspicion based
on BALCO grand jury transcripts that were leaked to the San
Francisco Chronicle, as well as public accusations against Olympic
star Marion Jones by Conte and others.

None of the athletes connected to the case publicly has admitted
steroid use, and pleas by the four defendants mean they won't have
to repeat their secret grand jury testimony in a public courtroom.

Conte, Anderson, Valente and Korchemny were charged last year
with dozens of counts in connection to federal raids at
Burlingame-based BALCO in 2003 and at Anderson's house in

Federal agents stated in court records they seized calendars and
other documents detailing the use of steroids by professional
baseball players during the search of Anderson's home. A federal
agent wrote in court papers that, during the raid at BALCO
headquarters, "Conte openly acknowledged giving testosterone-based
cream, itself a steroid, to numerous professional athletes."

The case is United States v. Korchemny, 04-0044.