Feds urge judge to accept plea deal in BALCO scandal

SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal prosecutors urged a federal judge
Monday to accept a plea bargain they made this summer with Victor
Conte, the central figure in the BALCO steroid scandal.

Prosecutors said Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory
Co-Operative in Burlingame, should get eight months for his lead
role in the scheme to give athletes undetectable
performance-enhancing drugs. That's the amount of time prosecutors
and Conte agreed to when the pleas were entered in July.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston is scheduled to sentence Conte
on Oct. 18.

To support the sentence, the authorities told Illston in a court
filing that steroid sentencing laws are weak, and that some of the
substances Conte and his co-defendants were distributing became
illegal only after the case was charged last year. They also point
out that Conte has no criminal record, and that the BALCO
investigation touched off a national furor over steroids that
forced professional and amateur sports to change drug policies.

"In light of the heightened national awareness of steroid
distribution to professional athletes and steroid abuse in
professional sports resulting from this prosecution, sentencing a
first-time offender such as the defendant to actual prison time ...
sends a significant and important message of deterrence,"
prosecutor Matthew A. Parrella wrote.

Under terms of Conte's deal, the authorities are recommending
four months' imprisonment and four months' home confinement.

BALCO vice president James Valente, Barry Bonds trainer Greg
Anderson and track coach Victor Korchemny also pleaded guilty to
reduced charges and are expected to receive possibly lighter
sentences at the same Oct. 18 hearing.

Some of the biggest names in sports -- including baseball stars
Bonds and Jason Giambi, and Marion Jones -- have been under a cloud
of suspicion since being implicated in the BALCO scandal. None of
the athletes connected to the case publicly has admitted steroid