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Thursday, March 30, 2006

BALCO Chief Victor Conte: Book "Game of Shadows" "Is Full Of Lies" - Conte Released From Jail

Wow, this is the real smoking gun in the form of BALCO Chief Victor Conte, who upon being released from jail, held a press conference to declare that the book "Game of Shadows," which claims that Barry Bonds used steroids, is "full of lies." It comes one day after my post on my book review.

Here's the article from MLB.com

SAN MATEO, Calif. (AP) -- BALCO founder Victor Conte insisted Thursday that he never gave performance-enhancing drugs to Barry Bonds and that a new book that makes those claims is "full of outright lies."
Conte spoke to The Associated Press outside his San Mateo home hours after his release from prison, where he spent four months after pleading guilty to orchestrating an illegal steroids distribution scheme that allegedly involved many high-profile athletes, including Bonds.

Asked whether he gave Bonds performance-enhancing drugs, Conte said: "No, I did not."

A new book, "Game of Shadows," by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, chronicles the founding of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and details alleged extensive steroid use by Bonds and other baseball stars. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday that former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will lead an investigation into the claims.

"I plan to provide evidence in the near future to prove that much of what is written in the book is untrue," Conte told The AP. He declined to list specific inaccuracies or what evidence he would provide, but said the book is "about the character assassination of Barry Bonds and myself."

"It's my opinion that the two writers of the book have a disease called fabrication-itis," Conte said, holding a copy of "Game of Shadows" as he stood on his front steps.

The book's authors, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, were on an airplane Thursday and not available for comment.

Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for Gotham Books, which published "Game of Shadows," said: "Gotham Books stands by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, and we stand by their research."

"We stand by the reporting that Mark and Lance did throughout this story and in all the stories that were published in the paper," Chronicle executive vice president and editor Phil Bronstein said. "And if and when Mr. Conte speaks further about this, I'm sure we'll report about that as well."

Conte was picked up by his family after his 5:30 a.m. release from Taft Correctional Institution, about 40 miles southwest of Bakersfield, according to spokeswoman Mandy Ruff.

About five hours later, Conte arrived at his green two-story house in San Mateo, about 20 miles south of San Francisco, in a white sports utility vehicle with darkened windows.

Wearing blue jeans, a red sweat shirt and a baseball cap, Conte said "it feels great" to be out of prison. He said prison was "like a men's retreat," during which he read, gave music lessons to fellow inmates, coached a sprinting team and participated in a debate about steroids.

Conte founded and managed the Burlingame-based BALCO, where the steroids were sold. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge, and dozens of other charges were dropped as part of his plea deal.

Conte was sentenced in October to four months in prison and four months' home confinement in a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Baseball investigators could seek to interview Conte about steroid use in the game.

Bond, who has denied using steroids, was the most prominent athlete linked to BALCO. He testified in December 2003 to the federal grand jury investigating the case but has not been charged with a crime.

Other baseball players linked to BALCO include Yankees stars Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.

Olympic track and field stars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery and former NFL player Bill Romanowski also were called to testify in front of the grand jury. No athletes were charged in the scheme.

Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, was sentenced to three months behind bars and an additional three months of home confinement after pleading guilty to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge.

BALCO vice president James Valente was sentenced to three years' probation, and track coach Remi Korchemny received a year of probation.

ESPN Gets It Right - MLB Commissioner Selig Pulls The Trigger: Established Steriod Use Investigation Headed By George Mitchell

Yesterday, I accused ESPN of trying to push the Commissioner of Major League Baseball to take action on the basis of what I contend is a poorly presented book claiming that one player -- Barry Bonds -- used steroids.

Well, unlike the last time, ESPN did get this right. Check out the news below and with a click to the link that is the title of this post.

03/30/2006 2:00 PM ET
Selig announces steroid investigation
Former Sen. George Mitchell named to head probe into past drug use
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig has named former Sen. George Mitchell to head a full-scale investigation into the past use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
The announcement came at a press conference at the Commissioner's office on Thursday.

The probe was spurred by recent allegations made in a book that targets San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, among a number of other former Major Leaguers.

The book, entitled "Game of Shadows," alleges that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs beginning in 1998 for a five-year period, which includes 2001, when he hit 73 home runs to set a single-season record.

Bonds has been the focal point of controversy since leaked grand jury testimony during the 2004-2005 offseason linked him to steroid use. Bonds will resume his chase of the all-time career homer record when the Giants open their season against the Padres in San Diego on Monday. Bonds, at 708, is six homers in arrears of Babe Ruth and 47 behind Hank Aaron, the all-time leader with 755.

All the players involved will be allowed to play while the probe is under way.

MLB did not have random testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs prior to 2003, though Selig circulated memos during the 1990s stating that the use of those drugs by players was strictly prohibited and could be cause for discipline. The players association would not collectively bargain the issue at the time.

Don Fehr, the executive director of the union, said on Monday that under those terms, players could only be tested and penalized when MLB officials had "just cause" to believe a Major Leaguer was doing such drugs. MLB never announced player penalties then and have not reported that either Bonds, Giambi or Sheffield have failed a drug test since the twice re-written MLB drug policy went into effect four years ago.

What discipline Selig can hand out after the investigation is complete is a matter of conjecture. The union has a representational obligation to any of the players involved, Fehr said.

"I hope nobody is making judgments about the inquiry before it's done," said Fehr, who met with Bonds at his Scottsdale Stadium locker for 20 minutes on Monday after the union's annual spring session with the Giants players. "Bud will make whatever decision Bud makes and we'll go from there."

The book, which was written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who covered the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), says Bonds used a host of steroid-based drugs to improve his strength, play and recovery time from injuries.

The authors say Sheffield and Giambi were also extensive steroid users and link the pair to Bonds and his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who was indicted in the BALCO case, pled guilty to reduced charges, and was sentenced to jail time. Victor Conte, the president of the now-defunct company, also pled to lesser charges and served a four-month prison sentence. In a bit of ironic timing, Conte was being released Thursday.

Earlier this month, after excerpts of the book were published in Sports Illustrated, Selig said he would review all the pertinent information pertaining to Bonds' alleged steroid use and reserve comment about it. Selig has been under increased pressure from Congressional leaders and the media to open an investigation into just what happened in the Major Leagues during the era that began in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased and broke Roger Maris' single-season, 37-year-old home run record of 61.

Bonds missed all but 14 games of the 2005 season after having surgery three times on his right knee. Bonds returned on Sept. 12 and hit five homers in his first 36 at-bats.

He has hit four more this spring in 16 at-bats while batting .625. Though Bonds has not played since Friday because of inflammation in his left elbow, he is expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday night when the Giants play an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels at San Francisco's newly renamed AT&T Park.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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