Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo

Specially designed anabolic steroid that until a few weeks ago was undetectable.


Recommended Posts

Get set for biggest dope scandal ever

Host of sport stars test positive for specially designed steroid

Duncan Mackay

Saturday October 18, 2003

The Guardian

Visitors to the website of the San Francisco-based Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (Balco) could not fail to be impressed by the list of sporting superstars it claims to have helped achieve success with its range of nutritional products.

There is the Czech Ivan Lendl, one of the finest tennis players in history; the American sprinter Marion Jones, winner of a record five Olympic medals at the 2000 Sydney games; Barry Bonds, perhaps the most fearsome hitter in baseball; and John Elway of the Denver Broncos, arguably the greatest ever quarterback in American football.

They are a small part of a roster that reads like a who's who of world sport. Others the lab's founder, Victor Conte, has boasted of helping include the British sprinter Dwain Chambers, the fastest man in Europe and a contender for the 100m gold medal at the Athens Olympics next year.

Balco claims to have given Chambers, and all its clients, an edge over competitors with a unique approach to nutrition that ensured they reached peak performance when it mattered. But Balco has now become the focus of potentially the biggest doping scandal in sport since Ben Johnson was disqualified after testing positive at the 1988 Olympics following his victory in the 100m.

There is no suggestion that Chambers or any of the other athletes named on the website have been involved in any illegal practices, but by his association alone, it is a scandal that Chambers could find himself unwittingly drawn into.

The US anti-doping agency, an independent organisation that oversees drug testing in the country, said yesterday that some of America's most high-profile athletes have tested positive for a new, specially designed anabolic steroid that until a few weeks ago was undetectable. The agency believes the source of the steroid, known as tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, is Balco.

The agency's chief executive officer, Terry Madden, spoke of a widespread "conspiracy" involving chemists, coaches and athletes. "I know of no other drug bust that is larger than this involving the number of athletes involved," he said.

Mr Madden would not reveal how many athletes have tested positive and the names of most are a closely guarded secret. But the list is believed to include some of the biggest stars in sport - Olympic champions, world champions and world record holders. Only one competitor has so far been identified - Kevin Toth, the US shot put champion. He has refused to comment.

Athletes found guilty will face a minimum two-year suspension and potentially a life ban if the world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, concludes they have been part of a greater plot to cheat. If speculation is correct, the US track team for next summer's Olympics could be decimated, while Balco's association with other sports means this could be the doping scandal that dwarfs all that have gone before.


Anabolic steroids are popular with athletes, particularly in the sprint and strength events, because they help build muscle mass rapidly and enable competitors to recover quickly from hard training. An endless cat-and-mouse relationship exists between those who seek to cheat and those who try to stop them, and it is a battle that America has been regarded as less than committed to in the past.

The tale, which has the hallmarks of an espionage novel, started in June when the drugs agency received an anonymous tip-off from a man who described himself as an athletics coach. He gave them a list of athletes he alleged were using a new form of anabolic steroid, ingested by placing drops from a syringe under the tongue.

The coach, Mr Madden said, identified the source of the THG as Mr Conte at Balco labs. He followed up his call by sending the agency a syringe containing the substance.

Code cracked

The sample was analysed at the International Olympic Committee-accredited laboratory in Los Angeles. Scientists there spent six weeks investigating before they discovered THG had a chemical structure similar to two banned anabolic steroids but that certain molecules had been modified to avoid detection.

Once they had cracked the code, the head of the lab, Dr Don Catlin, widely considered the world's foremost expert on drugs in sport, reviewed more than 550 urine samples taken from American athletes earlier in the year and found the drug present in an unusually high number. In a typical testing, 1% to 1.5% of the group would test positive - five or six athletes.

"Everything that the coach has identified to us up to this time is true," said Mr Madden. "We are fairly certain this substance came from Victor Conte and Balco labs."

The operation was kept secret but the drugs agency contacted the Justice Department with its findings. On September 23 agents from the Internal Revenue Service, a San Mateo County narcotics task force and drugs agency officials swooped on Balco's offices, in a nondescript building shared by a toyshop and a limousine service.

Two days later, agents searched the homes of Marion Jones. It is not known whether anything was found. During the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Jones' former husband, the shot putter CJ Hunter, withdrew from the US team after testing positive four times for steroids, which Mr Conte confirmed were contained in iron supplements he had supplied.

Now, about 40 athletes from across the US have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury next Thursday. Among those who have admitted being called to give evidence is the American sprinter Kelli White, winner of the 100m and 200m at the world championships in Paris in August. She already faces losing her two gold medals and $120,000 (£72,000) in prize money after testing positive following her victories for the stimulant modafinil, which the sprinter claims she took for narcolepsy.

White is listed by Mr Conte, along with Chambers, as a member of his ZMA Track Club organisation. A spokesman for Chambers last night refused to confirm that he had a relationship with Mr Conte, but earlier this year the Guardian received an email from Mr Conte on Chambers' behalf, complaining that the London-born sprinter had been reported to have trained with Dennis Mitchell, a convicted drugs cheat.

"Dennis has a tainted reputation and any alleged association with Dwain may be damaging to Dwain's career," Mr Conte wrote.

The Ukrainian coach of Chambers and White, Remi Korchemny, said he was unaware of any investigation into steroid use. "I used Balco as a nutrition company," he said. "I get vitamins and ZMA from them. But that's it."

ZMA is a zinc and magnesium supplement, which since 1999 has grossed the company about $100m worldwide through 50 distributors. According to a magazine article linked from the company's web site, it is an "anabolic mineral support formula" that enhances "muscle strength, endurance, healing and growth".

Mr Conte claimed yesterday that none of his activities is illegal and that he is the victim of a vendetta. "In my opinion, this is about jealous competitive coaches and athletes that all have a history of promoting and using performance enhancing agents being completely hypocritical in their actions," he said.

"As many will soon find out, the world of track and field is a very dirty business and this goes far beyond just the coaches and athletes. Fasten your seatbelts!"

Athletics and its major stars are braced for a rough ride.

BALCO's Database of

World-Class Olympic and Professional Athletes

Matt Biondi "World's Fastest Swimmer"—50- and 100-meter Freestyle World Record Holder. Winner of seven medals (five Gold, one Silver, one Bronze) at the 1988 Olympic Games.

Jim Courier 1991 and 1992 French Open Tennis Champion.

John Elway All Pro Quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

Mac Wilkins Former World Record Holder in the Discus. 1976 Olympic Gold Medalist, 1984 Olympic Silver Medalist, and a 1988 Olympic Finalist.

Michael Chang 1989 French Open Tennis Champion.

Seattle Supersonics 1992-94 Professional Basketball Teams.

Mike Powell World Record Holder in the Long Jump. 1988 and 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist.

Ivan Lendl 1984, 1986, and 1987 French Open Tennis Champion. 1985, 1986, and 1987 U.S. Open Tennis Champion.

Renaldo Nehimiah Former World Record Holder in the 110-meter High Hurdles.

Mark Crear 1996 Olympic Silver Medalist in the 110-meter High Hurdles.

Joe Greene 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the Long Jump.

Bill Romanowski Linebacker for the World Champion San Francisco

49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Denver Broncos.

Jim Quinn Professional Bodybuilding Champion.

Henry Ellard Wide Receiver for the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins.

Jim Ryan Former World Record Holder in the 800 Meters, the 1500 Meters, and the Mile.

Randy Barnes World Record Holder in the Indoor and Outdoor Shot Put. 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist.

Andre Cason World Record Holder in the 60 Meters, 1993 U.S. Champion in the 100 Meters.

Harvey Salem Offensive Lineman for the Detroit Lions.

Milos Sarcev Professional Bodybuilding Champion.

Gregg Tafralis 1986 U.S. Indoor Shot Put Champion, Silver Medalist at the Pan American Games, and a 1988 Olympic Finalist.

Mike Buncic Former NCAA Record Holder in the Discus. 1988 and 1992 Olympian.

Jud Logan American Record Holder in the Hammer. 1988 and 1992 Olympian.

Ken Flax 1988 U.S. Champion in the Hammer. 1988 and 1992 Olympian.

John Hill 1987 U.S. Heavyweight Karate Champion.

Mike Swain Gold Medalist in Judo at 156 Pounds at the 1987

World Championships—the First Man in U.S. Judo History to Win a

World Championship. 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist.

Lynn Roethke Silver Medalist in Judo at 134 Pounds at the 1987 World Championships. 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist.

Bob Berland 1984 Olympic Silver Medalist in Judo at 189 Pounds. 1988 Olympian.

Kim Galliger 1988 Olympic Medalist in the Women's 800 Meters.

Jim DeLoach 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 200 Meters.

Kevin Asano 1988 Olympic Silver Medalist in Juno at 136 Pounds.

Margret Gomez 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist as a Super Heavyweight in Judo.

David Wyman Linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks.

Stanley Floyd Junior World Record Holder in the 100 Meters.

Will Willis 1987 Mr. USA Bodybuilding Champion.

Mike Arsanis 1988 Mr. Bay Area and Mr. San Francisco Bodybuilding Champion.

Matt Guisto 1988 NCAA Champion at 5000 Meters.

Ralph Sampson Former Forward for the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings Professional Basketball Teams.

Lance Deal 1993 U.S. Champion in the Hammer. 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympian.

Earl Bell 1988 Olympian in the Pole Vault.

Jim Doerhing 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist in the Shot Put.

Wolfgang Schmidt Former World Record Holder and Olympic Silver Medalist in the Discus.

Don Myrah 1989 World Champion in the Mountain Bike/Cyclocross.

Tonie Campbell 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the 100-meter Hurdles.

Pattisue Plumer 1988 and 1992 Olympian. American Record Holder in the 5000 Meters. 1990 Female U.S. Track Athlete of the Year.

Michael Ashley 1986 Mr. Universe Bodybuilding Champion.

Nancy Lewis Ms. USA Bodybuilding Champion.

Corinne Shigemoto 1986 U.S. Heavyweight Judo Champion.

Leslie Maxie Junior World Record Holder in the 400-meter Intermediate Hurdles. 1988 Olympian.

Robert Harrop 1991 Mr. America Bodybuilding Champion.

Mike Wilson Former Wide Receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would love for them to test Barry Bonds. I for one have always thought the man was juicing. I'd love for any records he has to have a big * next to it. Sorry, not a fan of Bonds, and any 40 year old that is that big and is still hitting like that has to be doing something.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...