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BALCO Founder Gets Eight Months

BALCO head Victor Conte was sentenced to eight months on Tuesday as part of a plea deal for his role as mastermind behind a scheme to provide professional athletes with undetectable performance-enhancing drugs.

Conte will spend four months in prison and four months in home confinement in the deal negotiated with U.S. government prosecutors. Two of the three remaining defendants in the case were expected to be sentenced later in the day.

Conte started the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which court records show counted dozens of prominent athletes among its clients, including major league baseball's Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, Olympic track champion Marion Jones and others. The case prompted pro sports to stiffen anti-doping policies and thrust performance-enhancing drugs into the spotlight. THG, a once-unknown steroid discovered in the investigation, is now banned throughout U.S. sports.

Conte pleaded guilty in July to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge; dozens of counts were dropped.

James Valente, BALCO's vice president, was expected to get probation at Tuesday's hearing after pleading guilty to reduced charges of steroid distribution. Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' trainer, was expected to get up to six months on Tuesday after pleading guilty to money laundering and a steroid distribution charge.

U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan in San Francisco has said the plea deals were spurred in part by weak steroid laws and by the fact that some of the chemicals were not banned at the time.

Track coach Remi Korchemny is expected to get probation at a later sentencing date.

Still, authorities are now taking aim at the alleged BALCO suppliers.

Last month, the authorities raided a laboratory in Champaign, Illinois headed by Patrick Arnold, who's known for introducing the steroid precursor androstenedione to the U.S. Andro came to public attention in 1998 when St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire said he used it when breaking MLB's home run record.

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