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Raid Is Conducted on Supplement Company

BALCO, a Northern California firm, has a reputation of catering to high-profile athletes.

September 05, 2003|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

A Northern California company specializing in nutritional supplements for high-end athletes, including Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, was raided Wednesday by two government agencies.

Agents from the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit and San Mateo County Narcotic Task Force raided Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) in Burlingame at about 12:30 p.m. Computer technicians were seen entering the building and removing boxes of unidentified items, according to the San Mateo Daily Journal.

"We were there [Wednesday] ... conducting enforcement action," Mark Lessler, special agent for the IRS criminal investigation division, confirmed. "No arrests were made and, currently, all court documents are sealed."

He would not reveal the reason for the raid.

BALCO's founder, nutritionist Victor Conte, is familiar to many international athletes. At the 2000 Summer Olympics, Conte spoke in defense of shotputter C.J. Hunter after it was revealed Hunter had tested positive for the steroid nandrolone in the months before the Games. Hunter, who has retired, was banned from competition.

Conte also is connected to U.S. sprinter Kelli White, who tested positive for a stimulant after winning a gold medal in the 100 meters at the world track and field championships in Paris. Conte has worked with Brian Goldman, the doctor who prescribed modafinil, a drug used to treat narcolepsy, to White.

BALCO also has worked with the Denver Broncos. In a 1998 interview with Testosterone Magazine, Conte spoke about the effects of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone on the body. Both are banned muscle-building substances in Olympic sports, although the latter is undetectable in urine tests.

"I don't condone the use of anabolic steroids or growth hormone," Conte said in the interview. "However, I know of a number of athletes who use growth hormone, and most of them are reporting tremendous benefits."

BALCO's signature product is ZMA, a zinc and magnesium supplement that Conte claims increases strength in athletes. White's coach, Remi Korchemny of Ukraine, is known as a supporter of ZMA.

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