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Conte to talk with Pound

BALCO founder plans to detail 'rampant drug use' in elite sport, as IOC delays medal decision.

December 11, 2007|Philip Hersh | Special to The Times

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- If Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte means what he says, the International Olympic Committee is wise to wait for the other shoe to drop rather than risk putting a foot in its mouth with a hasty decision to redistribute the five 2000 Olympic medals forfeited by former U.S. track star Marion Jones for use of banned drugs.

Better that, IOC member Denis Oswald of Switzerland said Monday, than to give a medal to someone who later winds up guilty of doping from evidence that emerges in the continuing investigation into the BALCO doping scandal.

In an e-mail to The Times stating his intention to share his knowledge about "rampant drug use" in elite sport with World Anti-Doping Agency Chairman Richard Pound at a Wednesday meeting, Conte cited the Jones medal issue as an area in which he could have an impact.

"Other athletes are in line to receive Olympic medals or medal upgrades," Conte wrote. "Several of Jones' competitors may have also used performance-enhancing drugs, and it's important that what I have to share be considered before the IOC awards any medal upgrades."

Although the IOC executive board will discuss the Jones medal situation during a three-day meeting that began Monday, Oswald said it could be "months" before it takes action beyond officially stripping them from Jones.

"I know there were more 'athlete-clients' [of BALCO], Oswald said Monday. "We feel we don't have all the names."

The IOC has to decide:

Whether to vacate the medal spots taken by Jones or to give them to athletes who finished below her.

Whether to strip medals from other members of the U.S. relay team on which Jones competed at the Sydney Games.

Jones has returned her five medals -- golds in the 100, 200 and 1,600-meter relay and bronzes in the long jump and 400-meter relay.

Changes in the medal standings could affect 43 athletes from eight countries.

"We want to wait until we have full information," Oswald said. "We don't want to do it piece by piece."

A key missing piece could be information about the Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, who finished second to Jones in the 100 meters at Sydney. Thanou was banned from the 2004 Olympics for missing drug tests and providing misleading information to drug-testing officials about her whereabouts.

Attorneys representing Thanou and 2000 Olympic men's 200-meter champion Costas Kenteris, also banned for missing tests, said in October that Greek prosecutors have dropped an investigation into links between the athletes and BALCO after examining relevant documents.

Conte said his scheduled meeting with Pound was a form of atonement for "the poor decisions and past mistakes I've made" in helping athletes obtain and use performance-enhancing drugs. Conte said he hoped his information would help create a level playing field and restore fans' perception of sports' integrity.

"I plan to share specific knowledge of past and present Olympic-caliber athletes, coaches and suppliers involved with doping around the world and how they've been able to easily circumvent the anti-doping procedures in place," Conte said.

Jones admitted in October to having used performance-enhancing drugs during the period of the 2000 Sydney Games and in 2001.

Oswald is part of a three-man IOC "BALCO commission" formed when Jones first was linked to Conte's company in 2004.

The international track federation (IAAF) council voted last month to take the medals from Jones and the other members of the two relays, but Oswald said the relay athletes may be entitled to a hearing.

"Basically, we are supposed to follow what they [the IAAF] proposed," Oswald said. "They lost their medals because of Jones, but we have to be careful to protect their rights."

The Olympic Charter gives athletes the right to appeal a sanction either in person or writing.

About two dozen athletes, including Jones and Barry Bonds, allegedly received performance-enhancing drugs from BALCO, raided by federal and local investigators in September 2003. More than a dozen track and field athletes have been sanctioned on BALCO-related evidence.

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Times staff writer Lance Pugmire contributed from Los Angeles. Philip Hersh covers the Olympics for The Times and the Chicago Tribune.

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