Former BALCO chief Victor Conte said those damaged by Lance Armstrong would… (David Paul Morris / Getty…)
Victor Conte is one of sports’ all-time scoundrels, the former head of the steroid-distributing BALCO lab who supplied steroids to home run champion Barry Bonds, Olympic champion Marion Jones and world boxing champion Shane Mosley, among others.
After watching Lance Armstrong’s long-delayed admissions to Oprah Winfrey of using performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his record seven Tour de France victories, Conte felt compelled to draw a distinction between himself and the cyclist.
“Once BALCO was raided, I realized the best thing to do was tell the truth,” Conte said in an interview with The Times. “What I didn’t do is go after the people who said negative things about me.
“Yes, the drugs he took were bad, but I believe the most damaging thing he did was to go after these people’s lives.”
PHOTOS: Lance Armstrong through the years
Conte said those damaged by Armstrong would be wise to pursue not only civil damages against the cyclist, but explore a possible “conspiracy” assisted by his attorneys and supporters of lawsuits he filed against his former team masseuse, a London newspaper and the insurer who balked at paying him bonuses for winning the Tour.
“Not only did he cheat, but he damaged people by going after them in court, and why did he do that? To muzzle them, get them to shut up,” Conte said. “Marion Jones and Shane Mosley did the same thing to me, and I had to spend $250,000 each to defend myself.”
Having endured those claims that were ultimately dismissed, Conte said, “there was a serious abuse of the judicial system here. He said himself to Oprah that he ‘sued everybody.’ Well, when you sue someone, you have to make declarations under the penalty of perjury that you’re telling the truth.
“And if those statements are now lies, that’s fraud.”
Conte, having beaten the anti-doping system awhile himself, said he was struck by Armstrong’s detail that he often doped during the out-of-competition season, when Conte said anti-doping agencies need to improve their monitoring of athletes.
Conte also was previously alarmed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report against Armstrong that revealed how he employed lookouts for testers, hid from them and took fast-clearing synthetic testosterone with olive oil to produce clean tests.
By deduction, Conte said, that shows testers did not often enough employ the Carbon Isotope Ratio test that can detect synthetic testosterone use for up to two weeks.
USADA previously has said they employ the CIR test at times, but are reluctant to make it the test of choice due to its expense.
“Lance could’ve used at night during the Tour, and by 3 or 4 a.m., he’s back to normal levels for the tests they used,” Conte said. “I believe this exposed the ineptness of USADA testing, especially since they tested Lance 250 times during his career.
“If they would’ve tested him the right way, he might not have won seven times, and history would’ve been different.”
Asked why he thinks Armstrong came forward now, Conte said, “He has no other choice. Nobody believed him. The game’s over.”