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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Net closes on drug scandal
How the Balco scandal has tainted athletics

The man at the centre of the doping scandal that has rocked America looks set to reveal all he knows.

Victor Conte, who is accused of heading a steroid distribution ring to top athletes through his firm Balco, hopes to win a plea bargain by naming names.

Conte has until now refused to speak out, but has agreed to list those involved if his conditions are met.

His revelations could mean the USA's Olympic team will be missing some of its biggest and best-known stars.

A federal grand jury charged Conte, his deputy James Valente, baseball slugger Barry Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson and another coach with steroid distribution charges earlier this year.

His attorney took the step of appealing to the US President George W Bush, who condemned steroid use in his last State of the Union speech, after Conte's closed-door efforts to reach a deal with prosecutors broke down.

We've come to the end of the rope and we feel a need to settle now
Victor Conte's attorney Robert Holley
"Mr Conte is willing to reveal everything he knows about officials, coaches and athletes in order to help to clean up the Olympics," attorney Robert Holley wrote in a letter to Mr Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"In return, Mr Conte asks that he not be forced to plead guilty to money laundering [a crime which he insists he did not commit] and that he be guaranteed a sentence of straight probation for both he and Mr Valente."

His appeal comes just weeks before the US trials in Sacramento, California which will determine the athletics team for the Olympics in Athens.

According to Holley, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has long wanted to cut a deal but said the power to come to an agreement lies with prosecutors.

He said he felt that plea bargain talks had broken down and thus had decided to appeal to Bush.

"We've come to the end of the rope and we feel a need to settle now," Holley told Reuters news agency.

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