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Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 16:53 UK

Conte labels Olympics 'a fraud'

By Matt Slater


Balco boss Conte says it is still too easy to evade the testers

The man behind sport's most infamous doping case has issued a stark warning ahead of the Beijing Olympics - elite competition is rife with drugs.

Victor Conte believes sport has failed to learn lessons from the drugs scandal he is now synonymous with, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) affair.

"The Olympics are a fraud. It's all about money," Conte told BBC Sport.

"Those who control the money, control the anti-doping policies. They are still inept to this day."

The 57-year-old American, who served four months in a California prison for conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering, is now determined to help sport rescue its drugs-tainted reputation.

There has been rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs at the elite level of sport for decades

Balco founder Victor Conte
Conte met former World Anti-Doping Agency boss Dick Pound in New York last December after writing an open letter - How to beat the drugs cheats - on the BBC Sport website.

He gave Pound inside information on how the Balco network operated and is convinced far more can be done in the fight against doping. It is a message he has also shared with the US authorities and wants to take around the world.

"The procedures are better than they were pre-Balco, but they are still ineffective," he said.

"I don't think you can ever make (sport) 100% clean but can you significantly reduce the amount of drugs being used at the elite level in both Olympic and professional team sport?

"The answer is yes but they are not taking the steps necessary to have really effective testing in Olympic-calibre sport."

Conte, whose Balco clients included disgraced US track queen Marion Jones, British sprinter Dwain Chambers and a host of big names from gridiron and baseball, is particularly damning of sport's refusal to acknowledge its problems.

Barry Bonds
Did Bonds know what he was taking? America awaits the answer
"I have been told by Olympic officials that there have been positive drug tests that have been covered up," he revealed.

"They (the officials) have direct knowledge of this and at some point this information will come out. I believe it will all be revealed when some of these officials are subpoenaed and under oath in a federal court.

"Now that may or may not come up in Trevor Graham's case or in Barry Bonds' case, or in some of these others which are pending.

"At that point in time, I think you are going to see that there has been rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs at the elite level of sport - Olympic and professional - for decades.

"Without going into specific numbers, it's the overwhelming majority in my opinion."

The world will not have long to wait to find out if Conte, who is publishing a tell-all book later this year, is right.

Graham, who opened the Balco can of worms when he anonymously sent a syringe containing Conte's premier doping product - the previously undetectable steroid THG - to the US authorities in 2003, faces his own Waterloo when he goes before a San Francisco court on 19 May.

The old argument that it's a few rotten apples in the barrel just isn't true

Former US Senator George Mitchell
The Jamaican-born coach, whose stable of disgraced athletes includes Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery, has been charged with lying to investigators about supplying banned performance-enhancing substances.

While Jones and Montgomery will not be called to testify against him, Graham's former charges Calvin Harrison, Antonio Pettigrew and Jerome Young are all set to point the finger at the controversial coach, who has insisted: "My stance has always been there is no place in our sport for drug users."

But while the Graham case is expected to do further damage to track and field's already beleaguered name, the trial of baseball superstar Bonds will grip America.

Bonds, who holds the all-time Major League Baseball record for home runs, has been charged with lying under oath about his alleged use of steroids. His hearing is scheduled to start at the same San Francisco court on 6 June.

Bonds has been connected with the Balco scandal since it broke - although he has repeatedly denied any intentional wrongdoing - and was also named in the recent report into baseball's drug problems by former US Senator George Mitchell.

Mitchell's baseball report was long overdue for a sport in denial about drugs

That report, a damning indictment of the sport's doping culture, identified 89 players who are alleged to have used steroids or human growth hormone.

Mitchell, President Clinton's special envoy to Northern Ireland, told BBC Sport it was difficult to put an exact number on just how widespread doping is in American sport but said the problem was clearly far worse than many estimated.

"My own judgement (of the size of the problem) was it's less than a majority but a very sizeable minority," said Mitchell, a former federal judge and prosecutor.

"It's a very significant number, more than just a handful. The old argument that it's a few rotten apples in the barrel just isn't true.

"There are many, many rotten apples in that barrel. You have to change the whole barrel. You have to get a new, improved system and aggressively enforce it.

"I think it's not just only possible but, in my opinion, certain there are many who have used illegal substances to enhance performance in sports who have not been detected and made public.

"I emphasised in my report that we did not get all the distributors or all the players. There are clearly a lot more out there and I think that's true in all sports.

"That is why it's important the sports organisations themselves adopt the most vigorous means to prevent and deter such activity.

"I think it's unlikely you are going to reach a stage where nobody is doing anything illegal with drugs in sport. That is just human nature.

"What you have to do is reduce it by a significant degree, and you do that by a combination of detection, investigation and education."

Conte, who has always denied supplying Bonds with any banned substances directly, agrees with Mitchell over the extent of doping in American sport but goes considerably further in his condemnation of the steps being taken to alleviate the crisis.

"They (the US authorities) are not coming to grips with it. It's propaganda. It's all being stated as a deterrent," he said.

"The loopholes in baseball and (American) football are so big you could drive a freight train through them. It's as easy as taking candy from a baby to circumvent these anti-doping policies and procedures."

see also
Make doping a crime, says Lewis
06 May 08 |  Athletics
US stars lead anti-doping battle
06 May 08 |  Athletics
Mihir Bose blog
06 May 08 |  Athletics

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