The international sports doping scandal that shook Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the U.S. Olympic movement ended in San Francisco yesterday with light sentences for the defendants and a scolding from a federal judge, reports the San Francisco Examiner. Victor Conte, 55, founder of the BALCO lab, was sentenced to four months in federal prison and four months of house arrest for masterminding a conspiracy to distribute undetectable steroids to some of the world’s top athletes. Greg Anderson, 39, weight trainer to San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds, was sentenced to three months in prison and three months of home confinement for conspiring to distribute steroids to professional baseball players. In a plea deal, U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan dropped 40 counts of a 42-count indictment that had been announced with fanfare by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2004.
Ryan said federal laws were so lax that Conte and Anderson wouldn’t have faced significantly longer sentences even if convicted of all the charges. Judge Susan Illston expressed frustration that the law didn’t allow tougher sentences for Conte and Anderson. Athletes “were cheating, and you helped them cheat,” Illston told Conte, saying he provided sports stars with “disguising agents that would make the drugs difficult or impossible to detect.” The judge seemed frustrated with the government’s decision to push forward with a case that in legal terms amounted to relatively little.