Victor Conte on Marion Jones' 'Poor Choices'

In 2004, Victor Conte said he gave performance enhancing drugs to Marion Jones.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 9:18 AM

Jan. 11, 2008 — -- Earlier today in federal court, track star Marion Jones was sentenced to six months in prison, two years of supervised release and 800 hours of community service.

In October, Jones pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal investigators in 2003 about using steroids. She was stripped of the five medals she earned at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In 2004, "Nightline" co-anchor Martin Bashir sat down for an exclusive "20/20" interview with Victor Conte, former chief of California-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which was facing federal charges for distributing steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

Conte gave the following statement to ABC News today about Jones' sentencing:

"I feel very sad for Marion and her family. Marion did make some very poor choices and she does deserve serious consequences. I certainly don't condone her repeated lies. But I do feel especially bad for Marion's mother and her two children. They didn't lie or cheat or use performance enhancing drugs, yet they are also enduring great pain. I've also made some very poor decisions that caused similar torment for me as well as my family. It's been difficult, but I'm working to earn the forgiveness of others. There is a saying in prison that inmates don't do the time, their families do. Looking into a family member's eyes and seeing the hurt you have caused is the most painful consequence. Marion was one of the most celebrated athletes in Olympic history and her mistakes have caused her to be stripped of everything she worked so very hard to achieve. There is no doubt in my mind that she has learned gigantic lessons. Hopefully, she will be able to serve as an example and help others to make good decisions. Marion is not a bad person. She is simply someone who made some bad decisions. Nonetheless, I'm optimistic that she, too, will someday find a way to be forgiven."

In 2004, Conte told Bashir that he supplied performance enhancing drugs to Jones. "20/20" also obtained calendars that Conte said showed how and when Jones used the drugs. Jones denied the allegations at the time and filed a $25 million defamation suit against Conte about the statements he made to Bashir. The lawsuit was later settled on undisclosed terms. In 2005, Conte pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and money laundering.

Below is the original report from Bashir's 2004 interview, which aired on "20/20" on Dec. 3, 2004.

Victor Conte, a man at the center of an anti-doping scandal that has rocked the top tiers of the sports world, tells "20/20" he tailored illegal drug regimens for top athletes, including Olympic track stars Marion Jones, Kelli White and Tim Montgomery.

The use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional and Olympic athletes is rampant, according to Conte, and getting around the anti-doping rules is "like taking candy from a baby," he says in an exclusive interview with "20/20" correspondent Martin Bashir.

"In short, the Olympic Games are a fraud," Conte says.

Conte, founder of the California-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which is facing federal charges for distributing steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs to athletes, says he supplied Jones with a variety of illegal drugs from August 2000 through September 2001. He claims to have supplied her with a substance called "the clear," EPO, human growth hormone, and insulin. (The clear is thought to be the anabolic steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG. EPO, an acronym for erythropoietin, is a red blood cell-boosting hormone experts say can increase endurance by 10 percent to 15 percent.)

"After I instructed her how to do it and dialed it up, she did the injection with me sitting right there next to her, right in front of me," Conte says. "Marion didn't like to inject in the stomach area. ... She would do it in her quad. The front part of her leg," he tells "20/20."

Jones, described as the fastest woman on Earth, won five Olympic medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Rumors of performance-enhancing drug use have dogged her, but she has never failed a drug test and maintains she has never used illegal drugs.

Conte says there simply aren't accurate drug tests to detect the substances he claims Jones used. "As I told you earlier ... it's like taking candy from a baby," Conte tells "20/20."

Jones declined to be interviewed for this story. In a written statement to ABC, her lawyers insisted Jones "has never, ever used performance-enhancing drugs" and that she "passed a lie detector examination." They also said, "Victor Conte is simply not credible."

In a statement released today, Jones said, "Victor Conte's allegations about me are not true, and the truth will come out in the appropriate forum. I have instructed my lawyers to vigorously explore a defamation lawsuit against Victor Conte."

"I have no bone to pick with Marion," Conte tells "20/20's" Bashir. "I'm here today because I believe that the world needs to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so that we can really attempt collectively to try to genuinely create a level playing field for the athletes of the future.

"It's almost like what I'm here to tell you right now is that not only is there no Santa Claus, but there's no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy either, in the world of sport ... I mean the whole history of the Olympic Games is just full of corruption, cover-up, performance-enhancing drug use -- it's not what the world thinks it is," Conte says.

Conte asserts the use of performance-enhancing drugs is essential to level the playing field. "It's not cheating if everybody is doing it. And if you've got the knowledge that that's what everyone is doing, and those are the real rules of the game, then you're not cheating," he tells Bashir in the "20/20" interview.

Also on "20/20," Kelli White, the track and field star who tested positive for steroids, talks for the first time about what happened after she approached Conte.

"He made me believe that if I followed a certain protocol of supplements and different drugs that I could become number one in the world," she tells "20/20."

She says she saw a difference within a week or two of beginning the Conte-prescribed regimen. "I saw myself on TV and I was kind of unhappy about that. I was huge, very big, very muscular -- none of my clothes fit. And so it was, it was difficult. I knew that looking that way would get a lot of whispers," she said.

But White says she didn't feel she was doing anything unethical when she began taking the drugs. "I felt that there [were] so many people doing it that I would just be like one of the others."

Eventually, White says, she began to have some concerns about taking the drugs. "The acne thing was bad. The shoulders, the face, my voice changed ... I had a period every other week ... It got to be so easy that I was actually disappointed. And it -- the guilt -- was too much then."

Conte says the regimen he and his partners created for White was extraordinarily effective. "I do believe that the program that we developed [for White] was the most sophisticated in the history of the planet Earth."

Conte, 53, had an earlier career in music, playing bass with the popular funk band Tower of Power in the late 1970s. In the mid-1980s, Conte bought into the booming sports nutrition market, setting up the now notorious BALCO near San Francisco.

His early work with athlete was completely legal -- and lucrative. He made millions of dollars assessing the nutritional deficiencies of professional athletes and body builders and selling them supplements.

But after learning from Olympic shot-putter Greg Tafralis that supplements coupled with steroids would allow athletes to train harder, build muscle faster, and recover more quickly, Conte added more than nutritional supplements to some of his clients' regimens.

Five years ago, Conte says, a chemist sent him a vial of what has become the holy grail of sports doping -- a steroid called "the clear," because there were no drugs tests that could detect its presence. Conte began giving it to some of his clients.

Conte says he was driven to create these drug regimes for athletes not by money but because of "the challenge." He says he developed a secret plan to use drugs to help track and field star Tim Montgomery break the world record for the 100 meters, which Montgomery did in 2002, nearly a year after he allegedly stopped working with Conte.

"I knew that this was the most coveted of all records ... and gold medals. So we kind of had a collective dream, and I was the mastermind so to speak," Conte said.

Still, Conte tells Bashir he believes Montgomery's world record is legitimate. "When you say legitimate, I believe if it was achieved using the exact same playing field as the previous record, and the previous record, and the previous record, then it is legitimate because you're competing with the same terms and conditions ... I mean, otherwise you'd have to wipe out all the world records."

A lawyer for Montgomery declined to comment on the allegations.

Drug use is also widespread in professional baseball and football, according to Conte.

His first National Football League client, he says, was Bill Romanowski of the Oakland Raiders. "Bill pretty much does whatever he chooses to do so. Did I help Bill in certain ways? Yes. Did Bill do many other things in addition to what I would recommend? Yes," Conte tells Bashir.

Conte also says he gave steroids to three of Romanowski's teammates -- Barrett Robbins, Chris Cooper and Dana Stubblefield. All three were fined for drug use.

But Conte claims professional baseball is saddled with the most widespread drug problems.

Drugs from Conte's BALCO lab made their way to some of baseball's biggest stars. Former American League MVP Jason Giambi admitted to a federal grand jury that he took steroids and human growth hormone in 2003, according to transcripts of testimony obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle and published in the newspaper's Thursday editions.

Giambi reportedly told the grand jury he used steroids obtained from Greg Anderson, the personal trainer for San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds. Greg Anderson, who has pleaded not guilty in the BALCO case to federal charges for supplying steroids, has denied giving illegal drugs to Bonds.

According to today's San Francisco Chronicle, which also obtained transcripts of testimony by Bonds to the federal grand jury, the baseball player admitted to using "the cream" and "the clear" in the 2003 season that were supplied by Anderson. Bonds reportedly said Anderson told him he was using the nutritional supplement flaxseed oil and a rubbing balm for arthritis.

Conte tells "20/20" he gave Anderson the performance-enhancing drugs "clear" and "cream," but not for any athlete's use. "This was not for any specific athlete," Conte says, "but mainly for Greg for his own personal use or whatever he did with it."

Conte says he doesn't know whether Anderson gave those drugs to any athletes. He tells Bashir, "I have no specific knowledge of this. I didn't say 'Here's clear. Go give this to Gary,' or 'Here's clear. Go give this to Barry.' "

Conte says he believes Major League Baseball officials are not adequately addressing the problem of drug use. "I think they still believe there's a Santa Claus ... They're not in contact with reality. I mean the program that they put together is a joke," he said.

"Let me tell you the biggest joke of all, I would guesstimate that more than 50 percent of the athletes are taking some form of anabolic steroids," Conte tells Bashir.

He adds, "My guess is more than 80 percent are taking some sort of a stimulant before each and every game."

In response to the implication of MLB players in the doping scandal, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said, "I am fully committed to the goal of immediately ridding our great game of illegal performance-enhancing substances. The use of these substances continues to raise issues regarding the game's integrity and raises serious concerns about the health and well-being of our players." Selig said he hoped the players association would join him "in adopting a new, stronger drug-testing policy modeled after our minor league program that will once and for all rid the game of the scourge of illegal drugs."

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