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BALCO

From BR Bullpen

BALCO stands for the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative. It was a company located in Burlingame, CA, in the San Francisco area, ostensibly set up to provide blood and urine analyses for athletes and distribute (legal) food supplements. It has been a central player in the steroids scandal that has rocked the top rungs of US track and field, and is also at the heart of the Barry Bonds steroid scandal. Its founder, Victor Conte, made a living supplying world-class athletes with state-of-the-art steroid products that were designed to be ahead of international testing methods and virtually undetectable. Chemist Patrick Arnold was reputed to be the brain behind these products.

Federal authorities got wind of BALCO's alleged illegal activities and began to investigate its principals and clients in 2003. Olympic sprinting medallist Marion Jones was among the most notable athletes caught in the investigation, and eventually confessed her usage of banned performance-enhancing drugs. Conte spent four months in prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to charges of distributing steroids.

The name of Barry Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was found among BALCO's list of clients, feeding existing speculation that the slugger's late-career surge in power was not entirely natural. During the ensuing investigation and testimony before a federal grand jury, Bonds denied ever knowingly taking steroids, although he confessed using substances supplied by BALCO, which others have alleged are the products euphemistically called the cream and the clear - designer steroids undetectable through conventional testing. The testimony before the grand jury, which was supposed to be secret, was leaked to the press, and along with a best-selling book published early in 2006, helped to paint a picture of Bonds as a chemically-enhanced cheater at a time when he was chasing Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. After the 2007 season, Bonds was indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice for his testimony before the grand jury. Bonds pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial began on March 21, 2011 and found him guilty on two peripheral charges, but the jury could not determine beyond doubt that he had been a steroid user.

While Bonds is the most notable baseball player who has been ensnared in the BALCO investigation, pitcher Jason Grimsley's home was searched as part of the investigation. His suspension by MLB and release by the Arizona Diamondbacks early in 2006 were a direct result of evidence found at the time. The names of Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Benito Santiago, Bobby Estalella and Armando Rios have also been linked to BALCO's list of elite clients.

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