In a letter hand-delivered yesterday to the White House, Victor Conte, the man at the center of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroid scandal, promised to provide revelations about athletes, coaches and officials that would allow the United States to send a drug-free team to the 2004 Summer Games in Athens in exchange for President Bush's intervention in his plea bargain negotiations with the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Jose.
In the two-page letter obtained by The Post, Conte's attorney, Robert Holley, implored Bush to help the United States avoid "the shame of being branded a country of 'cheaters.' "
Holley said Conte would not only answer questions from the Department of Justice, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), he would also assemble a team of experts and witnesses who could aid in rooting out performance-enhancing drug use if Bush guaranteed no jail time and no guilty pleas to money laundering for him and his business partner, James Valente.
Conte and Valente were indicted on federal steroid distribution charges in February along with Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds's personal trainer, and Remi Korchemny, a track and field coach. Holley said the maximum term Conte faces is two years imprisonment.
"It is precisely because these are such difficult times for our country that we request your aid," Holley wrote to Bush. "We, all of us, need to do everything possible to send a clean Olympic team to Athens. If we fail to do so, and the information about our failure is later made public, after the Olympic medals are given out, the results could be disastrous. . . . There will be hearings and lawsuits and medals will be taken away."
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius did not comment on the letter last night other than to say such a correspondence would go through normal procedures, including referral to appropriate government entities.
"We would respond to an individual who corresponds with the White House directly and not through the media," Lisaius said.
Talks between Conte and federal prosecutors collapsed two weeks ago. USADA also has failed to secure Conte's cooperation as it tries to enact bans on athletes guilty of drug use before the Aug. 13-29 Summer Games. The agency notified four U.S. track and field athletes of potential violations last week and is investigating other athletes, including superstar sprinter Marion Jones.
In the letter, which was copied to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Holley warned that Conte's testimony would be more valuable in a plea agreement before the Olympics than in a public trial after.
"My client, Victor Conte, is a well-known and respected sports nutritionist of many years," Holley said. "He is willing to help resolve the problem now, before his information is revealed too late, at a future federal jury trial. For at a trial Mr. Conte will definitely testify and he will definitely tell the truth. And the world will definitely be listening."
Staff writer Mike Allen contributed to this report.