BALCO'S Victor Conte weighs in on evidence against Barry Bonds
Victor Conte, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) sent The Times a late-night e-mail Wednesday, hours after the same prosecution team that had already sent him to prison for steroid distribution and money laundering unveiled its case against former BALCO client and all-time home run king Barry Bonds in unsealed court filings.
A U.S. district court judge is expected to begin deciding today what will be admissible when Bonds' trial on perjury charges begins March 2. Bonds told a federal grand jury in December 2003 that he never knowingly took steroids.
Conte's major points surrounded the chain of custody questions about urine samples the government says belonged to Bonds, were processed through BALCO and sent to a private lab for testing. Three of those tests were returned positive for steroids, the government's unsealed documents claimed Wednesday.
Conte says, "A laboratory test is only as valid as the history and integrity of the sample analyzed. ... It is important to realize that the quality of control measures taken by [the private lab] are of no value if the specimens they tested were not authenticated and handled properly before they were received. It has been indicated that these urine samples were initially handled by [Bonds' trainer] Greg Anderson and ... [BALCO official] James Valente. Neither of them has a degree or license that would qualify them to process such laboratory samples . ... There was no legal chain of custody."
Conte also said there were "discrepancies" in the dates of BALCO ledgers and the private lab's samples.
"This causes uncertainty and creates doubt regarding the validity of this testing and record-keeping evidence," Conte wrote.
It is unclear whether Conte will be called to testify in the trial. Bonds' defense team will produce a witness list in mid-February, the slugger's attorney said. Conte has said he had no eyewitness knowledge of Bonds' steroid use.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: Barry Bonds, left, arrives to enter a plea at the federal building in San Francisco today. Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press