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Conte lambasts athletics bosses

1 March 2008

By Matt Slater

Disgraced athletes returning from drugs bans should be forgiven, not "kicked when they are down", says former Balco boss Victor Conte.

And Conte, the man behind sport's most infamous doping scandal, accused track and field of dishing out rough justice.

"Once an athlete has served their penalty for breaking the rules, they should be allowed to return to their given sport," Conte told BBC Sport.

"Justice is certainly very important in this world, but so is forgiveness."

The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or Balco, was a US company based in California that initially specialised in food supplements but would become far more famous for its sideline in performance-enhancing drugs.

Conte's outburst comes a day after BBC Sport confirmed athletes who have returned from bans will not be invited to any European track meetings, including the lucrative Golden League events.

This means former Balco athletes such as British sprinter Dwain Chambers and American relay specialist Chryste Gaines are now effectively in limbo - eligible to compete but in practice unable to race and make their living from athletics.

Conte, who served a four-month prison sentence for his role in supplying performance-enhancing drugs in 2006, believes the athletics establishment in Europe and the US is discriminating against the likes of Chambers and Gaines.

"The various European track promoters and US agents who have joined together to measure out their own brand of justice are simply full of fear and their motives are based entirely upon money and greed," he said.

"I also believe that their self-serving agendas are almost inhuman and this is very unfortunate for all those involved."

The 37-year-old Gaines was banned from competing in 2005 when team-mate Kelli White's testimony implicated Gaines and former 100m world record-holder Tim Montgomery as cheats.

Gaines has also had her application to serve as an athlete's agent rejected by USA Track and Field (USATF).

Gaines, who has never failed a test, has never admitted to doping and Conte, who is now back in business selling legal sports supplements, believes this decision was vindictive.

"Banning Chryste from becoming a track and field agent is wrong. This is not only the wrong message to send to kids but for everyone in society," he said.

"This message basically says we should kick people when they are down and then kick them again once more just for good measure.

"Should there be no mercy at any point in time for those in this world who have made mistakes?

"Is it really the right message to teach our children that we should hate those who make mistakes and that they should never be allowed to become productive members of sport or society again?"

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