One of the biggest things talked about in pro sports (especially baseball) is the use of banned substances and steroids. And without a doubt the biggest scandal in sports and athletics history is none other than the BALCO scandal that emerged in 2002. Here I will introduce you to BALCO itself, the scandal and how it changed sports forever.
Before getting into the scandal itself, I’ll introduce you to BALCO. The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) was first founded by Victor Conte and his wife in 1984 as a vitamin shop and soon became the creator of nutritional and health supplements. Their client list began expanding in the mid-90s and by the late 90s/early 2000s they boasted an exciting client list full of pro athletes.
Problem was, they weren’t just creating and selling regular nutrition products, they were providing their clients with steroids and a wide range of other illegal substances to enhance performance. These in involved injections, creams and more. The team at BALCO created, distributed and sold these substances undetected for over a decade from 1988-2002, until they were finally put under investigation by the federal government.
However, while their investigation was going on, they received a syringe with small amounts of a strange substance in it. The anonymous syringe was eventually revealed to be provided by Trevor Graham, a sprint coach to Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. The syringe eventually tested positive for THG, which is an illegal steroid. In total, 20 different athletes tested positive for this steroid including Marion Jones, Dwain Chambers and more.
However, despite the whistleblower being a track coach, it was likely the world of baseball that was hit hardest with this investigation and reveal. Former MVPs and two of the best players in baseball (Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds) were found to be involved, though Bonds has denied this but it is almost common knowledge he most likely participated. Giambi, on the other hand, admitted to taking illegal substances.
The scandal was covered extensively in the mid-2000s and was front page news on almost each and vert sports show out there. But what has been the impact of the scandal since and what are those involved doing now?
Well, the scandal had a monumental impact on the MLB and their rules on illegal substances. Prior to this scandal, the MLB was the only of the major sports leagues to not have a policy against steroids. However, following the scandal, then-Commissioner Bud Selig instituted a league wide policy, which is among the harshest of all the major sports now. The first offense is a 50 game suspension, second is a 100 game suspension and a third is a lifetime ban from the MLB. Those suspensions are also totally without pay and thus hurt the players pocketbook very much. As for the man in charge of BALCO, Victor Conte, he is now a free man after he served only four months in prison for selling illegal steroids for the better part of two decades.