THEN BALCO owner Victor Conte agreed to a plea with prosecutors last week, it brought a two-year scandal to an anticlimactic end. There will be no trial and no testimony from athletes, and Conte's plea agreement doesn't require him to name names. In the end, he copped to one count of conspiracy to distribute steroids and one count of money-laundering, for which he will receive four months in prison. ( Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds's personal trainer, pleaded guilty to the same charges.)
The sentences were light--and didn't include cooperation clauses--because the government never had much leverage. Conte and Anderson faced at most one year in prison even if they were convicted on all the charges they initially faced, and Anderson's lawyer told reporters her client would "never cooperate.... He's never wanted to drag baseball players' names through the mud."
Those players can now sleep easier. Any statements they might have made to the grand jury--such as Bonds's reported assertion that he didn't knowingly take steroids--will now be almost impossible to refute, so future perjury charges are unlikely. And Congress could subpoena Bonds and Jason Giambi now that they are no longer potential BALCO witnesses, but it's more likely that they are in the clear. -- George Dohrmann