Victor Conte, the Bay Area sports nutritionist associated with Bay Area Laboratory -Co-operative, or BALCO, has been fingered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as the source for athletes to acquire tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, which the agency claims is a prohibited designer steroid.
Mac Wilkins knew him when.
Officials with the USADA, which oversees U.S. Olympic drug testing, believe Conte is behind the recently reported positive drug tests of at least four elite U.S. track and field athletes. At least 40 professional and Olympic athletes, including Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, have been subpoenaed to testify about Conte.
Wilkins, the former Olympic gold and silver medalist discus thrower, purchased mineral supplements from Conte in preparation for the '88 Games.
'I met him a few times,' says Wilkins, who starred for Beaverton High and the University of Oregon and lives in Portland. 'He talked about vitamin and mineral balance in the body. He checked out food allergies on some athletes. The calcium-magnesium-zinc (supplements) I got from him were basically stuff you could get at a nutrition store, but his was supposed to be better because it didn't have any binders (which hold the minerals together) or junk or filler in it.'
Wilkins says the supplements he purchased for up to two years from Conte were most beneficial to his nocturnal pursuits.
'He did a blood analysis that indicated a couple of things were out of balance in my body,' Wilkins says. The supplements 'helped me relax and sleep better. I was much more rested in the morning.'
Wilkins says he never purchased steroids or anything illegal from Conte.
'There was not even a hint of anything shady or not aboveboard,' Wilkins says. 'We got tested a bunch of times. I had no problem gauging what he was all about. He was a good guy who helped a lot of us.'
• Nike's Oregon Project is growing.
Alberto Salazar's baby, which began two years ago as a means of developing U.S. marathon runners, has signed on reputed middle-distance coach John Cook, who has moved from Fairfax, Va., to Portland.
Cook, who coached Abdi Bile at George Mason in the mid-'80s, has been given a three-year contract by Nike to develop middle-distance runners, starting with Richard Smith Ñ a high school teammate of prep mile record-holder Alan Webb Ñ and Trinity Gray, who has run 1:44 in the 800. Smith and Gray are in Portland, living in the Nike-owned house in Northwest Portland that features an altitude chamber.
'It is a long-term plan to get our runners to world-class level,' says Salazar, the former marathon great who now is a sports marketing consultant for Nike. 'Our six marathoners had a frustrating fall, so we are still trying to find our way there. It may not even happen in one generation, but hopefully we are moving in the right direction.'
Don't be surprised if Webb winds up in Portland, too. Webb, who left the University of Michigan after his freshman year, is now training full time in Fairfax under his high school coach, Scott Raczko Ñ a former assistant to Cook at George Mason.
'If it happens,' Salazar says of Webb's joining the team, 'we would be very happy.'
Some of the top U.S. distance runners are opting not to compete collegiately. It is possible Galen Rupp, the Central Catholic star who recently won the state cross-country title, will go that route. He might attend the University of Portland but not compete for the Pilots. If he chooses to do that, he would continue to train under Salazar, who coached the Rams to the state team title two weeks ago.
Salazar speaks in hallowed terms about the 5-11, 135-pound Rupp.
'I firmly believe Steve Prefontaine was the best ever in Oregon, and the other guy up there was Bill McChesney,' Salazar says. 'I wouldn't put Galen in Pre's class, but he is every bit the runner Bill was. Those are the three best distance runners the state has seen.
'And the thing I like about Galen is, he is not physically mature yet. Often your better runners at 17 don't look much like they will at 20.'
• Remember Lynell Hamilton, the high school tailback out of Stockton, Calif., who turned down Oregon after his infamous weekend recruiting visit hosted by Onterrio Smith?
Hamilton wound up at San Diego State, where as a 6-1, 215-pound true freshman this fall he ranks 17th in the nation in rushing Ñ and as the top first-year player Ñ with 1,087 yards in 10 games.
• Greg Crawford is a married man. The local golf impresario, former referee, sports talk-show host and lifelong bachelor, 53, got hitched Friday to Houston resident Sheila Bass. They were married at the Oregon City home of Crawford's sister, Carlene Crawford.
'Takes awhile to sink in when you are my age, but I am real happy,' Crawford says.
The newlyweds, you may remember, met in 1997 and hadn't seen each other since then Ñuntil September, when she flew to Portland to see him. They had kindled their relationship through e-mail and phone conversations in the five previous months.
No time for a honeymoon, says Crawford, as Bass flew Sunday to Houston, where she serves as director of NASA's mission management. 'There is really no time for one, with her job,' he says.
The lovebirds won't see each other again until Dec. 26, when she will fly to Portland to visit her husband.
• Chris Miller quarterbacked Oregon out of its Dark Ages in the mid-1980s, and he is doing much the same thing as head coach at South Eugene. In his third season at South Eugene, Miller Ñ who played in the NFL for 10 season Ñ led the Axemen to their first winning season since 1993 and their first state playoff appearance since '92, though they lost 34-0 at Sprague in the first round.
• Jon Farmer is through picketing at the Rose Garden, and he may be done dealing Jail Blazer Jam as well.
The local activist and entrepreneur was hoisting an anti-Trail Blazer sign before Saturday's game against Atlanta when three men approached him, peppered him with obscenities, stole the sign and scared him straight.
'I'm retiring from picketing,' Farmer says. 'I'm not going to do it anymore, just to protect life and limb.'
A less visible act may have had even more influence. After Steve Patterson was hired as team president last summer, Farmer sent him a jar of the Jail Blazer Jam he has marketed the last couple of years in the Portland area, with a note saying: 'Welcome to Portland. I hope you put me out of business.'
Recently, Farmer received a thank-you note from Patterson.
'He said he appreciated the jam, that his family enjoyed it, and that he hoped to be able to change a lot of things within the organization,' Farmer says. 'That meant a lot to me, that he would take the time to respond. Maybe things will be changing over there.'