NOT SO long ago, such a meeting was unimaginable. But on Dec. 12—the same day that Marion Jones was officially erased from the Olympic record books and one day before the unveiling of the Mitchell Report—Victor Conte, founder of the BALCO steroid factory, and Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, sat down to discuss the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. It was as if John Dillinger had been asked for advice on how to make banks more secure. "We're a bit of an odd couple—this was kind of like our first date," says Pound, 65, of the 2 1/2 hour powwow at a New York City law office. "Going into it, he probably thought I was some two-headed monster."
Conte, the mastermind behind illegal performance-enhancing drugs such as the Clear and the Cream, was allegedly the supplier to dozens of athletes, including Jones and Barry Bonds. For years his clients eluded the testing programs put into place by WADA and various sports, but after he served four months in prison following a 2005 guilty plea for steroid distribution, Conte vowed to help curb the use of PEDs. "I wanted to talk to someone who was on the dark side of this," says Pound. "[Conte] was very forthcoming. I take him at his word that he wants to be reintegrated into society as a whole." While Conte did not name any athletes he believes are cheating, he offered suggestions when asked by the WADA head what he'd do if he "were the king of the world of antidoping for a day." Conte stressed the need to test elite Olympic athletes more frequently ("Instead of testing the top 100 two times a year, test the top 20 10 times each"); to emphasize off-season testing over in-competition testing; and to find a way to stop the use of fast-acting testosterone, which Conte says has surpassed designer steroids in popularity. After eight years as chairman of WADA, Pound will step down at year's end. "I don't know how the next leadership is going to fight this," he says, "but this is a stone I didn't want to leave unturned."