Skip to content Skip to footer

BALCO exclusive: master chemist Patrick Arnold reveals the inside story of sport’s biggest scandal

Twenty years on from the performance-enhancing drugs scandal that shook professional sport to its core, Unfiltered tracked down Patrick Arnold - the “brains behind BALCO” and chemical mastermind who created the untraceable steroids that ended the careers of some of the biggest names in athletics - to get his side of sport’s most shocking story
Patrick Arnold
Patrick Arnold

Patrick Arnold is a synthetic organic chemist best known for his role in creating designer steroids, specifically The Clear, that were used by elite athletes in what became known as the BALCO Scandal. He also introduced the nutritional supplement Andro (androstenedione) and created the class of sports supplements known as prohormones. Arnold also discovered and manufactured several other successful nutritional supplement compounds, such as the controversial CNS stimulant 1,3-DMAA, and more recently was renowned for his contribution in creating the exogenous ketone segment of the nutritional supplement marketplace via his efforts in synthesising a ketone ester, as well as BHB salts in coordination with research performed by Dr Dominic D’Agostino at the University of South Florida.

Patrick Arnold: My side of the BALCO scandal

It’s now more than 20 years since the BALCO scandal shook the world of professional sport to its foundations, but the aftershocks are still being felt with public trust in elite performance yet to recover.

It was and will likely forever be the most shocking and sensational sports exposé: a conspiracy to create and deliver undetectable performance-enhancing drugs to some of the most high-profile athletes in the world to give them an insurmountable advantage to dominate their rivals.

Household names, including Olympic gold medalist sprinter Marion Jones – who was forced to return her five Olympic medals – and men’s 100m sprinter Tim Montgomery – whose world record time was struck from the history books – became synonymous with the scandal.

Others, such as multiple Major League Baseball MVP and record home run hitter Barry Bonds, were implicated without ever failing a drug test (although the controversy cost Bonds his place in the baseball Hall of Fame, as he didn’t secure the 75% of votes needed in any of his ten years of eligibility).

In all, dozens of athletes had their previously inspirational and illustrious careers forever tarnished by their associations with BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative).

While one man, Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO, has sought fame, money and attention before, during and after his exploits were exposed by a US Internal Revenue Service investigation – most recently appearing in the Netflix documentary “Untold: Hall of Shame” – another figure, one arguably more influential to the entire BALCO operation than Conte or anyone else, has remained almost entirely in the shadows.

Until now.

Behind the scenes at BALCO

In an exclusive and long-awaited interview, we tracked down Patrick Arnold, the enigmatic and reclusive chemist who created the designer anabolic steroid central to BALCO’s success, and convinced him to break his silence and reveal his side of the biggest doping story in the history of professional sport.

Indeed, BALCO started as an innocuous nutritional supplement company yet morphed into the most sophisticated doping operation in existence thanks to Conte’s chance meeting with Arnold, whose love of lifting, performance and chemistry led him to create a novel performance-enhancing compound by the name of tetrahydrogestrinone, but soon known as “The Clear” because it was undetectable in tests designed to catch out drug cheats.

BALCO and The Clear not only catapulted the clandestine world of sports doping into a largely shocked and unsuspecting public, but also revealed the huge risks athletes were prepared to take to get to the pinnacle of their sport.

Our Unfiltered conversation with Arnold unveils the intricate tapestry of deception, ambition, and scientific ingenuity behind the BALCO scandal, and his revelations lay bare how the allure of unparalleled performance and promise of immortality seduced some of the biggest names in professional sport.

More than two decades on, the catastrophic legacy of BALCO is not simply one of tarnished records and fallen idols, but a profound erosion of trust, respect and honour in competitive and professional sports.

And so Arnold’s side of the story is more than a sensational spectacle of how a few stars burned brightly before quickly being extinguished: it serves as a cautionary tale about the cost of victory at any price and the sheer fragility of sporting integrity in the face of irrepressible ambition.

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]