This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
"The desire to play fair, or to win is up for question in this sports scandal documentary, Untold: Hall of Shame."
BY ROMEY NORTON AUGUST 15, 2023
Untold: Hall of Shame is part of the Untold documentary series, and this one is directed by Bryan Storkel, starring Victor Conte. With a runtime of just over one hour this documentary examines one of sports biggest steroid scandals. The use of illegal drugs in sport has always been a controversy and its use has led to many athletes in many sports losing their medals and being cut from competing.
Victor Conte is a former bassist with Tower of Power and the founder and president of BALCO, (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) a sports nutrition center in California. Eventually, Conte spent time in prison (four months) in 2005, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering.
The documentary opens to a montage of multiple new reports of the BALCO scandal, and one man’s voiceover discussing how he was perceived as the Dr. Frankenstien, from BALCO. This man is Victor Conte, and he takes us on a journey through the scandal, his career and his experiences.
As we see archive footage from his younger self in 1984 Conte gently takes us through the early years of his successful business. He says that for sixteen years it was a legitimate business and he never gave anyone any drugs. Conte is interviewed in what looks like boxing gym space, in an office, and other settings in which are dimly lit, giving a sense of secrecy and seriousness. Conte is very direct in his interviews, which gives him an honesty… until it comes to Bill Bonds, where there is still an uncertainty if Bonds took steroids and if Conte provided them.
There are exclusive interviews with the head of BALCO, athletes suspected of using performance enhancing drugs such as Tim Montgomery, lead investigators, former IRS agents, Conte’s family members, and reporters like Michael Schmidt who wrote for the NY Times at the time. All giving their personal experiences and involvement in this scandal.
Listening to the athletes and how easy it was to find and take the performance enhancing drugs, you can see why they did it. Especially, when in the sport of baseball, drugs may have been illegal, but they were not tested for. They admit the lines between what is right and wrong become blurred, and the desire to win is stronger than the desire to play fair.
Seeing how the IRS works is an interesting aspect of the documentary, especially seeing how they will literally go through your rubbish to find evidence. Be careful how you discard your stuff, kids. Although, their 42 counts they wanted Conte to go down for, were reduced to 2, and overall there were no criminal charges against the athletes.
This documentary is filled with information, has a fluid pace, and multiple interesting interviews around the scandal, which will keep you intrigued. Delving into this scandal, the documentary makes you think about the Integrity of the athletes, and the integrity of the sport. Whilst this was the biggest steroid scandal to date, it doesn’t feel like the last.
Towards the end, there is a very emotional segment from Conte, and I genuinely felt sorry for him. However, over-all he is a salesman, who wanted to make money, wanted to win, and crossed ethical boundaries to do so, hurting himself, his family, and multiple others.