From the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mark Fainarui-Wada and Lance Williams.

Three men guilty of distributing steroids to professional athletes were sentenced in federal court today to several months in prison in what has become the biggest doping scandal in sports history.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston sentenced Victor Conte, 55, president of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, known as BALCO, to four months in prison and four months of home detention. Trainer Greg Anderson, 39, who counted among his clients Giants slugger Barry Bonds, was sentenced to three months in prison and three more on home confinement.

BALCO vice president James Valente, 54, was put on probation.

Conte and Anderson are scheduled to begin their sentences Dec. 1 in the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater.

In pronouncing sentence, Illston chided the government for its handling of the BALCO case.

The federal government’s initial 42-count indictment — which was whittled down to two counts in exchange for the men’s guilty pleas — could lead only to light sentences under the law, she said.

“Attention to realistic probabilities ought to be paid at the beginning and not at the end of the case,” she said.

The judge also was critical of the defendants.

“They were cheating and you helped them do that,” she told Conte, referring to the athletes who used the performance-enhancing drugs he provided.

She called his conduct “disturbing to this court and to many of the people who care about the athletes and athletics.”

In a totally unrelated story, Mets reliever Felix Heredia, who missed almost all of 2005 after suffering an aneurysm in his left shoulder, has been suspended for the first 10 days of the 2006 season after being found in violation of the league’s drug policy.