The criminally underrated Marlon Byrd has been taking strength training supplements designed by the criminally convicted Victor Conte for a couple of years now, and despite the symmetry, Major League Baseball would like him to stop. The Chicago Cubs outfielder recently told ESPN’s Bruce Levine that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig asked him and his agent to sever ties with Conte, after word got out that the two were working together.
Conte was made famous in the baseball world through the portrait that Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams painted of him in their bestseller, Game of Shadows, which chronicles Barry Bonds’ alleged use of legal and illegal supplements under the guidance of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder. Conte, whose client list was a who’s who of celebrated athletes, was eventually convicted of conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering in 2005, spending time in jail after pleading guilty to the charges.
According to Byrd:
[The pressure from MLB] does bother me sometimes, but I think there should be pressure on everybody. I’m always going to watch what I take. I’m not going to say I have a bull’s-eye on my back, but I think a lot of people are waiting for me to get my first positive test and miss 50 games. They’d like that just so they can say, ‘We told you so.’ I know that won’t happen. I know I’m clean. I know the supplements I take are clean. I’m going to make sure of that.
In terms of optics, I understand how it isn’t the best scenario imaginable to have a current player associating himself with a convicted steroid peddler, but if MLB’s claims over the accuracy of their mandatory drug testing is accurate, there shouldn’t be a problem here, right? Exhibiting wariness over the Byrd and Conte relationship is the furthest thing from a vote of confidence that the league could give its current PED detection program.
If getting discouraged by drug use in sports is your thing, check out this feature on Marlon Byrd and Victor Conte’s relationship from 2009 (clean needle to HardBall Talk for the link). The most memorable part:
Conte has provided the Texas Rangers center fielder with a variety of pills and powders for 18 months. Not once has Byrd asked Conte whether any of it could trigger a positive drug test.
“I didn’t need to,” Byrd said. “From our conversations, there was no need to ask.”
I like how the question isn’t whether illegal substances are present in the supplements, it’s whether or not the supplements could trigger a positive drug test, as there’s obviously a distinction between the two possibilities with one being far more worrisome than the other.