I shook my head last year when Yahoo! first reported the relationship between Marlon Byrd and former BALCO bad boy and “cream” and “clear” creator Victor Conte. The upshot: Conte supplies Byrd with all manner of supplements, the identity and nature of which Byrd has only the vaguest notions. Byrd was then and remains today the only Major League Baseball player who works with Conte.
Yahoo!’s Steve Henson updates the story today and not much has changed. We do learn, however, that after last year’s story came out Major League Baseball went ballistic at one of its players working with Conte and demanded a meeting with Byrd over it all. That never happened, apparently because MLB realized that Byrd (a) hadn’t failed any drug tests; (b) has always been a good baseball citizen; and (c) was still an American citizen with some freakin’ rights, dadgummit.
My head-shaking over it all wasn’t (and still isn’t) inspired the same thing that sparked Major League Baseball’s ire — the mere association with Conte — my thing was Byrd’s seemingly total trust in the guy. In last year’s story Byrd said he never even asks what’s in the supplements he’s given by Conte, and there is no indication in today’s article that he’s acquired any additional curiosity.
And, hell, now that I think about it, maybe it’s better that he’s going through Conte than diving into the supplement world himself. As we’ve learned in recent years, a large number of over-the-counter supplements contained banned substances, many of which aren’t even listed on the label. It would be easy for someone to mess up and take a banned substance. At least Conte has (a) expertise; and (b) the motive to grow his business from its post-BALCO ashes. He knows that if one of his athletes test positive for something he’s beyond ruined.
But even if I don’t subscribe to the idea of guilt by association, it is rather amazing to me that a ballplayer would associate with Conte in this day and age. I like Byrd so I hope it doesn’t burn him, but man, I don’t know that I’d take that chance.