All eyes are still on Major League Baseball and National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun, who has tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Braun is appealing the test and we really haven’t heard anything from MLB yet as it awaits the findings and decides whether it will suspend one of the game’s top players for the first 50 games of next season. BALCO founder Victor Conte says that punishment is basically inevitable and calls Braun dead in the water because he tested positive in to different types of tests. Conte also outlines how those tests work in the following interview and says he still believes 30 or 40 percent of MLB players are using some substance that is banned.
Victor Conte joined KNBR in San Francisco with Gary and Larry to discuss why he wasn’t surprised by Braun’s positive test, the number of people he still thinks are using banned substances, why the steroid era isn’t dead, why baseball doesn’t adopt WADA’s standards, what he’s doing with Marlon Byrd, if another player will get caught after the Braun saga is over and what Braun’s team can do to appeal.
Were you surprised that Ryan Braun tested positive?:
“No, I was not surprised. In fact, three weeks before that, I was in Vietnam and I was interviewed by somebody from the New York Daily News. It was when the growth hormone testing was being introduced. And I don’t think growth hormone is effective as a performance enhancer. At that time, I basically said that what they’re doing is using fast-acting testosterone — creams, gels, orals, patches — and they clear so quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours. … They could conceivably, after a game, use testosterone to help with tissue repair and healing and recovery and by the time they’d show up at the park the next day, their PE ratio would be normal. I always knew there was this giant loophole that you could drive a Mack truck through.”
How many players do you think are still using things that are banned by baseball?:
“A significant percentage. Way back in 2004, I said that I felt 50 percent were using steroids and 80 percent were using stimulants. The numbers are obviously less now, but I think it’s a significant portion. I’m including the offseason, where they really don’t do testing. When you’re considering offseason and during the season, it may have dropped, but still 30 or 40 percent?”
Are you able to watch an athlete perform without questioning if he’s using banned substances to do it?:
“No, I think they’re all suspicious at the elite level, regardless of sport. I just think that in this day and age, there’s a dark cloud over sports. The whole idea that we’re beyond the steroid era and all that, doesn’t make sense to me. I understand what these loopholes are.”
What’s baseball’s big fear about adopting the World Anti-Doping Agency’s policies?:
“The question is: Is there really a genuine effort to catch these people using drugs, or is this more about propaganda and PR? You’ve got to understand I went face-to-face with USADA three times and face-to-face with WADA one time. I told them a lot of the things we’re talking about right now, about where the loopholes are and how they could catch people.”
Marlon Byrd now comes to you for training. What type of assistance do you give him?:
“He does all sorts of things based upon testing that we do. You find depletions and deficiencies of specific nutrients and then he takes nutritional supplements that are trained for his needs. He also does something called hypoxic training, which is simulated high-altitude training.”
Do you think there will be another player implicated in this after Braun’s situation is over?:
“This is a wake-up call. I’ve been pitching this before this Ryan Braun case broke. I said here’s the loophole: They’re using fast-acting testosterone; they’re not using anabolic steroids. You need to use carbon isotope ratio testing and you will bust lots of people. I said a significant number of players would test positive. Three weeks later, here’s a positive.”
What argument can Braun’s people make to win their appeal?:
“The first thing I hear that they’re saying is it’s an extremely high level, the highest that’s ever been recording. Are they talking about in baseball or are they talking about in general? I’m not sure about that, but this is a double-whammy for him. Unless there’s some chain-of-custody issue, other technical problem during the collection and transport process, he’s basically dead in the water. I believe he’s going to serve the 50-game suspension.”