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Marlon Byrd Raises Eyebrows With Revelation Of Victor Conte Relationship....

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.


One reason why I like spring so much is because it brings a renewed hope for the coming year, especially when it comes to our baseball teams in town.  Baseball fans of all ages counting down the days till their favorite team breaks camp and opens the season with a feeling of a clean slate.  Whatever happened the past year no matter how surprising or disappointing no longer matters because the new year begins now.  With all the positive vibes coming from both camps in Chicago and the experts beginning to weigh in on their projections before the first pitch is even thrown, baseball is back and that is all that matters. 


Last night I was watching HBO's wonderful sports program Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, and all the positive vibes I felt from the Cubs camp came to a screeching halt.  I was not aware of two things which the multi Emmy winning program revealed last night.   


One was convicted steroids madman Victor Conte was out of prison and working with athletes again. 


Two....Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd is his top baseball client. 


Like MLB I wondered to myself what in the hell is Marlon Byrd thinking teaming with the man who is most associated with baseball's black eye.....the steroid era?


If you are not aware of whom Victor Conte is, here is a little information to lead into what I am going to be talking about. 


- Founder of BALCO, which has been associated for using banned performance enhancing drugs (PED/Steroids) with professional athletes. 

- BALCO has been linked to such sport figures as Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Bill Romanowski among others 

- Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute steroids and money laundering in July, 2005. 

- Served four months in prison


When people who follow baseball talk about the steroid era, Conte is the face of the discussion.  He seemingly found a way to develop PED's that were undetectable by normal drug tests and many athletes found his work so useful that they used it throughout their careers.   


I am going to come here and say that all sports are now clean, although I want to believe that the new testing systems in all of them are doing a better job at cleaning their respective sports up.  I want to believe sports will be 100% clean, but then again there is no possible way I ever see that happening.  Sports like any other profession, if you could find a way to get a leg up in your field and make yourself some more money....I believe we would all do the same.  If you are not cheating, you are not trying...right? 



All that being said, Conte served time in prison for supplying those who wanted to get that cherished upper hand on their competition.  Why would Marlon Byrd team up with a convicted felon then? 


''You should wonder,'' Byrd said. ''That's the way the world is, and he is Victor Conte. I made the decision to work with him, and I wasn't worried about it. I know the truth. I know what he does. I know how he's helped me, and I know I'm clean.''

While Byrd may believe what he wants to believe, the fact is he is teaming up with a man who not only saved the game of baseball but also ruined the legacy of it as well.  While Conte never picked up a baseball or had an at bat in the major leagues, his imprint on the game will have an ever lasting effect on the historic numbers of the game.  If baseball is a game based on statistics, then Victor Conte was the calculator.  He single handedly helped players associated with his corporation reach milestones which were originally thought of to be unbreakable. 


In the HBO piece, Conte continues to supplement his athletes with mixtures and creations of his own design, yet he claims they are 100% clean from any banned supplements.  How can Byrd or any major league ballplayer who seeks Conte's services truly trust him when he says that? 


''He was the king. He was the king, bottom line,'' Byrd said during an interview for the HBO show. ''If you wanted to cheat and you wanted to be the best at it, you went to Victor Conte."  Byrd went on to say later in the HBO piece "I'm not afraid of Victor Conte."



While Marlon Byrd has never failed a drug test in his nine year career, his four year association with Conte is going to put some doubt in many minds about if Byrd is guilty by association.  For instance in the last four seasons for Byrd (during his reported association with Conte), his batting average improved significantly from his first five seasons with both Philadelphia and Washington (PHI/WASH Batting Average .263 / TEX/CHI Batting Average .294).  His slugging percentages over the past four seasons has not dipped below .400, which it only rose above once before in his career.  Also while Byrd never hit for double digit home run totals before his reported association with Conte, Byrd has reached double digit home run totals each of the last four seasons.  Granted Byrd is getting many more at bats as a full time player now, but the stats are the stats.  Byrd in the last four seasons has done better overall as a player in his years associated with Conte than his years previous, including his first ever All Star game last season with the Chicago Cubs


''Why would I associate myself with Victor Conte? People that know me, they understand,'' he told HBO. ''Some people that don't know me, they're always going to question.'' 


I find it disturbing that any baseball player in these times is willing to give the face of the steroid era another chance.  Even while Byrd acknowledges that Conte was the guy to go to if you wanted to cheat, his current association with Conte makes me look at him in a different light.  I found Byrd a breath of fresh air when he came to the Cubs a little more than a year ago, however this latest revelation makes me lump him in with all the players of past years who sought out "the edge" from Conte's services.  With all the possible people/trainers/doctors a baseball player could go out and seek the services of for offseason training, why does Byrd seek the man who gave baseball the biggest black eye in its history?  Especially since Byrd is the ONLY one who has done so since Conte's release from prison. 



What Byrd has done with this latest revelation (even though it was publicized in his Rangers days) coming out on national television backing the services of a former steroid distributor and placing his trust in Conte has made me lose all trust in what Byrd does on the baseball field.  For every home run Byrd hits now, the question will pop up in the back of minds across Chicago about the legitimacy of the feat.

Like anyone else Byrd will have to live with his decisions but would you put your trust in a convicted drug dealer that his "vitamins" are legit now?  

Byrd should not be afraid of Victor Conte, but he should fear the backlash of his actions if indeed the other 749 major leaguers were right to stay away. 




John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score 


You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at 


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