The Man with a Plan Focused on Legal Performance Enhancement in BALCO Aftermath
Texas Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd has acknowledged using dietary supplements produced by Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC). SNAC System is the supplement company owned by Victor Conte, the former mastermind behind the BALCO steroid scandal. While Conte has put the BALCO experience behind him to focus on the formulation of legal performance-enhancing supplements, his detractors have refused to allow him to escape the dreaded steroid stigma.
Marlon Byrd has been widely criticized by numerous sports writers for associating with Victor Conte. Byrd is nonetheless proud of his association and wanted to be listed as a “SNAC Athlete” on the SNAC website. He has been pleased with the results of using SNAC's Proglycosyn, Physiobalm, Aerobitine, Vitalyze and ZMA products during the past 18 months.
"People are going to question it. Of course, they are," Byrd told the Dallas Morning News. "His supplements work for me. The things that I'm taking are subtle supplementsto play the game. It's weird to say, but it's safer, in my opinion.”
The implication behind the criticisms is that Victor Conte can not be trusted. The argument is that since he produced undetectable steroids to help athletes cheat during the BALCO era, he would be more likely to introduce undetectable steroids into SNAC supplements. Such suggestions seem unfounded especially given the extra scrutiny facing Conte; Conte reports being extra vigilant with all SNAC products; SNAC supplements are produced in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) manufacturing facilities.
The irony behind the stigmatization and ostracism of Victor Conte is that Conte has engaged in the most open and honest dialogue regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in professional sports of any participant associated with the BALCO scandal. It is no surprise that Marlon Byrd has placed his trust in someone who has approached performance enhancement so honestly. However, Byrd’s courage to disregard the stigma brought about by the contemporary steroid hysteria is, although refreshing, exceedingly uncommon.
"I've never been labeled a cheater. I know Victor has.” Byrd explained to the Dallas Morning News. “If I was doing something wrong, do you think I would have come out with it? I'm being honest."
Marlon Byrd opposed general manager Jon Daniels’ supplement recommendations for Texas Ranger players. The official team policy discourages the use of all supplements except for the few NSF certified and approved products. Daniels plans to sit down and discuss Byrd’s relationship with Victor Conte. But Daniels conceded that "Marlon's a veteran player who is a grown man and can make his own choices.”
“I don’t know if people are blackballing him,” Byrd told Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sport. “I don’t know how they will look at me. I’m not worried about it. I don’t care.”
Victor Conte’s past experience in providing illegal performance enhancing drugs to elite athletes like Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Dwain Chambers and Kelli White have made him a controversial figure. However, Conte also revealed that some athletes consume legal dietary supplements for many of the same reasons other athletes use anabolic steroids. These inconvenient truths that expose the hypocrisy behind the war on steroids make it difficult for Conte to escape the controversial shadow of BALCO.
“Where I drew the parallel between my legal products and anabolic steroids is that both are really about recovery, accelerating healing and tissue repair,” Conte explained in an interview with Yahoo! Sport. “What these products do, similar to what steroids do, is enable an athlete to recover quicker to do a deeper training load.
“You’re not going to get the type of benefit you would from anabolic steroids from any over-the-counter supplement. But can you get 25 percent of that effect with sophisticated nutritional support programs? Yes, you can.”
Marlon Byrd’s honesty about his use of dietary supplements, much like Victor Conte’s honesty about the reality of legal and illegal PED use in professional sports, should be cause for celebration. Regrettably, honesty is not always welcome. Sometimes the truth is too controversial.
“Byrd takes Conte’s supplements without apology,” June 24, 2009
“Marlon Byrd taking big risk working with Victor Conte,” June 25, 2009
By Millard Baker