Skeptical though I’ve always been of convicted drug peddler Victor Conte providing supplements to boxers, I’ve never dismissed the possibility that in his new role as an anti-performance enhancing drug evangelical, he had done a “Catch Me If You Can” style reversal — a brilliant cheat, now on the good guys’ team, catching cheats. On Twitter, he’s a tireless advocate of advanced drug testing, and he has helped get the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency up and running, and VADA has popped a couple said drug cheats. That’s all good.
But one of those drug test failures was welterweight Andre Berto, a client of Conte’s SNAC company who got busted with norandrosterone in his system. That was last month.
Then, on Monday, his biggest-name Major League Baseball client, Marlon Byrd, got with a banned substance in his system.
In both cases, Conte cited what is known in an actual court ruling as “The Shaggy Defense”: It wasn’t me. Berto was too far away for his last training camp to be getting help from Conte, says Conte, and in the case of Byrd, Conte says he didn’t provide him the substance in question. In Byrd’s case, he says Conte didn’t have anything to do with it, anyway.
OK. Let’s say all that is possible, because it is. But is it likely that, quite by accident and with no link to Conte, two of the athletic clients of the the most infamous drug cheat in professional sports just coincidentally came up dirty in consecutive months? If your answer is “yes,” and you’re not skeptical today, you just might be a zealot.
Best case scenario, shadowy, cloaked figures keep sneaking in to the gyms of athletes represented by Conte — shadier figures than Conte, even — and wooing them to the path of evil, or else clandestinely sprinkling steroids on their mashed potatoes. But then, Conte’s rep as a crusader to clean up the sport takes a ding, if he somehow can’t even keep his own guys off the stuff. Perhaps he needs to lock them up in a hermetically sealed facility to keep them safe from such diabolical infiltration.
Maybe, and I mean this, there’s an innocent explanation to this all. Maybe Conte will somehow continue to be a positive voice for more advanced testing in boxing. But there’s plenty of evidence now (if there wasn’t before) for all the writers and fans who have taken Conte at his word and who assume his motives pure to seriously consider whether that’s a wise course of action going forward.