Performance Enhancing Drugs Still Rampant In Baseball Says Victor Conte

Baseball image from Shutterstock

The USA Today interviewed former BALCO chief Victor Conte who provided Barry Bonds with steroids and was sentenced to prison after another San Francisco Giant player, Melky Cabrera, was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. They asked him how many current players are using performance enhancing drugs (PED’s), and his answer was shocking:

“I would say,” Conte said, speaking slowly, “maybe as much as half of baseball.”

Wait, you’re saying that 50% of baseball players might still be cheating today, when the steroid era is supposed to be over?

“I’m not going to name names,” Conte said, “but I’ve talked to a lot of top players in Major League Baseball, and they tell me this is what they’re doing. There is rampant use of synthetic testosterone in Major League Baseball.”

…”What these guys are doing is using fast-acting testosterone, creams, gels, patches and micro-dose injections,” Conte says. “They put this stuff on after a game, let it circulate in their blood stream, and eight hours later, it’s out of their system when they take a drug test. It’s so simple.

“There’s such a loophole, you really wonder if Major League Baseball has a genuine interest in stopping these guys.”

In a radio interview I heard on ESPN he elaborated. I’m summarizing his assessment from memory, but it adds further explanation to the linked story. MLB players can only be tested at the ballpark. Players know when they will have to be at the stadium, so they know when they need to be clean for the tests. The drug testing labs check a players urine for its ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which is normally 1 to 1 for adult males. A test is not considered positive until the ratio reaches 4 to 1, so players know the line they need to stay under. The fast-acting synthetic testosterone dissipates rapidly from the body, and sleep and hydration help speed the process. Conte says that six hours after the synthetic testosterone is taken it’s essentially out of the system as far as the drug test is concerned. It’s only if the players A and B samples exceed the 4 to 1 ration that the lab conducts a more precise isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test to determine whether the testosterone came from outside the body. That’s the test that would catch all of the MLB users, but it’s not done until a player’s urine tests positive.

Knowing the times of the test and the acceptable limits, players can easily avoid detection and can keep elevated testosterone levels for as long as they want.

Where Conte charges MLB of hypocrisy is that 4 to 1 ratio and failure to use IRMS tests could easily allow 50% or more of MLB players to use synthetic testosterone without ever getting “caught.”

Jose Canseco, no ones idea of a model citizen, wasn’t wrong about steroids in baseball. MLB can attack Conte all they want, that doesn’t mean that he’s wrong either.

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  • jim_m

    “There’s such a loophole, you really wonder if Major League Baseball has a genuine interest in stopping these guys.”

    There’s no wondering. MLB doesn’t want to stop it. The collective bargaining agreement is designed to have that loophole. The players fought for years against ANY drug testing.

    Take the case this week of Melky Cabrera. Even with a 50 game suspension the pay off in personal wealth is still so great that it dwarfs any penalty. Even a 50 game suspension is a slap on the wrist for someone who can pull in millions of dollars. It also pays for the teams to look the other way.

  • Pardon me for asking, but why should anyone not associated with MLB care? The players aren’t doing anything that is important. Instead, they are playing a game. If the people paying to watch that game don’t care, then why should I?

    • jim_m

      First, I agree that this is not such a big deal that we need more congressional investigations and ridiculous grandstanding by ignorant public officials.

      However, MLB has determined that using performance enhancing drugs is a form of cheating. There are states where sports gambling is legal. Therefore, you have millions of dollars being wagered on games where cheating is effecting the outcome. You also have people whose livelihood is earned in relation to the games, the vendors, the bars, the other services around the ball parks that are not a part of MLB. These people are losing money because some dirtbag is cheating and enabling his team to win.

      Finally, you care because these jerks are teaching your kids that cheating pays and pays well. By saying “Who cares” you are telling your kids and your grandkids that you think cheating is OK. Nice example you set for your family.

      That is why Barry Bonds will never see the inside of Cooperstown unless he buys himself a ticket.