Few people seemed to be real surprised when it came out last week that Melky Cabrera had tested positive for a banned substance. Victor Conte, the founder and president of BALCO and a name long associated with the steroid era, certainly wasn’t shocked when he heard the news.
Conte believes that synthetic testosterone, which is what Cabrera tested positive for, remains the biggest problem, particularly in the way that baseball tests for it. Conte says he believes as many as 50 percent of all baseball players use, and that the Hall of Fame debate that rages on regarding players from the era is a difficult one for him because he believes plenty of inductees already in the Hall used performance-enhancing substances.
Victor Conte joined ESPN Radio New York with Chuck Wilson to discuss Melky Cabrera’s positive test, the number of players he thinks are using, how players are circumventing testing and if players from the steroid era should be voted into the Hall of Fame.
When you heard the news of Melky Cabrera testing positive and being suspended, what were your thoughts?:
“First of all, I heard about this about a month ago, the rumor that he tested positive. … I was not surprised at all for what he tested positive for was synthetic testosterone. I’ve been saying for a number of years now that this is the biggest loophole in anti-doping and the testing that they do. If you take a look at the brief history here since Ryan Braun tested positive … since then, Alistair Overeem, from the UFC, tested positive for synthetic testosterone. The girl, Debbie Dunn, from the USA track team, tested positive at the trials for synthetic testosterone. … We’ve also had Lamont Peterson, the boxer … he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. And now we have Melky. So, it’s obvious that a lot of people at the elite level of sport are using synthetic testosterone.”
What percentage of Major League Baseball players do you think are using substances?:
“Listen, it would be a guess, and this is based on me talking to some of the top players, and I’m not going to name names for a variety of reasons, but MLB players do reach out and talk to me about nutrition and different things. And my sense is that it’s rampant, that it’s as much as 50 percent. Part of the reason is, if you want to clean up the doping in baseball, you’ve got to clean up the testing.”
How are players right now circumventing the testing?:
“It’s very, very easy. It’s like taking candy from a baby. They only test the players when they’re at the ballpark. Therefore, after a game, you can apply a testosterone cream or a gel or a patch, and this will peak at about four hours after you take it and be all the way back down to baseline about eight hours after. … This helps with tissue repair and healing and recovery, so they just wait until after the game and apply it … and they get the benefit of having that testosterone circulate and accelerate healing.”
What do you think should happen in terms of the Hall of Fame as more and more potential inductees from the steroid era will be on the ballot?:
“That is a very tough question. I believe that a lot of the players who are in the Hall of Fame have used performance-enhancing drugs, the majority of them likely stimulants. … It’s difficult. Do you use the what’s-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander approach? I don’t know. It’s a tough call.”
Listen to Victor Conte on ESPN Radio New York here (Interview begins at 23:00)