Victor Conte Says Drug Testing is an IQ Test!
by Thomas Hauser
Victor Conte is the founder and president of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), which has been at the heart of several much-publicized PED scandals. He spent four months in prison after pleading guilty in 2005 to illegal steroid distribution and tax fraud.
Conte says that PED testing in boxing today is “IQ testing,” nothing more. In a recent interview with Steve Kim of Maxboxing.com, he declared, “The loopholes are so big that you could drive a Mack Truck through them. It’s really a joke. Traditional testing in boxing is basically worthless other than the detection of some types of stimulant before and after a fight. The testing is, almost by design, inept, and this basic ineptness breeds the use of performance enhancing drugs.”
The facts bear Conte out. The most significant revelations regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs in boxing haven’t come from state athletic commission testing. Rather, they’ve been incidental to federal investigations of other targets that resulted in the ensnarement of fighters who had previously passed state athletic commission tests.
Then there’s the case of Shane Mosley.
In September 2007, Sports Illustrated reported, “According to multiple sources who attended an international anti-doping conference in Colorado Springs last November, Jeff Novitzky, a lead investigator in the BALCO case, alleged that boxer Shane Mosley started an elaborate doping regimen in the months prior to a September 13, 2003, fight against Oscar De La Hoya. As Novitzky explained in painstaking detail, two months before the fight, Mosley, a client of the BALCO lab, began using ‘the clear’ and ‘the cream,’ the designer substances that Barry Bonds, among other athletes, stands accused of using.”
“The clear” is an undetectable anabolic steroid. “The cream” contains testosterone and epitestosterone, and is primarily a masking agent.
Novitzky also stated at the conference that Mosley supplemented these drugs with doses of Erythropoietin (EPO). And he backed his presentation with records seized from BALCO that detailed a dramatic rise in Mosley’s hematocrit level (a measure of red blood cells).
In response, Mosley told Tim Smith of the New York Daily News and Dan Rafael of ESPN.com that he had visited BALCO and met with Conte at the insistence of his former conditioning coach (Darryl Hudson) and had taken the drugs after he was misled by Conte, who told him that they were legal nutritional supplements.
Conte answered back, telling Smith, “I’ve never misled or deceived any athlete. I’ve always been a man of full disclosure.”
Thereafter, Mosley’s attorney (Judd Burstein) advised the media that Shane’s position was supported by a lie detector test that Shane had passed “with flying colors.” Of course, the lie detector test had been unilaterally arranged for by Burstein.
Then, in April 2008, Mosley filed a lawsuit for slander against Conte for stating publicly that he had knowingly used PEDs. “I cannot begin to explain how devastating Conte’s false allegations have been to me,” Shane declared in court papers. “I believe that I have carved out an important place for myself in the sport’s history. All of my life’s work is at risk because of Conte’s lies. I have a brand based upon the highest reputation for sportsmanship, and that brand is being irreparably tarnished by Conte.”
Conte responded with an affidavit from Darryl Hudson, who declared, “I know that Mr. Mosley was aware that the performance enhancing drugs provided to him by Mr. Conte were banned drugs because I discussed that fact with Mr. Mosley both during and after our visit to BALCO. It was entirely Mr. Mosley’s decision to use the banned drugs. I never recommended to Mr. Mosley that he take banned performance enhancing drugs, nor did I ‘push’ drugs on him in any way.”
At that point, the matter receded from public view. It resurfaced in January 2009, when the grand jury testimony of Conte and Mosley was made public. Based on that testimony, Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote, “On July 26, 2003, Shane Mosley and strength coach Darryl Hudson flew into Oakland. Conte, according to his account of the meeting, wrote up a doping calendar with the initials ‘S.M.’ at the top and handwritten notations for what to take on which days. Then he began putting various pills and substances on his desk. Some were legal vitamins and nutritional substances. Three were not.”
“There was The Clear, an undetectable anabolic steroid that he had been giving to his track athletes and that one track coach referred to as ‘rocket fuel.’ There was The Cream, a lotion Conte used as a masking agent. It tricked even the most advanced drug testers by keeping the body’s levels of testosterone at normal levels. Then there was the bottle Conte says was labeled ‘Procrit.’ Conte produced a syringe and showed Mosley how to use it, flicking it and pushing up the plunger to remove air bubbles. Then, Conte says, he handed the syringe to Mosley and watched him inject his first dose.”
“Mosley’s doping calendar called for injections of EPO, every other day for the first two weeks of the regimen; then once a week after that. His final injection was scheduled for September 8, five days before the [De La Hoya] fight and plenty of time to clear his system for a post-fight drug test.”
Thereafter, Michael Rosenthal spoke for many in the boxing community when he authored an article for The Ring Online.
“Shane Mosley,” Rosenthal wrote, “has earned the admiration of everyone in the boxing world for his unusual ability and fighting spirit. He’s a certain Hall of Famer. He’s one of the nicest guys in sports. And he’s a cheater. Of course, he said he never intended to gain an unfair advantage when he took performance-enhancing drugs in the weeks before his victory over Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas. He said he didn’t know what he was taking or that it might be banned by the majority of anti-doping agencies. However, just as we roll our eyes when Barry Bonds and company deny any intentional wrongdoing, it’s difficult to believe Mosley.”
“Consider these questions,” Rosenthal continued. “Why did Mosley have the supposedly legal substances he purchased from BALCO shipped to him instead of taking them back with him on the plane? Why would he taper off his use of the substances as mandatory drug tests got closer? What would Conte stand to gain by misleading Mosley? Why did Mosley stop taking all the supplements, even the harmless vitamins, after the fight? It adds up to a problem with Mosley’s credibility.”
The presence of performance enhancing drugs in boxing (whatever the extent of their use) is a stain on the sport.
“The ring should be as fair and honorable as we can make it,” Dr. Flip Homansky says. “No fighter should be allowed to gain an unfair advantage over his opponent. PEDs are an artificial aid and no different than tampering with a fighter’s gloves.”
Still, reality dictates that more than a few fighters will use performance enhancing drugs if they think they can get away with it. Indeed, the primary reason that many fighters don’t use PEDs is that they simply can’t afford them.
“I think it’s rampant in boxing,” Conte says. “Once one person gains that additional edge in speed and power and endurance, then others will do the same. They feel like they’re almost forced to use drugs to be on a level playing field. If there was good testing and the athletes themselves believed that the programs were effective, they’d be more inclined not to use drugs. Knowing that the programs are inept; this is what fuels the idea that they gotta do what they gotta do in order to be competitive.”