The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Time for Victor Conte to Come Clean

Oct 24th, 2011
8:52 am PDT

imageVictor Conte is back in the news, as once again we get to hear from the horse’s mouth just how dirty this sport has been and is – in his opinion. Of course Conte’s opinion is considerable if you take into account the fact that he was the chemical mastermind behind the “Cream” (Testosterone cream) and the “Clear” (Tetrahydrogestrinone or THG) – the “undetectable” drugs at the heart of the BALCO scandal of the “oughts” which took down such luminaries as Tim Montgomery, Dwain Chambers, Kellie White, Kevin Toth, Regina Jacobs, and Marion Jones among others.

Given Mr. Conte’s resume, I would say he should know a little something about the drug issues within the sport of track and field. After all, I’m sure these are not the only athletes that either first or second hand used or gained knowledge from the products that he distributed. Besides, when you reach the forefront of your field, as Conte did in developing his undetectable products, you gain lots of “friends” and develop quite a network within the industry. So I would imagine that Conte’s “inside” knowledge is rather considerable.

Unfortunately Conte, and the sport, seems to be rather shortsighted when it comes to his knowledge and how he can help the sport. Because all Conte seems to want to do is point fingers and “tattle” on those I’m sure he feels got away while he and others had to serve their time – literally. The sport – as in WADA, the IAAF, and other acronyms – all seem to be convinced that the best use of Conte is as a “snitch”, which, unfortunately, is the unsavory category in which they place his potential testimony – as that of a snitch that may, or may not, be coming clean with proper information because he has an axe to grind with some folk within the sport as opposed to a sincere desire to clean up the sport.

So the two sides have sat at odds in something of a “Mexican Standoff” for nearly a decade, with Conte periodically screaming out that he knows who is dirty and he will tell if only people will listen; and the sport keeping him at arm’s length afraid to take his word as the gospel and start sending athletes, coaches and others to “time out”. Meanwhile Conte’s cries of “dirty sport” keeps the topic of drugs in this sport at the forefront, when track and field desperately needs to close that chapter and move forward.

Ironically I think Conte could actually help the sport accomplish the latter – to move forward in a positive manner. Not as the ultimate “insider” snitch, but as the chemical mastermind that he has proven to be. I think it’s time for Conte to come clean, as in come clean up the sport that he helped to sully! And the sport should embrace him with open arms in THAT regard!

We know that the system that’s been in use is, well useless when it comes to anything outside of the old tried and true drugs that the sport already has a solid read on – Clembuterol, Stanozolol, Furazabol, and Danabol to name a few. The “new stuff” the “undetectables” needs a more modern approach to get to the source. Blood testing could do that if the system were fully and properly implemented, but that would require the use of “passports” developed sport wide based on extensive out of competition testing to develop baselines – something that the sport in is nowhere near close to.

So, since we are basically at square one in the fight against drug use in sport, what better way to develop a system that is actually capable of catching drug cheats than by enlisting the aid/knowledge of the man who created the drugs to beat the old system! It’s not that radical a concept. As a matter of fact it’s no different than manufacturers of safes working with former safe crackers to find out why their products were vulnerable. After all, who would know better than a man that broke into your previously thought to be impenetrable product?

Now, I’m not suggesting that we line Mr. Conte’s pockets to do this. After all, he already made a lot of money while helping to give us the black eye we now carry. No, I would think that if Mr. Conte is “sincere” in his statements that he wants to see the sport clean, that he would gladly “volunteer” his services as sort of a form of “community service” to give back to the sport he has robbed. And if the acronyms are “sincere” in their stated want to clean up the sport, they will welcome him with open arms. Perhaps even provide a “stipend” to cover his basic costs – travel, lodging, food – while he works with WADA, the UCLA laboratory, or whomever it is deemed will serve best from his knowledge.

You see my belief is that if Conte knows who’s doping, then he knows how to bring them down – and I would rather see them brought down within the system, than via accusation. Because development of a system will not only bring down those he knows are cheating currently, but will prevent others from doing the same in the future – giving Conte the opportunity to change his legacy from the man at the head of BALCO to the man that made track and field (and others) a clean sport.

That, of course, is if everyone involved in truly interested in bringing us a clean sport.

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One Response to “Time for Victor Conte to Come Clean”

  1. Victor Conte says:

    Hi Conway,

    I have met with both USADA and WADA a number of times and provided both agencies with lots of information that could help to reduce the use of drugs in sport. However, I'm just not so sure there is a genuine interest in catching those using performance enhancing drugs. I told USDA to increase their out of competition testing during the fourth quarter of the year because that is when the athletes are using steroids and other PEDs in conjunction with weight training to build the explosive strength base that serves them throughout the next competitive season. However, in the fourth quarter of 2007 before the 2008 Olympic Games, USADA actually reduced the amount of testing done by 50%. Why? I met with Dick Pound from WADA in New York in December of 2007 and provided him with lots of valuable information. Specific information that was never followed up on, because the new chairman John Fahey said that he didn't want to accept information from a "convicted felon." In 2010 I worked again with WADA on another project in which I was trying to help them develop a test for another designer substance. I asked Dick to please obtain a copy of the extensive notes that were taken during our 2007 meeting to confirm what I had told them about this network of people back in 2007 when WADA chose not to use the information. He came back and told me that WADA had "destroyed the notes" from our meeting. So, I question whether or not there is actually a genuine interest by USADA and WADA to catch the many drug cheats out there in sport today. Much of what I hear the officials from these agencies say publicly seems to be more about propaganda designed to deter athletes from using drugs. However, the athletes, trainers and chemists involved in doping are not so easliy going to be deterred by strong talk. Scare tactics have obviously not worked in the past and I don't think they will work in the future either.There is simply too much incentive for the athletes and it is too easy to circumvent the anti-doping procedures in place at this time. In my opinion, the testing procedures need a complete overhaul before there will be a significant reduction in the use of drugs at the elite level of sport. I believe that it can be done, but these agencies will need to learn to judge less and listen more before significant positive change comes.

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