Marlon Byrd, for years an outspoken client of BALCO founder and professional sports pariah Victor Conte, on Monday was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy.
Byrd tested positive for Tamoxifen, a post steroid-cycle drug that acts to reinvigorate the body's natural testosterone production. The drug also can prevent on-cycle side effects. It is in those ways similar to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the drug that caused the suspension in 2009 of Manny Ramirez.
In a statement released through the players' union, Byrd, a free agent since being released by the Boston Red Sox, claimed he'd been "provided with" the drug this winter as a means to recover from a recurrence of a prior condition.
"I made an inexcusable mistake," Byrd said in the statement.
He added, "Although the medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance enhancement reasons. I am mortified by my carelessness."
The suspension is especially curious given Byrd's relationship with Conte, who once provided drugs to the likes of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Bill Romanowski, all tainted by drug scandals. Conte served time in prison for conspiracy to distribute steroids. In numerous interviews, and in spite of MLB's persistent warnings, Byrd insisted he trusted Conte, whom he credited for increasing his strength and production.
Not two years ago, Byrd told Yahoo! Sports, "Victor's supplements have become so much a part of my routine, I can't imagine not using them. I think other guys are missing out."
Byrd told USA Today on Monday that Conte did not provide him with the Tamoxifen. And in tweets and a statement, Conte denied providing Byrd with the drug.
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"Any nutritional supplements I ever provided to Marlon Byrd were legal products that contained no banned substances," read one tweet.
Another: "I provided Marlon Byrd with nutritional and training advice which had nothing whatsoever to do with any type of prohibited substances."
And: "Marlon just told me that he received the Tamoxifen from a 'Holistic Lifestyle Coach' from Florida."
Conte's statement read in part: "I did not give Marlon Byrd tamoxifen or provide him with consultation regarding his use of this drug. My relationship with Marlon began in 2008 and I last met with him in August 2011. Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker available legally only by prescription."
After batting .270 over 34 games, Byrd was released by the Red Sox two weeks ago. He would be eligible to return from his suspension on Aug. 21. In the lead-up to Monday's suspension, Byrd, 34, had received interest from clubs seeking outfield help.
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