Testing loophole may leave door open for doping

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports
Testing loophole may leave door open for doping
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BALCO founder Victor Conte takes part in the "Tribeca Talks: Injecting The American Dream" panel discussion …

So now we stand around and wait for a horde of attorneys/chemists/public relations types to tell us about our reigning National League MVP, how he managed to tumble into a vat of synthetic testosterone or not, and why we should believe his refutations … or not.

We wait on the technicality that makes this all "B.S." (Ryan Braun's public description), whether that be chain of custody, supplement impurities, or dumb luck – that is, some very competent and reputable doctor (or trainer) put something in or on Braun's body that makes the doctor look like a fool but also clears Braun of negligence.

Victor Conte's take?

"This is the typical lawyer denial huff and puff," he said.

Yeah, well, it could be that, too.

In fact, the BALCO founder said Braun's lawyers are beginning to remind him of Marion Jones' lawyers, and I'm guessing he didn't mean it as a compliment.

Conte may not know Braun, but he does know the industry.

And whether this was Braun's game or not (Braun has appealed and his lawyers insist he is innocent), here's what Conte believes is going on out there:

Baseball players – along with other athletes – are loading up on synthetic testosterone (and perhaps HGH) at night, when the body is repairing itself between games and workouts. The testosterone is administered through patches, gels, creams or orals. By the following afternoon, when that player is vulnerable to MLB testing, the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone is beneath the 4-to-1 ratio that triggers a positive test.

"It's a loophole," Conte said, "you could drive a Mack truck through."

For what it's worth, Conte believes designer steroids – the Clear, for one – are no longer a danger to professional sports. But, the fast-acting testosterone treatments, he said, leave a person's system within hours, after aiding him in muscle recovery, and so they are undetectable through the most common forms of testing. They also are easily obtainable and often administered as simply as through a patch.

[ Related: Braun takes big risk by going on offensive ]

He said MLB should conduct carbon isotope ratio (CIR) tests, which expose the presence of synthetic testosterone without relying on T/E ratios because it differentiates between synthetic and natural testosterone.

Otherwise, Conte said, "A player could use micro-doses of testosterone after every single game and stay below the 4-to-1 ratio. I think this is an opportunity to make a change. CIR testing – as a screen test, not as a follow-up – would help level the playing field."

ESPN reported Saturday that Braun tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was appealing a 50-game suspension.

Braun – through his agent – has denied intentionally taking a banned substance. His attorney, David Cornwell, said in a statement, "Any report that Ryan ingested a performance-enhancing drug is wrong."

Also …

Facing the departure of free agent Prince Fielder and the likelihood of two months without Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday came to terms with third baseman Aramis Ramirez. The contract is for $36 million over three years.

This changed life for Casey McGehee, who Monday was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for reliever Jose Veras.

Ramirez, 33, batted .306 and hit 26 home runs for the Chicago Cubs last season. McGehee hit just .223 in 147 games at third base for the Brewers in 2011.

Fielder's agent Scott Boras said they are in the process of eliminating teams that have expressed interest in Fielder. The Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays are believed to have been among the more aggressive suitors.

The New York Times reported the New York Mets have taken a $40 million bridge loan from Bank of America. The club seems to be in the process of taking on investors, though apparently not quickly enough. The Mets have yet to repay a $25 million loan from MLB.

Manny Ramirez told ESPN he regretted "decisions I made by following bad advice."

The lack of accountability would be jarring were it not so predictable. A two-time offender of the league's drug agreement, Ramirez was dumped by his own advisor – Boras – early last season when it became clear Ramirez would continue to embarrass himself and those around him.

"We told Manny we weren't going to represent him any further," Boras said.

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