Byrd, MLB to talk about Conte ties

Marlon Byrd(notes) must answer to Major League Baseball investigators Thursday over his use of over-the-counter nutritional supplements supplied to him by BALCO founder Victor Conte, several sources said Wednesday.

The Texas Rangers outfielder initially was asked to fly to MLB headquarters in New York last Thursday, but Byrd balked because it was the Rangers' only day off in a 20-day period. Instead, he is scheduled to talk to members of baseball's newly created investigative division over the phone from Seattle before Texas begins a four-game series against the Mariners.

Byrd was open about his use of several supplements provided by Conte's company, Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning, in a Yahoo! Sports story June 24. Byrd said the supplements improve his "energy and focus," and he has no qualms about dealing with Conte, who several years ago was the mastermind behind illegal performance-enhancing drugs used by ballplayers Barry Bonds(notes), Gary Sheffield(notes), Jason Giambi(notes), and by track stars including Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and Dwain Chambers. Conte says all of his supplements are now legal, and MLB confirmed Byrd has not tested positive for anything illegal.

Byrd has steadfastly backed Conte and does not plan to stop using the products. In fact, by the time MLB has its phone conversation with Byrd at 2 p.m. PT, a package of SNAC products will have arrived for him at the Safeco Field visiting clubhouse, a source said.

Conte says Byrd is the only MLB player ordering his products, which include a post-workout recovery concoction, a sleep aid and several products that purportedly increase energy and the ability to concentrate. Byrd is batting .287 with eight home runs and 44 RBIs.

MLB only approves the use of supplements certified by a watchdog agency called NSF International, which subjects each product to rigorous and expensive testing. NSF spokeswoman Greta Houlahan said the company "has never and will never certify a Victor Conte product" even if he submitted his supplements for approval."

"We would not work with Conte, on the basis of his dubious past and track record in this area," Houlahan said in an email. "NSF takes its mission very seriously. Our NSF Mark is only as strong as our reputation, which is based on our 65-year commitment to protecting and improving public health and safety. The NSF Athletic Banned Substance program reserves the right to deny certification to any organization – we can not risk our own reputation by certifying products associated with his dubious track record."

Conte says his products have been safe and legal for years. He has expressed remorse at trafficking in steroids and says he is trying to establish a legitimate supplements business. He wonders if MLB is blackballing his supplements because he has been critical of Commissioner Bud Selig and former players union chief Donald Fehr.

"I have spoken out about Selig and Fehr and how they knew what was going on with steroids," Conte said. "They promoted and harbored this culture. Now they look for others to blame."

Yahoo! Sports reporter Tim Brown contributed to this story.

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