MESA, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd reiterated his trust in BALCO founder Victor Conte and said that's why he's still working with a man who served jail time for steroids distribution.
Byrd and Conte were featured in a recent segment of HBO's "Real Sports." And when the Cubs' lone All-Star from last season reported to spring training Wednesday, he repeated his belief in Conte.
Byrd acknowledged in 2009, when he was with the Texas Rangers, that he was receiving supplements from Conte's new company. He said he's used Conte's expertise in supplements to make sure he doesn't take something on baseball's banned list.
The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative was at the center of a federal grand jury investigation of performance-enhancing drugs that has led to several athletes being indicted, including Barry Bonds. Conte pleaded guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering in July 2005 and served four months in prison.
"He was a top guy in the supplement game" before the steroid scandal, Byrd said. "There was nobody better to go to. Everyone else I go to, they tell me something I already knew."
So Byrd said he was the one who first contacted Conte, despite his background.
"Instead of me being dumb and just trying different things, I wanted to reach out to somebody to make sure I didn't test positive. That was the main thing. That was the main issue," he said.
Byrd batted .293 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs in his first season with the Cubs. He's known for his strenuous workouts that in the offseason include sprinting and boxing. Supplements are part of his regimen
"You have to understand how supplements work," Byrd said. "They don't make you superman. Steroids make you superman."
Manager Mike Quade said he wasn't well-schooled on the supplement issue.
"Marlin is a huge part of this club and I expect him to take care of his own business,' Quade said. "It does me no good to concern myself with any of that. ... I trust my players and trust them do what is right and be ready to perform and he's done nothing but show me that."
But his association with Conte has led to questions. Byrd has been questioned by Major League Baseball to make sure his supplements are certified under the league's testing program.
"I get tested. Major League Baseball knows they can test us anytime they want. It's random," he said. "I don't have any worries, and I don't think Major League Baseball has any worries. Victor's name is what it is."
Byrd said he did his homework before getting involved with Conte.
"Think I didn't do my background? Think I just went to him? I'm a pretty smart guy," Byrd said. "To be honest, he could teach me now to beat the system if he wanted to. But I would have to ask him. And then he would have to put himself in that situation again. He doesn't want to do that. I don't want to do that."
NOTES: The Cubs announced that Keith Moreland will replace the late Ron Santo as the team's radio color analyst. Moreland played 12 years in the majors and was with the Cubs from 1982-87 as a catcher, infielder and outfielder. He spent 16 years as a radio analyst for University of Texas baseball and has filled in on TV and radio with the Cubs.