by Charles Jay
About fifteen years ago, there was a great movie that came out entitled “Big Night.” It was all about these Italians who had a restaurant, and their “friend” across the street who had a more successful restaurant. At the end, as a conflict came in the relationship, the more successful restraurateur said to the other man, “I’m a businessman. I’m anything I need to be at any time.”
That’s about the same way it is with Bob Arum.
Right now, he seems to be behind what ostensibly seems an “reform” effort on the part of Victor Conte, the disgraced former BALCO head who was exposed in drug scandals in both baseball and track and field. That’s because he’s at press conferences talking about Nonito Donaire, who happens to be in action this weekend against Jeffrey Mathebula with the WBO and IBF junior featherweight titles on the line.
Donaire is subject to year-round testing for banned substances by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA), and he also happens to be a Conte client.
The funny thing about Arum is that he was not too vocal at any point in support of extensive drug testing when negotiations for a fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were taking place, and Mayweather was insisting that Pacquiao be available in the same way that supposedly Donaire is making himself available to be tested.
But this is a different day, and a different fight, and one can always reverse course, one supposes, and go back to another posture when one finds it convenient.
At the moment it is pro-Conte.
“People point out Victor’s background which was certainly there but I think that Victor is a reformed guy,” is what Arum is saying now. Except Conte’s clients continue to get flagged. Andre Berto is one of them, isn’t he? And Marlon Byrd, an outfielder who most recently played for the Boston Red Sox, was just suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games after testing positive for Tamofixen, which is used in treating breast cancer.
Well, Byrd does not have breast cancer, and the substance is banned.
Conte told the USA Today,. “I knew nothing about it until two days ago. But I’m the one getting slammed under the bus. It’s like I’m the bad guy.”
Yes, because he’s the guy getting paid by the athlete as a “consultant.” As was mentioned in one of our stories not very long ago, Conte probably has enough knowledge about this whole racket that he would indeed know how to assist athletes in walking the straight and narrow, but at the same time he probably knows techniques to beat drug tests that nobody’s even thought of yet. After all, he has acknowledged in the past that he is a master of it.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who like Arum is another guy who has looked the other way when it has suited him, told reporters almost a year ago that he was not happy with Byrd being associated with Conte. “We talked to him (Byrd),” Selig said, “and he knows how we feel.”
According to a story published in the Chicago Sun-Times, while Byrd was a member of the Chicago Cubs, he was the only player in the big leagues who was known to be a Conte client.
So now you can say Conte’s batting 1.000 in the majors this season.
One player getting suspended is not that big a deal. You don’t have to have that high a “batting average” to have an major effect on boxing, because it can kill entire events and alter the course of the prospective opponent’s career.
Take the Berto case, for example. As a result of what was actually a voluntary test, he registers positive for norandrosterone, which in turn knocked out his rematch against Victor Ortiz. Then Ortiz turns around and loses to a guy brought in as a substitute, Josesito Lopez.
Conte was quick with a statement after Berto was caught:
“After his positive test was revealed, Andre admitted that he recently took some supplements that were not provided by me and did so without my knowledge”
Berto would not make any connection between his positive drug test and his association with Conte. In fact, he denied that he had even taken any banned substance: ” I have never cheated, and all of my success has come from hard work and dedication.”
At the time he received his suspension, Byrd said: “I do want to say that Victor had nothing to do with this. He didn’t know about me taking tamoxifen or the positive test until two days ago.”
Obviously then, these are two clients who haven’t been listening to Conte’s advice, right?
Then again, maybe we’re wrong; maybe Conte isn’t as sharp at beating the tests as he used to be.
Donaire was recently quoted as saying that he’ll fight guys even if they fail drug tests. “Regardless if they do test positive, I will put my life and my waiver that I will fight that guy,” he said on a boxing radio show. “And I will prove to the world that I’m still better even though that guy is on it.”
Well, that is certainly something to be admired. Or, maybe he and Conte know a “technique” that other people don’t. Certainly there has been no evidence that he’s going to be the next fighter to get embarrassed by a positive result. But it’s still early in this game of cat and mouse, and all the scores have yet to be tabulated.