Byrd's association with Conte was featured on Tuesday in the HBO show "Real Sports." On Wednesday, the outfielder explained his relationship with Conte, saying he went to him after Major League Baseball began testing players. Byrd saw that some of the things he was buying at GNC stores were on the banned lists.
Byrd has taken supplements since college. He was identified in a report in 2009 as one of Conte's customers at SNAC (Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning).
"I want to say all Major League Baseball knew when it came out," Byrd said of his relationship with Conte. "I'm sure the Cubs knew. They wouldn't have signed me if there were any worries. I'm a supplement guy. The Phillies knew it when I was drafted. I looked the same way."
As long as he doesn't test positive for any banned substance, Byrd doesn't see it as a problem and, in terms of rules, it isn't. Major League Baseball officials have talked to him about using supplements, saying they believe players should not take products that are not certified under the NSF league-provided testing program.
"Our position with respect to supplement manufacturers, generally, is that if their products are not certified under the NSF [league-provided testing] program, players shouldn't be using them," Rob Manfred, MLB's top labor-relations official, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And we told Mr. Byrd that."
Manfred added that he is not singling out Conte.
"Obviously, Mr. Conte is a high-profile guy with a well-documented history," he said. "But for any players taking a chance that can put their careers at risk, we apply that policy across the board."
Despite the warning, Byrd has declined to drop Conte.
"There's no need," Byrd said. "I get tested. Major League Baseball knows they can test guys any time. It's random. I don't have any worries. I don't think Major League Baseball has any worries. Victor's name is what it is, but at some point, everyone is going to have to move on."
Conte's name is what it is because he admitted to supplying banned performance-enhancing drugs to Barry Bonds and has been connected to other athletes in other sports during his days with BALCO. That didn't scare Byrd.
"I did my background work," Byrd said Wednesday. "There was nobody better to go to."
The outfielder has a sprint coach and a strength coach. Conte is his supplements coach.
"You have to understand how supplements work," Byrd said. "They don't make you Superman. Steroids make you Superman. I go out there with the thought process of playing hard, coming in to work out, making sure I have my recovery drinks and making sure I get sleep. The biggest thing for me is mind-set and recovery."
For his part, Cubs manager Mike Quade is not concerned.
"I trust my players and trust them to do what's right to be ready to perform," Quade said.
Other players have asked Byrd about what he takes, and he doesn't recommend the products, but tries to educate the players.
"I tell people what I do and that's it," he said. "I also explain there's an association. If you don't want to be part of the association, you don't have to be."
Conte has thanked Byrd numerous times for his support.
"He always asks, 'Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to do this?'" Byrd said. "I say, 'Yeah.' I'm going to get tested. Next year, two years, three years down the road, nobody will say anything [about Conte]."
Byrd said Conte is not about to jeopardize his career and make a mistake by giving an athlete a banned substance.
"To be honest, he could teach me how 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," Byrd said. "I don't want to do that, and he doesn't want to do that.
"He's not going to make a mistake with the supplements, and that's why I don't have to worry about it."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less