By Dennis 'dSource' Guillermo
Sports scientist and nutrition guru Victor Conte, commonly known by the masses for his involvement with the highly-publicized BALCO and steroids controversy involving Olympic and professional athletes like Barry Bonds and Marion Jones, is back in the news for reasons new and old.
Thanks to his notoriety and past, Conte, who has helped World Champion boxers like Nonito Donaire, Jr. and Andre Ward with their nutrition and supplementation, has become a subject of debate among boxing fans and insiders.
Recently, WBC super middleweight champion Carl Froch, who is set to face Ward in October for the finale of the Super Six middleweight tournament, asked for stringent drug testing upon discovering his opponent's involvement with the BALCO founder. Ward received supplements and nutrition advice from Conte a few years back leading to his fight against Mikkel Kessler in November of '09.
“I’m not happy about Ward and Conte."
“There have been stories about American boxers taking steroids, so you do wonder if people are taking things to give them the edge."
“I will be raising the question with my promoter Eddie Hearn and he will probably do something about it, whether it’s a pre-fight drug test or blood test,” Froch told The Daily Star.
Ironically, Conte has been one of the most vocal supporters of a more stringent random drug testing in boxing. In an interview last June, Conte told me that there is a group of top anti-doping advocates in boxing who are working on a new anti-doping program called VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association). Although Conte is independent, he is a strong supporter of the VADA program which intends to provide athletes with comprehensive drug testing, minus the huge price tag current anti-doping agencies like USADA are charging (United States Anti-Doping Agency).
"Random blood and urine testing for the Froch vs. Ward fight would be great for the sport of boxing. Let's hope it happens," Conte responded.
Conte, who provides his assistance to select athletes free of charge, insists that he simply enjoys helping top level athletes get the most out of their body. He has made his fortune through the success of his own supplement line under his brand SNAC. His ZMA pills alone, Conte told me, has sold at an average of 100,000 bottles per month in the last decade, and is one of the most successful products in the history of sports nutrition.
After his 4-month stint in prison for his involvement in providing athletes with illegal substances that ended in March of 2006, Conte has made a conscious effort in restoring his reputation, and has lent his knowledge and expertise to the Olympic Commission to help stop the drug culture he once helped thrive.
But perhaps the real reason people in boxing are talking about Conte now more than ever, is because of the success of the fighters he has worked with. Up until Zab Judah's loss to Amir Khan last July, all of the fighters Conte worked with, have won all their fights. It only makes sense that Froch is raising his concerns now over Ward's past involvement with Conte, when nobody seemed to care a few years back.
The newest addition to Conte's list of believers is former welterweight champ Andre Berto. Berto reached out to Conte after losing his title to Victor Ortiz last April. Berto claims that he simply wasn't himself that night against Ortiz. Conte found out why.
After running his initial blood analysis, Conte discovered that Berto was low on the mineral iron, and has been anemic in the last year and a half. In a similar test, Conte discovered that Donaire was low on the mineral zinc. And after trying out his supplements and methods for a few days, on July 14, Berto decided to ultimately move his camp to San Mateo, California where Conte is based. Berto subscribed to Conte's supplementation, hypoxic training and track training under the supervision of famed track coach Remi Kourchemny. According to Berto and his trainer Tony Morgan, the results have been well worth the gamble.
"The guy is a genius. He's probably the smartest guy I've ever talked to," Morgan said to me in describing Conte. "We're not the cheating type; we're not here to cheat. What I like about Victor is, he's seen everything. When you got a guy who's devoted his life on completely developing and helping you get to the highest goal you can reach... he's a genius."
"Everybody is calling this guy now. I've seen it first hand, I've heard the messages, I won't say names, but everyone wants to work with this guy now. Just his whole team and group that he uses is incredible. The results we've seen with Andre (Berto) have been phenomenal."
Those results will be put to the test this Saturday, September 3, when Berto faces off against Jon Zaveck in Biloxi, Mississippi for the IBF welterweight title, where Conte will be sitting ringside to show his support.
Whether you are a believer, a skeptic, or simply could care less, it's undeniable that Conte has made an indelible impact in boxing in the small amount of time he has chosen to be closely involved in it. And with more boxers, trainers and fans getting their minds opened on the subject of performance enhancing drugs and doping, together with the clamor for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather despite drug testing issues that has prevented it from happening, something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more on Conte.