Despite being suspended for 50 games due to a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Treatment And Prevention Program, San Francisco Giants outfielder could still win the batting title in the National League. With a league-leading 159 hits at the time of his suspension, Cabrera's batting average freezes at .346 while players like Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates and Joey Votto of the Reds will have to avoid late-season slumps to win the batting race.
That Cabrera could still be in the running for the batting crown seems ridiculous given his suspension. Unless, of course, you happen to believe Victor Conte the founder and president of BALCO, the lab intricately involved in recent sports-PED scandals.
Conte made the startling claim that "as much as 50 percent" of MLB players utilize performance-enhancing drugs while appearing on ESPN Radio New York with Chuck Wilson. Discussing Cabrera's recent suspension led to a larger discussion of PED use among athletes and the BALCO founder espoused some views that Selig -- and certainly his colleagues in other sports -- hopes are drastic overstatements.
“Listen, it would be a guess, and this is based on me talking to some of the top players, and I’m not going to name names for a variety of reasons, but MLB players do reach out and talk to me about nutrition and different things," said Conte. "And my sense is that it’s rampant, that it’s as much as 50 percent. Part of the reason is, if you want to clean up the doping in baseball, you’ve got to clean up the testing.”
Aside from this radio appearance, Conte also recently discussed with USA Today what he considered to be rampant use of synthetic testosterone -- the substance Cabrera tested positive for -- among ballplayers.
"We've known for a period of time that fast-acting testosterone is a logical choice for athletes who are willing to break the rules in order to win," Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency told USA Today. "To some extent it's a performance-enhancing drug of choice because it significantly reduces the risk of being caught."
Asked about the ease of navigating the testing by ESPN Radio, Conte didn't mince words in describing how easy it could be for MLB players to use synthetic testosterone during the season.
“It’s very, very easy. It’s like taking candy from a baby. They only test the players when they’re at the ballpark," Conte explained. "Therefore, after a game, you can apply a testosterone cream or a gel or a patch, and this will peak at about four hours after you take it and be all the way back down to baseline about eight hours after. … This helps with tissue repair and healing and recovery, so they just wait until after the game and apply it … and they get the benefit of having that testosterone circulate and accelerate healing.”
In a league with drug use as common as Conte claims then perhaps it's not so awkward for Cabrera to win the batting title.