After receiving a season-long ban for PED use from Major League Baseball this afternoon, Marlon Byrd released a statement explaining how the supplement Ipamorelin entered his system.
Tamoxifen, for which Byrd previously served a suspension, is typically used by steroid users to stunt male breast growth. At the time, Byrd stated that he "had surgery for a condition that was private and unrelated to baseball. Last winter, I suffered a recurrence of that condition and I was provided with a medication that resulted in my positive test. Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance-enhancement reasons."
This particular medication is often used to prevent the growth of breast tissue in males, or to reduce tissue that is already grown, a condition known as gynecomastia. While some men naturally develop the condition, it is an occasional side effect of steroid use. Marlon Byrd is known to have links to Victor Conte of Balco fame. Ipamorelin is notable for increasing the release of growth hormone without decreasing the the body's natural output of the hormone. It also offers advantages over other supplements, as it very rarely causes joint inflammation or other common side effects of performance enhancing drugs, such as an increase in male breast tissue. I'm not accusing Byrd of switching his preferred "supplement" to avoid further surgeries and move away from the substance for which he'd already tested positive, but I'm not sure that I have to at this point.
It is frustrating for a player to release a statement like this, and it happens all of the time. If Byrd actually felt concerned about harming the Indians, their fans, and his teammates, he would never have taken a supplement off of the NSF Certified for Sport list. When this is considered in the light of his previous violation of the substance abuse policy, it is even more egregious. He can claim that he took a tainted supplement all that he wants, but it seems to me that this a canned response to cover intentional abuse of the policy.
To me, it is unclear whether or not Marlon Byrd will play another game of Major League Baseball. He cannot be reinstated until next year, when he will be a 39-year-old who has spent an entire year away from the game. It is also unclear whether or not banning him is really a punishment in this case. He's made $38,015,000 during his career according to Baseball Reference. For this reason, too, I question whether or not such a ban will provide any real reduction in substance abuse by players in the future.
If a good-but-not-great player in the future can make a few million extra dollars over the course of his career, and teams are still willing to employ him after he is caught the first time, why wouldn't he?