Marlon Byrd Shows PEDs Not a Miracle Cure

Major League Baseball announced today that Marlon Byrd has been suspended for 50 games as a result of a positive test for Tamoxifen. In reality, this probably ends Byrd’s career in the Majors, as he’s already been released twice this season and he turns 35 in August.

It’s worth noting that Byrd is in the midst of the worst year of his career and has been one of the least effective players in baseball this year. In 153 trips to the plate, he hit .210/.243/.245 with three extra base hits, good for -1.0 WAR in about a quarter of a season’s worth of playing time. Obviously, we can’t know when or what Byrd has taken in the past, and it’s possible that he was also using PEDs when he performed better in prior seasons, but hopefully people will notice that a guy can be using performance enhancing drugs and still be absolutely awful. They are not a miracle cure that can make up for a lack of talent.

Odds are good that we haven’t heard the last of this story, either. Byrd was the only player still publicly affiliated with Victor Conte, who ran the BALCO clinic that was investigated and eventually shut down for providing steroids to several prominent athletes, most notably Barry Bonds. In spring training, Byrd was quoted as saying:

“I’m always going to watch what I take. I’m not going to say I have a bull’s-eye on my back, but I think a lot of people are waiting for me to get my first positive test and miss 50 games. They’d like that just so they can say, ‘We told you so.’ I know that won’t happen. I know I’m clean. I know the supplements I take are clean. I’m going to make sure of that.”

Those don’t sound like words that come from a guy who is just going to take his suspension and go quietly into the night. If you like public spatting about drug testing, grab some popcorn, because I’d imagine you’re probably in for a show.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

72 Responses to “Marlon Byrd Shows PEDs Not a Miracle Cure”

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  1. dakoose says:

    Tamoxifen isn’t so much a PED as it is a complementary drug used to suppress the estrogenic effects that may result from testosterone use. It’s likely a sign that he was on some sort of steroid or steroid-related compound, but there are many people who use tamoxifen as an ancillary compound with legal testosterone raising compounds and pro-hormones…..I know that I have.

    But regardless of whether he was or was not juicing, tamox is a substance banned by baseball so he deserves to be suspended.

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  2. Ralph says:

    Hey Marlon: We told you so.

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  3. Caveman Jones says:

    Tamoxifen*

    As much as I hate seeing guys test positive for this stuff, there is some consolation in seeing it happen to a guy who couldn’t hit a lick this year. Your point is very valid, but that attitude towards PEDs in baseball has largely been shunned so far because people have such animosity towards guys like Bonds and Clemens for seemingly defying the aging process and shattering age old records. For every Bonds and Clemens there were two guys taking PEDs that were replacement level players. The issue of PEDs is just not as black and white as people want it to be.

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    • Joey says:

      You’re not making a valid point.

      Bonds and Clemens were great players who then took PEDs and continued to be great players during a period that usually is a decline phase into retirement. Instead they used PEDs to not only soften the decline phase but they ended up improving during it. They were breaking records at ages when most guys are usually retired. They didn’t become great players by taking PEDs. They simply maintained their performance without any major downtime by continually using PEDs.

      The replacement level guys who took PEDs would have been slightly below replacement had they been clean. They took PEDs simply to maintain their presence on the roster. A spot on an MLB roster the year round has been worth six figures for a long time. Even making a major league minimum is a great reason for many guys to take PEDs. They might not play a lot or break any records but they are making huge money to be on a professional sports team.

      PEDs take great players and give them a boost into the stratosphere like A-Rod, Bonds, Clemens, and McGuire. Some good players take steroids and have a quick extreme peak like Eric Gagne and then rapidly decline. And players that might be at AAA for life take PEDs and it lands them a replacement level position on a major league roster.

      Most MLB players since Canseco played his first game until yesterday have taken steroids. Players, Ryan Braun, Marlon Byrd, and so on, are still taking steroids. MLB is losing its war on drugs like our government lost the war on recreational drugs. If we’ve learned anything from The Wire and Boardwalk Empire it’s that making drugs illegal usually doesn’t work.

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      • Michael says:

        I agreed with much of what you said until the last paragraph. It definitely makes sense that borderline ML players would take steroids just as much as (if not more than) the superstars.

        However, the claim that most MLB players still take steroids is left completely unsubstantiated. Also, to make sweeping generalizations based on fictional television programs is pretty silly.

        +23 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • a says:

        Okay, how about sweeping generalizations based on The War on Drugs, which has had the opposite effect of its intention(s)? Or Prohibition.

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  4. B N says:

    Tamoxifen? When you’re taking something that is more commonly prescribed to breast-cancer survivors, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate your priorities.

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  5. Slats says:

    FACT: Ryan Braun & Marlon Bryd both tested positive.
    FACT: Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens never tested positive.

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    • Howie says:

      That must mean they never took steroids?????? How long was it again before we found out Arod failed a drug test? The answer is 6 years.

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      • Slats says:

        We all know Braun is guilty.

        We all know Bonds & Clemens are guilty.

        Yet Braun was actually caught and continues to play! The system is a joke.

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    • West says:

      Your point being? Lance Armstrong also passed a lot of tests too and he’s the biggest fraud in sports history.

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    • Caveman Jones says:

      Funny, it’s almost like the second two played most of their careers before drug testing in baseball. And oh, they just started testing for HGH this year, and only before and after the season at that.

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    • yeah says:

      Bond’s leaked grand jury testimony shows him admitting to using the “cream” and the “clear” but not knowing that they were steroids so he obviously used, let’s be real here.

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sean O'Neill says:

      The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

      Thanks Rummy!

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    • Nick says:

      Please explain the Braun testing process and how it assures guilt.

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    • cpebbles says:

      Testing doesn’t catch cheaters.

      Testing catches stupid cheaters.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. West says:

    Possible he used them previously??? He bragged about working with Victor Conte.

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  7. Rippers says:

    The Byrd has been grounded.

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      The Byrd’s wings have been clipped.
      The Byrd isn’t going to fly.
      MLB has flipped the Byrd.
      The Byrd is pining for the fjords.

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. JS7 says:

    Byrd needs Braun’s lawyer.

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  9. Confirmation Bias says:

    I exist!

    +37 Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. MikeS says:

    On the plus side, he is reducing his risk of getting breast cancer. If only he would have gotten genetic counseling to prove he has a BRCA mutation then this all would have been legal.

    Things like this always make me wonder. This is a prescription drug. Either a doctor wrote him a prescription illegally or someone sold it to him without a prescription. That is not legal either. These seem to be the only drugs of abuse where catching the end user seems to be more important than disrupting the supply.

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    • steve says:

      While this has nothing to do with baseball, I’d like to clarify: Tamoxifen is used to treat estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer because it acts as an ER antagonist. BRCA, meanwhile, encodes for a protein involved in DNA repair: BRCA mutations lead to increased risk of breast cancer due to ineffective DNA repair but this is sort of a separate issue!

      I really like your last point though. While PEDs are obviously a big issue for competitive integrity and what not, the holes in the pharmaceutical infrastructure that supply these drugs seem pretty glaring/important.

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      • MikeS says:

        Tamoxifen is also approved by the FDA to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in high risk women. NSABP P-1 and P-2 (aka BCPT and STAR) showed it’s efficacy in that setting. It seemed easier to say BRCA carriers rather than to describe the inclusion criteria for those trials since I didn’t feel like describing the Gail model and I was already well beyond the common knowledge expected on a baseball blog and into showing off territory. Tamoxifen is acceptable chemo prevention for BRCA carriers under NCCN guidelines.

        Yes, I do this everyday. Why do you ask?

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      • Steve says:

        I really didn’t intend to set you off here. Sorry! Frankly, I was only aware that Tamoxifen was used to address fears of recurring tumors (given BRCA -> serious predisposition, well, this makes sense). Although I could perhaps do without the rhetorical question that I never intended to ask at the end of your post, I apologize for assuming you were making loose connections that turned out to be quite well-informed.

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      • Steve says:

        I also hereby apologize to Fangraphs, Bud Selig and the greater baseball community for provoking and perpetuating a squabble over unrelated scientific details in a day-old story about Marlon Byrd

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      • MikeS says:

        I apologize as well. It was late, I was cranky. I overreacted.

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  11. MrKnowNothing says:

    Lots of guys are very public about not using, get caught, and then shut up and go away.

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  12. Rippers says:

    No more beer & fried chicken so Byrd turned to PEDs.

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  13. yeah says:

    I have heard that if something doesn’t help one guy then it most likely never helps anyone…

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Ryan Braun says:

    Shockingly, no presumption of innocence when a black guy tests positive. Just Dave Cameron racing in with confirmation bias passing as news.

    -19 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Paul says:

      Didn’t you hear, the Supreme Court ruled today that there shall be no more presumption of innocence for black people? Don’t ever say Dave is not a rule of law guy.

      It’s a cute comment but you’re if serious, misplaced with this particular author.

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    • Nick says:

      How come math and science are thrown out the window on Fangraphs comments section when PEDs are discussed? These posts resemble an ESPN message board.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=3410&position=OF

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    • BX says:

      byrd didn’t deny the allegations; braun did.

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      • adohaj says:

        Byrd says…
        “”I made an inexcusable mistake,” the statement said. “Several years ago, I 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.”

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  15. West says:

    Byrd bragged about using Victor Conte as his trainer since he signed with the Cubs, this just shows how poor the testing system is.

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  16. Hurtlockertwo says:

    I also find it odd that the press only seems to demonize the great players that got better for using PED’s and not the average player that got maybe slightly above average. Both seem to be equally wrong, but it shows how widespread it is even today after so much publicity. I suspect there are players that were AAA level in talent that got the extra push into the bigs on PED’s too. What really makes us mad is that 99% of the population could take PED’s and STILL not be a MLB player!

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    • MikeS says:

      It’s not a story when I cheat on my wife. It is a story when John Edwards does.

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    • Rob says:

      I’d argue that the marginal player is MORE wrong for taking PEDs. Assuming that they actually work (which isn’t proven), a star taking PEDs would be in the major leagues either way. A marginal player taking PEDs could improve his game enough to take a roster spot, and essentially a career, away from a more naturally talented player.

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  17. Astromets says:

    And if you hate hearing about PED’s, keep your shades on and earplugs in – baseball will still be played

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  18. Matt says:

    So wait, isnt Byrd still unsigned? If so why was he being drug tested?

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    • Grant says:

      i heard they weren’t even going to drug test him because he wasn’t good enough, so he took tamoxifen to get that extra little boost so that he could get drug tested

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  19. mattdennewitz says:

    Minor detail: Byrd is 34, not 35.

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  20. Jon says:

    I remember his rookie year. He lost out in the ROY race to Dontrelle Willis even as the Phils lost the WC to the Marlins. I thought that was the best Phils team between 1993 and 2008 (91-71 ExWL).

    Random fact: Byrd played football as well as baseball, and in college he had a severe knee injury. The doctors recommended amputation as the safest option (I guess it was infected? I’m going off memory from 2003 here), but he chose to risk his life to keep his leg.

    Congrats to Marlon on a nice career. Sorry it had to end this way.

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    • Jon says:

      Incidentally, both Willis and Byrd currently have career 16.3 fWAR.

      I wonder how often it happens that the ROY and ROY runner-up have the same career WAR (assuming neither attempts a comeback, and either gains or loses more WAR).

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    • Rob says:

      I my memory is correct, Byrd injured his leg while a member of the Georgia Tech baseball team. He was trying to practice karate kicks (no joke) when he injured it, resulting in his being cut from the team. He then transferred to nearby Georgia Perimeter College.

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  21. monkey business says:

    “people will notice that a guy can be using performance enhancing drugs and still be absolutely awful.” Were there people out there that thought this wasn’t the case?

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    • dirtbag says:

      Exactly. Manny Alexander proved this years ago.

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    • yeah says:

      Yeah, that’s the problem I have with this article. It seems like the whole thing is just an obvious straw man argument against people who hold steroid use against players.

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      • cpebbles says:

        I read it as snark directed at Byrd.

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      • rubesandbabes says:

        Yes, agreeing with Yeah and Monkey Business – Fangraphs coverage of the Braun debacle was embarrasing: misleading canards like talking about Dee Gordon – that’s why people up the page are making the confirmation bias jokes.

        It’s just really a lot more comfortable for people to pound on safe targets like Canseco and Lance Armstrong (and Byrd), than to address what’s really going on in baseball.

        Plus, this going to the wall to defend guys like Bagwell and I-Rod who ‘are innocent’ because they never took a bust is simply wrong.

        Another: when people pooh-pooh the race element in PED discussions, yeah, that’s not right – race is involved, even if there is no direct smoking gun or perfect example. Otherwise, how does anyone explain how Igor Gonzalez fell off the HOF ballot so quickly? (Especially since PEDs obviously didn’t help Byrd!!)

        And uh, Mr. Cameron, there’s two cards left on the table in the strat-o-matic draft, Alan Trammell, and Igor Gonzalez…your turn, which do you take?

        ==

        Probably the fallout from the Braun bust is that it’s now relatively safe for a ballplayer to take the fast-dissolving stuff on Saturday after lunch, with no one likely to be tested again until Monday AM.

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  22. james wilson says:

    It is amazing the vast differences in sophistication between Olympic style athletes and baseball players in PED cheating. Why is that? The money seems to be in baseball.

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    • rEc says:

      Do you mean that the Olympic athletes are using more sophisticated techniques or that baseball players are?

      If you meant the former, it’s probably because they are getting help from somewhere within a national government program and there is more at stake than simply money – national prestige, honor, glory.

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  23. ezb230 says:

    I though Alex Sanchez showed that. Or did he eventually become awesome and I missed it?

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  24. Ronin says:

    I hope they start testing for vitamin supplements, caffeine, working out too much, offseason hitting coaches, strange diets, good luck charms, sports psychologist, surgical procedures, etc. I am really sick of all these guys trying every possible way to be better than the competition, really devalues the meaning of sports.

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  25. Eric Walker of Sinister Firstbaseman fame and A’s stats guru who wrote their book, researched steriods, here is the link:

    http://steroids-and-baseball.com/

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  26. Devil's Advocate says:

    You know what else is a performance-enhancing drug? Aspirin. Just saying.

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    • chief00 says:

      That and ibuprofen, the freezing agent they spray on injuries, anything for headaches, heartburn, migraines, flu/flu-like symptoms, etc. Heck, even the saline solution used for contact lenses has a DIN…

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  27. Jon says:

    Actually, I would be surprised if the worst player in MLB was not using PEDs. What does he have to lose by being caught? And if he isn’t caught, it increases his chance of sticking around for another year of a 6-7 figure salary.

    My prior is that PED use is negatively correlated with talent, since stars have the most to lose and the least to gain by being caught, and the reverse for marginal players.

    There is no contradiction between this and the idea that PED usage enhances performance. The evidence for that is pretty overwhelming.

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  28. Garrett says:

    A rare moment where an idiot other is out-idioted by the comments

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  29. ByrdBrain says:

    If I’m a player, I want to be the best I can be. Tell me everything I’m not allowed to take, and how it will be tested, and I’m going to take absolutely everything humanly possible except those items. I judge Byrd not. Fair crime, fair punishment.

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  30. WHY DID I DO THIS NOW I HAVE TO SIT AT HOME WITH MY WIFE ALL DAY

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. WHATD YOU SAY OVER THERE FOOL

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