In an exclusive interview, Victor Conte sat down for a no-holds-barred discussion on “The Real Fight with Cynthia Conte.” The series of nine interview episodes is scheduled to premiere on Cynthia Conte’s YouTube channel NOW through Friday, July 24th.
The spirited interview covers Conte’s rise as a nutrition consultant to Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, and other world-class athletes before it all came crashing down in the infamous BALCO raid in 2003. After serving time in prison, Conte found redemption, as he resumed his work in nutrition science and became a highly respected advisor to some of boxing’s brightest young stars. He’s also become an outspoken critic of the culture of PEDs in combat sports, completing a180-degree turn from his notorious BALCO years.
But Conte’s story is much more than BALCO and boxing. A scrappy athletic kid from the streets of Fresno, he was a standout on his high school track team before discovering a passion for music. Learning under the legendary jazz bassist Ray Brown, Conte began doing session work before he was recruited to be the bass player for the seminal funk band Tower of Power. Thereafter, he toured with the legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. Nicknamed the “Walkin’ Fish” for his distinctive head-swaying, roving style of performing onstage, Conte went on to record seventeen albums.
After years of nonstop touring, Conte left music to spend time helping to raise his three daughters, then decided to pursue his longtime interest in the biosciences. He founded BALCO Laboratories in 1984 and began studying micronutrients, particularly minerals, and started working with competitive athletes.
But sports had changed since Conte’s high school track days. Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) had taken hold in the highest levels of professional competition. While Conte continued his legitimate—and effective—nutritional testing and counseling for his athletes, he learned that they would not be able to compete against the elite in their sport unless they took the leap into PEDs.
Thus began the odyssey that led to the infamous BALCO scandal. Conte helped to develop a designer steroid that was undetectable by standard drug tests. This allowed his athletes to gain the advantages of doping—putting them on a level playing field with their enhanced peers—while protecting them from detection. Conte also took great pains to maintain constant vigilance of the health of his athletes to protect them as much as possible against side effects from PEDs.
Throughout the entire rise and fall of BALCO, Conte zealously guarded his athletes—not only their health but their reputation and legal exposure. He strongly believed his athletes deserved to be able to compete on a level playing field. That commitment has not changed. Conte has used his extensive knowledge of PEDs to call out those in boxing who may be cheating against his current stable of world class fighters.
Self-taught and self-made, Conte is a successful entrepreneur who created an innovative nighttime recovery product called ZMA, a zinc-based dietary supplement that has sold multi-millions all over the world for nearly two decades.
In this special interview, Cynthia Conte is able to get at the heart of the issues that drove Conte’s remarkable life journey and still motivate him today.