NEW YORK-The 2003 season will be remembered for many things. First there was Tampa Bay’s impressive Superbowl victory over the Oakland Raiders. Then there was Lance Armstrong, against all odds, racing into the record books with his fifth Tour de France. The Marlins shocked the baseball world by taking the World Series from the Yankees, but not before the Red Sox and Cubs once again played the part of lovable losers.
The most shocking story of the year was Kobe Bryant’s rape charge, but a close second was Sammy Sosa’s bat spilling its secret all over Wrigley Field. And there was Annika and Ohio State and Ben Curtis and Barry Bonds. They all stood tall, but the biggest influence was wielded by a previously unknown performance-enhancing drug called Tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG.
Created in BALCO Laboratories by Victor Conte, THG was made possible by modern medical science, and in many ways, made 2003 possible. From baseball players to football players, to track and field athletes, THG touched every corner of the sports world. That’s why the Brushback has named Tetrahydrogestrinone its 2003 Sportsman of the Year.
“THG is the most obvious candidate for Sportsman of the Year,” explained Mike Fish of Sports Illustrated. “It helped Barry Bonds hit home runs, it helped Bill Romanowski deliver more punishing hits, and it apparently found its way into the blood of dozens of track and field athletes from around the world. Make no mistake, this was the year of Tetrahydrogest…ah fuck it. THG.”
The story of THG’s rise to prominence is a long and interesting one. Born in a tiny vile in Victor Conte’s lab, it wasn’t given much of a chance to have an impact in the sports world, but its undeniable performance enhancing traits helped gain it sterling reputation among athletes both professional and amateur.
“When THG first came into my life, I was amazed at what it did for my body,” said slugger Barry Bonds. “I never got tired, I never gained a pound, and I was always ready to play. My body was perfect, like a robot. In fact, I’m not even sure I qualify as human anymore.”
Jason Giambi, who was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in a THG probe, is also a firm believer in the drug’s power.
“A home run that would’ve landed in the first row lands in the tenth row,” he said. “One that would’ve landed in the upper deck soars out of the stadium. These are just the little things that help me play better and get laid like crazy. Which reminds me – THG doesn’t shrink my testicles like other steroids. It makes them all green and shiny, but it doesn’t shrink them. That’s about all you can ask from a good nutritional supplement.”
THG’s creator, Victor Conte, was a virtual unknown commodity in the sports world before 2003. He was nothing more than a nutritional specialist who helped athletes train better, feel better, and play better. But his new designer steroid has helped catapult him straight into the public’s eye.
“Victor Conte is the Cinderella story of 2003,” said SI’s Frank Deford. “Forget the Florida Marlins, forget the Buccaneers. The man who has truly captured America’s heart and elevated professional athletes to spheres reserved for gods (and futuristic kill-bots) is Conte. Take Barry Bonds for instance: Do you think he’d be able to maintain his startling level of home-run hitting consistency without some foreign substance moderating his bodily functions? Hell, no. THG, and Victor Conte, are like the tenth player on the roster.”
Despite its roaring success, THG has endured its share of controversy this year. The federal government has banned the substance and every major sport now actively tests for it. Some question the wisdom of naming a drug sportsman of the year.
“Sportsman of the year? Its not even a man, it’s a drug,” argued Bob Ley, host of ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “More specifically, it’s a steroid which artificially enhances the player’s ability to perform. This is a terrible precedent to set, especially when there were so many other worthy candidates this year, such as Lance Armstrong. He had cancer, you know. His feel good story of courage and determination taught us about the human spirit. How about Annika Sorenstam? She played with guys. That’s got to count for something. But if I had my druthers, it would’ve been me, Bob Ley, because my one-hour sports show Outside the Lines provided hard-hitting commentary and intelligent analysis on all of the year’s hot button topics. But do I get any credit? No, not an ounce of recognition. You can bet your ass we’ll be addressing this issue with a panel of experts on our next episode.”
When faced with all the harsh criticisms, Conte takes it all in stride. He believes he is doing important work, and that someday he will be recognized as the man who changed the face of sports.
“Einstein, Charles Darwin, Galileo – these are all guys I look up to a lot,” says Conte. “Everyone said they were nuts but they stuck to their guns. 50 years from now, when people look at the sports landscape and how much it’s changed, they’ll think of me. When all the records have been shattered and the games have become a carnival of brute strength and mind numbing physical prowess, people will credit BALCO laboratories and Tetrahydrogestrinone. You’ll see. I may be vilified right now, but someday I will be considered a God, a dark, all-powerful overlord of athletics…wait a minute – did that seem a little over the top? Let’s just say I’m misunderstood, and leave it at that.”
Misunderstood or not, Conte has no plans to cease his experimentation with supplements, steroids, and hormones. For the sake of humankind, he says he must go on.
“People always say to me ‘Victor, when will you stop your experiments and go back to playing bass guitar?’ I say never. Without visionaries like me, progress would be a thing of the past. Wait till you see what I’m working on next. Its called ‘Metapheromenaldrosimonlinone’, and it will enable an 80-year-old man in a wheelchair to hit a towering 500-foot home run. We’ve already tried it on a couple of test subjects, but unfortunately their heads exploded. They’re buried out back by the dumpsters, but that’s the price you have to pay for progress. Any scientist will tell you that. Just ask Mengele.”
Copyright 2003, The Brushback - Do not reprint without permission