Victor Conte has worn a lot of hats in his professional life, but nothing like the larger than life one he's trying on at newspaper outlets near you.
Conte has also worn several labels across his chest of late, with the latest outing another peculiar one in which the former bass guitarist was seen bearing the letter "S" whilst seated with long-time adversary Dick Pound, the former head of WADA.
Conte, a former musician who turned into an overnight nutritionist, has been periodically called a liar, a cheat, a serpent and a thief by some very grown-up men within the United States government who wield powerful job titles and appear fuelled by a supply of natural, non-synthetic testosterone.
That's the mild version for the PG-13 readers.
I doubt Conte's life ambitions are to demonstrate how well he can squirm on his belly -- especially with his company, SNAC, raking in considerable amounts of cash and Conte reaping the benefits. So there must be another explanation for the label and hat Conte has been seen wearing with greater frequency over the past six weeks.
Consider that he's also been called a very bad man for luring unsuspecting athletes away from natural hard work and sweat into a life of lies, lies and more lies mixed together with a cover-up or two in an effort to level out a playing field in athletics he believes is littered with illegal drugs.
He's also been labeled self-serving and unappreciative of the spirit of true competition, and has been cast off as a bitter man whose true interests in sport are in plaguing the purity of the Olympic games.
So what does that solid-colored "S" planted above Conte's chest represent?
That "S" jumps out at a person very suddenly and without fail each and every time drugs controversy within athletics sprouts up and every conceivable tie between performance-enhancing drugs is made between an athlete caught for doping and Conte, the brain-child behind one of the most prolific and previously well-kept doping secrets in all of professional sport.
The phenominem occurs as though Conte, 58, has somehow mysteriously become omniscient, and he has been given an elevated, god-like status as a result of it.
Conte gets the call when a Dwain Chambers-type returns from a drug ban -- from using Conte's products, nonetheless, and gets on a black list rather than an "A" list within European meet organizers' athletics events.
He chimes in when a Marion Jones quacks for mercy in a courtroom only to be ushered off to six months of day-care 100 miles from her home instead of a slap on the wrists and probation.
It seems every time a track athlete is caught up in a moment of controversy and drugs are involved, Conte has his nose in everyone else's business but his own -- unless shedding light on the drug problem has become his business.
Conte was jailed in 2003 for improprieties relating from his illegal and immensely popular BALCO dealings with sports stars ranging from major league baseball players to track and field athletes, and professional cyclists to NFL stars.
He spent a total of eight months under lock and key -- four at a minimum-security prison camp, and four home-confined.
He stated to journalists after Judge Susan Illston sentenced him that he had hoped he could turn around the incredible amount of wrongdoing into positives for athletes and the fans who watch them compete, and even asked the current sitting President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, to intervene on his behalf so that Conte could make a concerted effort to help America send a "clean" team to Athens to compete in the Olympic Games.
"It is said that I have become the poster child for the wrongdoing in Olympic as well as professional sports," he said outside the court. "Ironically, I find myself as someone qualified to help solve this problem plaguing sports, precisely because I've been a major contributor to the controversy."
So does that make Conte, who has since moved on from BALCO and become a fixture within the sport, a savior, a sinner or a saint?
Among the many labels Conte has had pegged on to his character, he has also been labeled an opportunist -- a man who rarely misses a step or a beat when occasion lends itself for him to capitalize and make good on his talent to sell.
Perhaps that is what Conte is now doing to whoever will sit and listen, namely selling them on a similar notion he asked former athletes to purchase for a price -- one which saw many of them lose honors, prizes and esteem once they were discovered to have cheated.
Conte's pitch today, however, isn't that one must cheat to win, rather that the current state of testing for performance-enhancing drugs is unacceptable, because the testers are completely off key in their pursuit of the cheaters.
Track and field is suffering a critical blow with a public which believes just what people like Conte are stating, and what scribes are printing, namely that superstar athletes compete dirty and will continue to do so until someone steps up to their calling and helps turn over all the stones where the athletes, their coaches and their distributors are hiding their stashes.
Conte believes he is just the one for the job, supported by the following story.
Conte has been an eyewitness not only to the effect drugs can have on athletes, but has keen experience hiding out and waiting for time to pass on, for drugs to pass through, and for athletes to pass tests over and over and over again to their heart's content and to his own personal satisfaction with helping enable the deception to have remained covered.
Conte made the following remark recently when Chambers recently made news for an over-blown story, which has embarrassed UK Athletics and the British Olympic Association.
"I still think there is rampant use of drugs out there. It can be cleaned up but they have to use people from the other side, like Dwain and myself, and use the knowledge we've gained. Then, when athletes truly believe it is much more difficult to circumvent the testing, you'll see far more performances by athletes who are doing it with hard work as opposed to chemical substances."
Indeed, athletes and coaches, trainers and even agents do know where the minefields are, and they know which steps must be taken in order to successfully navigate through them. Is it possible that such persons, working on their own initiative following drug bans, could be of use to anti-doping organizations in their fight to stamp out drugs in sport?
Perhaps they can, but in Chambers' case, his federation believes it can be done outside of the track and away from the field.
Is it likely that Conte, on the other hand, who doesn't lace up spikes to sprint down a track at breath-taking speeds, can be Superman in this story and help the World Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency run faster than a speeding cheat and leap tall buildings to catch up to them?
Pound, who had ridiculed Conte in the past for littering the sport with druggies and copping out by not testifying in his trial about his affairs, met with Conte on 2007-December-7 to shed light on such matters.
According to both parties involved, the meeting they had was productive, and both men looked forward to sharing more as time elapsed and cards began to fall into place.
Conte has helped athletes cheat, and he has helped those athletes cover up their sins against the sport. He is a convicted criminal with a felony record, and has had his life temporarily interrupted by the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons and the California Corrections, Probation Department.
He is also a man who says he is sitting on a wealth of important information, and he seems willing and ready to spread his sermon to whoever has the time, patience and willingness to listen.
Will track and field, which is scratching for respect, find ties with Victor Conte which positively bind and won't snap?
Stay tuned to find out.