Once part of sports' dark era, Patrick Arnold is on new quest


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SEYMOUR — If it were up to Patrick Arnold, he wouldn't have risen to fame for his role in Marion Jones' three Olympic gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Games or Barry Bonds' transformation from a wiry, all-around player into a hulking home run hitter who broke major league records.

Sure, Arnold went along with Victor Conte, sending the BALCO founder the best undetectable steroids money could buy and chemistry could engineer at the time.

And a certain satisfaction comes from seeing your life's work manifest itself at the highest level — and produce astounding results.

But if Arnold could write his own script, the powerful drugs he made in his small lab in a former elementary school in the tiny town Seymour — including the one that became infamously known as "The Clear" — would have helped athletes who needed that extra boost. And they would have appreciated him for it.

"What kind of upset me a little bit, and it's a weird perspective: When I first started disseminating some of the stuff, the undetectable stuff, it was to people that actually weren't well-known, and I took them from top nine or 10 to competing for the world title," Arnold said. "But eventually with (Conte), he only wanted to work with the most famous people, the people that already were Number 1 or Number 2, and he just made them Number 1.

"And I kind of didn't like that. ... If I were to help somebody, I would rather have it be an unknown, because they would be appreciative of it. I never talked to any of these people, but they wouldn't give two (expletive). Even if I made them a star, even if my stuff ensured that they win seven gold medals or something, they would think, 'It's all me, it's all me.'"

Nowadays, Arnold helps people who really and truly need it. Not athletes who want to break records. Not bodybuilders who want to bulk up.

The new project he's focused on in his Seymour lab helps epilepsy sufferers and cancer patients. Plenty of athletes benefit, too, though they skew more toward the endurance types.

Arnold's foray into a world beyond bodybuilding nutrition began four years ago, and he never intended for it to happen.

He's grateful that it did.

'My next claim to fame'

It all started in 2014, when University of South Florida Professor Dominic D'Agostino, who knew of Arnold through the bodybuilding world, reached out.

D’Agostino had received a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was looking for a way to help Navy Seal divers stay deep underwater for long periods of time.

At those depths, seizures are commonplace when a diver stays under for too long, and they’re extremely dangerous.

One logical solution to that problem was the use of ketones.

Ketones are molecules formed by the body when it runs low on glucose, using it as a substitute energy source. People achieve "ketosis" with an extremely low-carb, high-fat diet. In many ways, ketones are a superior energy source, particularly for those who suffer from seizures.

D’Agostino needed a chemist to make an exogenous ketone, meaning a ketone made outside of the body, called ketone ester. But he struggled to find one to make it at a reasonable cost.

Finally, he landed on Arnold.

"When he told me about this ketone ester, I became kind of excited because I knew that there was a lot of potential with it," Arnold said. "I knew that if you could somehow administer ketones without having to have your body make them in response to diet or starvation that you might have a very interesting product with a lot of applications."

So Arnold began making the product for D’Agostino. And while that particular product was too expensive to take to the retail market, he decided to make another exogenous ketone product known as a "ketone salt."

Arnold owns SavInd, which runs a retail brand called KetoSports, along with longtime business partner Lakhan Boodram and his daughters, India and Savitri. These days, he’s almost fully devoted to producing and selling exogenous ketones.

"That’s sort of my next claim to fame after what I did before," Arnold said. "It’s sort of funny how I just sort of fell into that and it became another big thing."

‘If you guys only knew’

His first claim to fame rocked the world of sports, building up superhuman athletes before they all came tumbling down in one of the biggest steroid scandals of all time.

Arnold’s notoriety, though, didn’t begin with Bonds or Jones. It began with former baseball slugger Mark McGwire, who was spotted with a bottle of the then-legal steroid androstenedione, simply known as "Andro," in his locker during his own assault on the home run record in 1998.

Working in Seymour, Arnold resurrected the drug, famously used by the East German Olympic team in the 1970s, in the mid-’90s after years of dormancy.

Andro was allowed in baseball, which was virtually unregulated when it came to steroids. In track, though, the drug was strictly forbidden and access to steroids was difficult.

That’s what made the results from his undetectable steroids so eye-popping when it came to track athletes, particularly the female ones.

"Seeing my products have the effects that they had, not only in their performance but in their physiques, with the women, they just massively changed overnight," Arnold said. "That was no surprise to me, because I gave them an opportunity to go full blast on something and not have to worry about only taking three days and then taking a week off or something, you know?"

Jones, who worked closely with Conte, wound up as the face of the 2000 Olympics during her pursuit of five gold medals, three of which she wound up winning along with two bronze.

Arnold, who describes himself as an average sports fan, became disillusioned during the process.

"Knowing these little side stories and these little dramatic soap opera things behind the scenes, a lot of them semi-connected to the drug use ... I would see (Jones) on TV being miss little Goody Two Shoes (and) I would just be like, ‘If you guys only knew.’"

‘Everyone’s responsible’

In the mid-2000s, BALCO finally came tumbling down — implicating several track athletes, former NFL All-Pro linebacker Bill Romanowski and baseball stars, including Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and eventually Bonds.

Arnold went to jail for three months, but his notoriety skyrocketed. He was profiled in a Sports Illustrated story titled "Is this Dr. Evil?" In 2007, Bob Costas came to his lab for a story on Bonds, who still hadn’t admitted to steroid use. ESPN the Magazine featured him in a portrayal he considers unflattering and Discover magazine also profiled him.

Arnold said he never really felt a public outcry, although he admits that people who disagree with his actions likely don’t generally speak to him. That doesn’t quite add up to him.

"I’ve had a lot of people of various professions — police officers, for instance — who tell me they’ve read about me and know what I did and they tell me it’s really cool and, ‘I don’t think you did anything wrong,’" he said. "Well, I did. Maybe on a spectrum, it’s not as bad as a lot of things a police officer would deal with, but it caused some trouble and I had to pay for that.

"But a lot of people may think that cheating is not inherently good, but they may look at the cheaters themselves as the responsible party and me simply making a compound and disseminating it as being the lesser of two evils. That’s what I’ve been told. I don’t know if that’s true.

"I don’t necessarily believe that. Everyone’s responsible to some extent, because no one’s naively going into it not knowing what they’re doing."

Still, for years he could never outrun the name he built, even in the process of creating supplements he considered legitimate.

In 2009, Proviant Technologies, the company he worked for, was raided by the DEA after Philadelphia Phillies pitcher JC Romero tested positive for Andro. Romero claimed the positive test came from Arnold’s supplement, 6-OXO, which Arnold says he meticulously and painstakingly made sure was safe and legitimate. The supplement was found to have contained trace amounts of Andro, so small that Arnold said his machines couldn’t test for it.

A few years later, a stimulant Arnold created called DMAA, which became popular among military servicemen, was initially connected to the deaths of four soldiers who took it. A study commissioned by the Department of Defense ruled that the drug wasn’t found to cause adverse medical conditions under normal conditions at the recommended dosage. Still, it was deemed illegal.

Arnold doesn’t yearn for the days when he could find loopholes in laws and create new steroids, virtually unbothered.

"If no one had done anything about it, it would have been just a designer steroid supplement shelf at every GNC, not tested for safety. People would be getting sick, it would’ve been a nightmare, and it was becoming a nightmare. So it had to go away. Human nature. We thought that we could contain it to where it would’ve been OK, but it was impossible. The greed of people, the stupidity of people just took over."

‘Big picture things’

By the time D’Agostino came calling, Arnold was more than ready to leave behind the bodybuilding world. Although he still lifts weights in his free time, he no longer goes to trade shows and no longer updates his products, a few of which are still on shelves.

"I got so bored with (the bodybuilding industry)," Arnold said. "I can’t see how anyone can make that their career for too long. It’s pretty insular and it’s closed-minded. I like this keto industry, because there are a lot more scientists involved, there’s a lot more research into disease and there’s a lot more excitement behind it.

"I mean, big picture things. Not some girl getting six-pack abs or, what’s the best thing to take before the gym to get all wired and sweat your (butt) off."

Now, he has a new purpose. His name appears on papers that connect ketones with epilepsy treatment and studies that indicate they may be able to halt the metastasis of cancer. KetoSports receives regular correspondence from epilepsy sufferers, telling the company how much its products have helped them.

Arnold’s products will almost certainly never be ruled illegal or even unethical.

His name will forever be connected to BALCO, Jones and Bonds. His status as The Father of Prohormones is cemented in bodybuilding lore.

But for Arnold, those chapters are finished. And this new one is so much better.