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Baseball's Steroid Era

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Jose Guillen Linked to HGH Shipment, Federal Investigation

San Francisco Giants outfielder, Jose Guillen, has been linked once again to performance enhancing drugs during a federal investigation. According to the New York Times, Guillen’s wife signed for a shipment of human growth hormone that was delivered by undercover agents after it was intercepted while en route from the Dominican Republic.

According to the Times’ sources, the Giants were "directed" to keep Guillen off of their postseason roster by Major League Baseball. The league reportedly learned of Guillen's involvement just days before the playoffs began. When playoff rosters were set, the team said Guillen was suffering from a sore neck.

This is not the first time Guillen has been linked to PED’s. In 2007 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Guillen had purchased over $19 000 worth of HGH and anabolic steroids from 2002 to 2005 from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center in Florida.

Guillen has been conspicuously absent from the Giants’ dugout during their playoff run. Other players who were left off the postseason roster, like Barry Zito, have been present, though Zito has been with the team much longer.

Both MLB and the Giants have refused comment so far though MLB has reportedly opened an investigation in to the matter.

Sources

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ronny Paulino Suspended 50 Games

Florida Marlins catcher, Ronny Paulino was suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Paulino will not contest the result and his suspension will start immediately and carry into the beginning of next season.

Paulino claimed that the positive test resulted from a diet pill that was not approved by major league baseball. MLB’s statement did not reveal for which drug Paulino tested positive, as per policy.

Paulino issued a statement.

"To control my weight this season, I used a dietary pill. I recently learned that the dietary pill contained a substance banned under Major League Baseball's drug policy. I am ashamed and saddened for disappointing and distracting my family, my teammates, the entire Florida Marlins organization and baseball fans."

Marlins’ president David Samson said the suspension was "extraordinarily disappointing."

Samson said players at all levels of the organization are taught to look for what's known as NSF certification on anything they choose to ingest. NSF International is a company that gives athletes and consumers another resource to ensure the products they take are clean.

Otherwise, Samson said, it's DNT -- Do Not Take, in Marlins vernacular.

"I don't care if it's a Flintstones vitamin or something in a hypodermic needle," Samson said.

Paulino stands to lose around $270 000 in salary depending slightly on his salary/contract status for next year.

Sources

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roger Clemens Indicted For Perjury and Obstruction of Justice

Roger Clemens has been indicted for making false statements to Congress during his February 2008 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The alleged false statements came during a sometimes contentious hearing featuring contradictory testimony by Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, about Clemens’ use of performance enhancing drugs.

According to the New York Times, the indictment charges Clemens with one count of Obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years, but again according to the Times, "under the current sentencing guidelines, a conviction would likely bring 15-21 months."

In a statement, United States Attorney, Ronald C. Machen Jr. stressed the importance telling the truth to Congress.

"Americans have a right to expect that witnesses who testify under oath before Congress will tell the truth… Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress. Today the message is clear: if a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences. "

Clemens, of course, becomes the second baseball player indicted for perjury, after Barry Bonds in 2007. Bonds is scheduled to go on trial in March 2011.

View the official indictment here.

Sources

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Edinson Volquez Suspended 50 Games for Fertility Drug

Cincinnati Reds pitcher, Edinson Volquez, tested positive for a performance enhancing drug and has been suspended 50 games for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Volquez, recovering from Tommy John Surgery, will serve his entire suspension while on the disabled list.

Volquez claims his positive test was the result of taking a fertility drug prescribed to him in his native Dominican Republic. According to New York Times reporter, Michael Schmidt, that drug was clomiphene. While fertility drugs such as clomiphene and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) have legitimate uses, they are banned by MLB because they boost testosterone levels. Athletes are known to use such drugs to help restart their testosterone production after cycles of steroids.

"Prior to the conclusion of last season, my wife and I sought medical advice in Cincinnati with the hope of starting a family… As part of my consultation with the physician, I received certain prescribed medications to treat my condition. As a follow up to our original consultation, my wife and I visited another physician in our home city in the Dominican Republic this past off-season. This physician also gave me certain prescribed medications as part of my treatment. Unfortunately, I now know that the medication the physician in the Dominican gave me is one that is often used to treat my condition, but is also a banned substance under Major League Baseball's drug policy. As a result, I tested positive when I reported to Spring Training."

It’s a similar situation to that of Manny Ramirez, who was suspended in May 2009 for non-analytical evidence that he used HCG, another fertility drug.

Here’s a snippet of Ramirez’s statement after he was suspended.

"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy."

The most noteworthy part of this story is that Volquez will not miss any games due to the long recovery time from his surgery. This appears to be the first time a player has been suspended while on the disabled list and subsequently not miss any additional games, leading some to describe it as a loop-hole.

The last player to test positive under the Major League policy was San Francisco Giants prospect, Kelvin Pichardo, in March 2009.

Sources

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MLB To Implement HGH Blood Testing in Minor Leagues

According to the New York Times, Major League Baseball will institute blood testing for human growth hormone in the minor leagues as early as this year. MLB will also attempt to get the players union to accept blood testing at the Major League level.

MLB issued a statement in response to the Times’ questions which included the following:

"We are consulting with our experts concerning immediate steps for our minor league drug program and next steps for our major league drug program. The commissioner remains committed to the position that we must act aggressively to deal with the issue of HGH."

Most minor league players are not part of the players union and therefore no negotiation is required to implement such a program. The MLB Players Association has resisted the idea of blood testing in the past, but will feel pressure from the league, the public, and possibly some of its own constituents. A concession in blood testing may also provide some leverage while negotiating the next collective bargaining agreement.

MLB has been providing funding for the WADA to develop a urine test for HGH, but the test remains possibly years away. At congressional hearing in 2008, Commissioner Bud Selig said MLB would support an HGH test when it became available.

"When a valid, commercially available and practical test for H.G.H. becomes reality — regardless of whether the test is based on blood or urine — baseball will support the utilization of that test. "

Shortly thereafter, then union leader, Donald Fehr, expressed a willingness to consider a test for HGH if it was viable and accurate.

""If and when a blood test is available and it can be signed and validated by people other than those that are trying to sell it to you… Then we’d have to take a hard look at it."

While most are hailing the positive test in the UK as proof the test is effective, anti-doping expert Charles Yesalis told the Times he is not convinced.

"They have this test for some time and they only caught one guy. I wouldn’t bet my life on that test."

Sources

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

First Analytical HGH Positive Test in UK Rugby, MLB Implications

The world’s first analytical positive test for human growth hormone is on record. Professional rugby player, Terry Newton provided a blood sample to the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency (UKAD) in November, the test came back positive for HGH. Newton was banned for two years and his team, the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, terminated his contract. Newton did not contest the results according to the New York Daily News report.

This represents a major deterrent for athletes who believe HGH is still not detectable. HGH tests were first said to have been administered at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but with no positive tests since then, many believed the test was ineffective or possibly just a smokescreen.

The implications for Major League Baseball are obvious. HGH has been banned by Major League Baseball since 2005, but the league has maintained that they do not have a reliable test for the drug.

Baseball has banned growth hormone since 2005, but there is still no HGH testing. Travis Tygart, USADA's chief executive, Monday blasted baseball's argument that an effective HGH test is unavailable.

"All of us who have helped develop a test wouldn't put it in place if it wasn't forensically sound and reliable." Tygart told the Daily News. "Particularly in (Newton's) case, it's proof positive the test works."

This probably doesn't change much for MLB. There is still no reliable urine test for HGH, and convincing the union to agree to blood testing would be difficult, so an HGH test in baseball may be a long way off. The union has always maintained that blood testing is too intrusive of its members, though they said the same thing about the current testing program before it was implemented.

There is however, some support for blood-based HGH testing among players, at least publicly. Two years ago, when the issue of HGH was more in the spotlight, Houston Astros’ stars, Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt scoffed at the idea that blood testing was more intrusive than urine testing.

Berkman told MLB.com he would gladly provide a blood sample.

"And stage fright's a real deal… If you can't go in front of somebody… you just mentally lock up. I'd rather stick my arm out and they can take blood out of me all day long."

Other players such as Derek Jeter, Jeff Kent, and Chipper Jones said they too would agree to blood testing. This may not represent the overall opinion of the players, especially now. HGH testing in baseball is possible, it may have been for some time, but the issues of intrusiveness, legality and cost remain.

Sources

Friday, February 12, 2010

Mark McGwire Steroids Admission Reactions

Mark McGwire’s admission of steroid use was met with great skepticism, and understandably so. While most found McGwire’s admission evasive at best, fans still gave him a standing ovation before his February 17th press conference, his first public appearance since his interview with Costas.

Most people however seem put off by McGwire’s insistence that the steroids didn’t provide him any advantage beyond "health purposes."

According to a 2005 New York Daily News report, Curtis Wenzlaff provided McGwire with steroids in the 1990’s.

The recipe called for 1/2 cc of testosterone cypionate every three days; one cc of testosterone enanthate per week; equipoise and winstrol v, 1/4 cc every three days, injected into the buttocks, one in one cheek, one in the other.

Speaking to ESPN’s TJ Quinn this year, Wenzlaff found it laughable that an array such as the one he provided McGwire was only for "health purposes."

"I chuckled because if excelling and kicking ass on the field is the end result, then I guess that's a healthy, good feeling. But for health, there are other things that you can take for health that are anabolic, but it wouldn't be that type of combination."

Wenzlaff added:

"If Paris Hilton was to take that array, she could run over Dick Butkus."

The following are quotes from players, journalists and the commissioner after McGwire’s admission.

Bud Selig

"I am pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player. Being truthful is always the correct course of action, which is why I had commissioned Senator George Mitchell to conduct his investigation. This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark's reentry into the game much smoother and easier."

Ken Rosenthal

"Yet, he still was not credible. Not even close.

To hear McGwire tell it, his evolution into the most prolific slugger in history was a perfect storm of natural forces. God-given ability. Hard work. The shortening of his swing. A greater understanding of hitting as he grew older.

Costas repeatedly gave McGwire the opportunity to concede that steroids helped him hit home runs faster and farther than any player in history. But McGwire never wavered, insisting “absolutely” that he could have been the same hitter without the drugs."

Jose Canseco

"There are some things here that are so ridiculous, and so disrespectful for the public and the media to believe. I just can't believe it. I'm in total shock. These guys remind me of politicians that go up and just lie to the public and expect to get elected."

Carlton Fisk

"[McGwire] says, 'Well, it doesn't help eye-and-hand coordination.' Well, of course it does… It allows you more acuity physically and mentally and optically. You are going to be stronger and you are going to be better."

Ferguson Jenkins

"You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced… You altered pitchers' lives. You may have shortened pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn't get you out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record."

Hank Aaron

"I would have loved to have seen him do it a long time ago, but since he did it, I think that he himself will tell you right now he's able to sleep at night and he's able to look at his teammates… He's done everything that he can do."

Jack Clark

"It's a shame that he thinks we're all stupid, that he only did [steroids] because of injuries. That's such a cop-out, such a lie. These guys did [steroids] to take the money to pump up their egos and then take their consequences down the road."

Albert Pujols

"I think he cleared up everything, he closed the doors… If you want to reopen those doors I know the right guy. Go talk to Mark about it… There's 300,000 people that just died in Haiti and you guys just want to concentrate on Mark McGwire. Come on, give me a break."

Sources

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mark McGwire Admits Using Steroids, Issues Statement

When it was revealed in October that McGwire had been hired as the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach, it became inevitable that he would have to address the steroid allegations with the media. It would be his first public statements about performance enhancing drugs since he famously declined "to talk about the past" during the Congressional hearings in 2005.

That day has come and Mark McGwire admitted using steroids during his career including his record setting 1998 season. McGwire issued a statement (below) to the Associated Press, followed by a twenty minute phone interview. Later that evening, McGwire was interviewed by Bob Costas on MLB Network.

McGwire said he used steroids "on occasion throughout the nineties" to recover from injuries, but was adamant that they did not improve his performance.

Some of McGwire’s assertions:

  • McGwire first used steroids in 1989 or 1990, and first used them on a "consistent basis" after the 1993 season
  • McGwire used steroids during his record-breaking season in 1998, when he hit 70 home runs
  • McGwire maintains he only used steroids in "low-dosages" for "health purposes"
  • Steroids didn’t provide him any additional strength whatsoever, even incidentally while using them to recover from injuries
  • McGwire believes he would have hit exactly as many home runs, had the same career, had he not used PED’s
  • McGwire used HGH "once or twice"
  • Tony La Russa didn’t know about McGwire’s PED use until the day McGwire issued his statement

McGwire said he called Commissioner Bud Selig, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, and Roger Maris’ widow, Pat Maris, earlier in the day to personally apologize.

Representative Tom Davis told the AP that McGwire admitted using steroids behind closed doors before the congressional hearing in 2005. McGwire tried to secure immunity, but after it was denied McGwire chose not to address "the past."

McGwire’s statement:

Now that I have become the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, I have the chance to do something that I wish I was able to do five years ago.

I never knew when, but I always knew this day would come. It's time for me to talk about the past and to confirm what people have suspected. I used steroids during my playing career and I apologize. I remember trying steroids very briefly in the 1989/1990 off season and then after I was injured in 1993, I used steroids again. I used them on occasion throughout the nineties, including during the 1998 season.

I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.

During the mid-90s, I went on the DL seven times and missed 228 games over five years. I experienced a lot of injuries, including a rib cage strain, a torn left heel muscle, a stress fracture of the left heel, and a torn right heel muscle. It was definitely a miserable bunch of years and I told myself that steroids could help me recover faster. I thought they would help me heal and prevent injuries too.

I'm sure people will wonder if I could have hit all those home runs had I never taken steroids. I had good years when I didn't take any and I had bad years when I didn't take any. I had good years when I took steroids and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn't have done it and for that I'm truly sorry.

Baseball is really different now -- it's been cleaned up. The Commissioner and the Players Association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did. I'm grateful to the Cardinals for bringing me back to baseball. I want to say thank you to Cardinals owner Mr. DeWitt, to my GM, John Mozeliak, and to my manager, Tony La Russa. I can't wait to put the uniform on again and to be back on the field in front of the great fans in Saint Louis. I've always appreciated their support and I intend to earn it again, this time as hitting coach. I'm going to pour myself into this job and do everything I can to help the Cardinals hitters become the best players for years to come.

After all this time, I want to come clean. I was not in a position to do that five years ago in my Congressional testimony, but now I feel an obligation to discuss this and to answer questions about it.

I'll do that, and then I just want to help my team.

You can view the complete interview (48:55) at MLB.com.

Sources

 
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Suspended for non-analytical evidence that player violated MLB drug policy.
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