Steroid report exposes clubhouse dangers
Vail, CO Colorado
SAN FRANCISCO – Imagine Barry Bonds’ trainer scurrying across the clubhouse to bring the star a snack, then sitting down to play cards before a game. Now picture Bonds’ former trainer smuggling illegal steroids into the San Francisco locker room.
Bit players among the major leaguers, they can be the ones who bring down the famous.
Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee now, Howie Spira and Chef Curt then.
Until recently, members of Bonds’ entourage had their run of the Giants’ clubhouse with nearly the same privileges as the players themselves. Some even got their own lockers right next to No. 25.
But that setup was far from the exception.
Back in the mid-1980s, former Philadelphia Phillies caterer Curtis Strong and six men were convicted of distributing cocaine to players in what became known as the Pittsburgh drug trials. The clubhouse regular known as “Chef Curt” served jail time in an episode that exposed a seedy side of baseball.
Much of the damning evidence in this month’s Mitchell Report came from Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse attendant, and McNamee, a personal trainer who worked with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
George Mitchell himself acknowledges there probably were plenty more just like them.
Not to mention the occasional sketchy salesman allowed in the clubhouse by players to hawk cars, jewelry, electronics, shoes or other equipment.
The testimony of men like Radomski and McNamee threw a shadow of suspicion around top names, and what they told investigators could contribute to costing players the Hall of Fame.
A pair of interviews by Mitchell’s staff with former Giants athletic trainer Stan Conte revealed the problem Bonds’ former trainer, Greg Anderson, caused in the clubhouse, along with the movement of performance-enhancing drugs into locker rooms in the Bay Area.
The report said that in San Francisco, Conte told general manager Brian Sabean in 2002 that a player had come to him with questions because he was considering buying steroids from Anderson. Longtime equipment manager Mike Murphy discovered syringes in the locker of catcher Benito Santiago, it said.
The report, the culmination of a 20-month investigation into steroids and drug use in baseball, said Conte went to Sabean early on to say he wanted Anderson and others like him removed from the locker room. Sabean wasn’t willing to do it.
Bonds’ trainers, including Harvey Shields and Greg Oliver, were employees of the Giants but primarily worked with Bonds. They could roam the clubhouse, go into the players’ cafeteria and visit the training room.
Some players acknowledged being uncomfortable with their presence at times.
Radomski told Mitchell’s staff he sold performance-enhancing drugs to players.
McNamee worked for the Toronto Blue Jays and later the Yankees when Clemens pitched for them. McNamee, who was a strength coach, said he personally injecting Clemens with steroids several times, according to the report.
McNamee also told the Mitchell panel he injected Pettitte with HGH in 2002. Pettitte admitted he twice used HGH then to recover from an elbow injury ” the substance wasn’t banned by baseball until January 2006.
Baseball has had its share of problems in the clubhouse for decades.
On Feb. 28, 1986, Joaquin Andujar, Dale Berra, Enos Cabell, Keith Hernandez, Al Holland, Lee Lacy, Jeff Leonard, Dave Parker, Lonnie Smith, Lary Sorensen and Claudell Washington were suspended for drug use, based on testimony from the 1985 trial of Strong.
The penalties ” some for 60 days, others for a year ” allowed the players to stay in the game if they donated to drug-prevention programs, performed community service and, in some cases, submitted to random drug testing.
In 1990, then-commissioner Fay Vincent suspended Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for paying $40,000 to Spira for information designed to discredit Dave Winfield. Spira had ties to Winfield’s agent and often was in the locker room as a freelance radio reporter.
In May 1992, trainer Curtis Wenzlaff was arrested for steroids distribution. He later publicly admitted to helping Jose Canseco and 20 to 30 other major leaguers obtain steroids, but refused to discuss another former client, Mark McGwire.
Just this past week, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association put out a press release to clear up any confusion about the difference between what Conte does and the job of someone such as McNamee.
“Mr. McNamee is not, nor has he ever been an athletic trainer,” the statement said. “He is in fact a PERSONAL TRAINER.”
“Athletic trainers are medical professionals who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries; personal trainers are not medically based and focus solely on fitness and conditioning.”
Conte, who also is a licensed physical therapist, said Major League Baseball a few years ago assembled a list of minimum requirements for strength coaches.
“Athletic trainer is a very specific title for a professional health care provider,” Conte said in a phone interview.
When Conte met Anderson and Shields during spring training in 2000, the report said Anderson identified himself as a “strength weightlifting guru” and later provided a one-page document showing he had graduated from high school and that everything else was “pending.”
“The resume did not reveal, and Conte was unaware of, any education or expertise that Anderson might have that would qualify him to train a professional athlete,” the report said.
Conte told the Mitchell investigators he felt Anderson and Shields were unqualified to be in the training room because he hadn’t gone through the proper licensing process, something he told Sabean.
According to the report, the Giants were in Atlanta in August 2002 ” their World Series season ” and Anderson was on the trip. Conte recalled a Giants player, who wasn’t identified to Mitchell, asking him about anabolic steroids and the health issues because he was considering buying them from Anderson.
Conte told Sabean right away, saying he was concerned that Anderson might be distributing steroids to Giants players. The report said Sabean suggested Conte deal with the situation himself by speaking to Anderson and Bonds ” and Conte refused, based on the argument that it wasn’t his responsibility to do so.
Sabean testified to the Mitchell Commission that he didn’t bring it up with Bonds or Anderson, asking Conte to contact someone who might know more. After speaking to a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who found no incriminating information about Anderson, Conte told Sabean.
“Sabean told me that he believed that if Anderson was in fact selling drugs illegally the government would have known about it,” Mitchell wrote. “Sabean explained that he was in a very difficult situation regarding disclosure of this information because, as a result of the clubhouse culture in baseball, he felt he could not risk ‘outing’ Conte as the source of the information.”
Also, Mitchell’s report said that at baseball’s 2001 winter meetings, Giants assistant athletic trainer Barney Nugent approached now-retired MLB security chief Kevin Hallinan to inform him San Francisco had issues in its clubhouse and asked for his assistance.
Hallinan had just given a lecture to team doctors and athletic trainers about the importance of clubhouse security. According to Conte, Hallinan seemed to be familiar with the situation and promised that “we’re going to do something about this, it’s an issue and we know what you’re talking about.”
Conte and his staff never saw any action by MLB, and Hallinan did not remember Nugent’s statement or a conversation with Conte, the report said.
“Everything said in the Mitchell report was factual,” Conte said. “With five or six hours of interviews, it’s hard to get all the context there. I don’t dispute anything that was in there. …
“I didn’t lie. I told the truth. All I did was answer the questions.”
Bonds’ contract with the Giants for 2007, his 15th and final season with the club, banned Shields and Oliver from all restricted areas of the ballpark.
Bonds played down the fact he could no longer have his trainers at his beck and call in the clubhouse ” and that they were now on his dime for road trips.
“My trainers are here, they’re just not right here,” Bonds said a while back. “But they’re here, they’re with me and they’ll be with me all year.”