Young, Laker are Pirates' lone links to Mitchell

But no current players implicated in report on performance-enhancing drugs

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

Major League Baseball, dozens of its star players and their union were slammed yesterday by former Senate majority leader George Mitchell's report on performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

The Pirates escaped largely unscathed, having no current players cited and seven former players branded with new accusations. Only two of the latter group, longtime first baseman Kevin Young and journeyman catcher Tim Laker, were implicated for actions while with the Pirates. Barry Bonds, Denny Neagle, Jason Christiansen, Josias Manzanillo and Ron Villone were the rest.

Other teams, particularly the New York Yankees, were hit much harder.

From the Mitchell Report
The Mitchell Report cited two columns by Post-Gazette sportswriters in its sweeping examination of the history and impact of steroids in Major League Baseball.
The full text of those columns is presented from our archives:

Archive: Gene Collier / Baseball's field may not be level

Archive: Ron Cook / Slam Dance

The headline of the day was that pitcher Roger Clemens, the legendary "Rocket" who still was soaring as a 45-year-old with the Yankees last season. He was one of four players cited from the New York team that won three consecutive World Series in 1998-2000, along with Andy Pettitte, David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch.

Mr. Bonds, the home run king who has drawn the bulk of the national spotlight on this issue, was one of seven league MVPs named. The others were Miguel Tejada, Jose Canseco, Mo Vaughn, Jason Giambi, Juan Gonzalez and the late Ken Caminiti.

Two others who rank among the top 10 in home runs, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, were cited, too.

In all, 89 players were mentioned, and more than a third of those - 31 - were All-Stars.

"Everyone involved in baseball shares responsibility," Mr. Mitchell told reporters at a news conference in New York yesterday afternoon. "Commissioners, club officials, the players' association and players. I can't be any clearer than that."

The 409-page report capped an 18-month investigation and called the past decade and a half baseball's "Steroids Era," describing a culture in which many players felt the need to use performance-enhancing drugs to gain an edge or remain competitive with cheating peers.

The report showed that steroid use has declined since random testing of players began in 2002, but Mr. Mitchell stressed that the use of human growth hormone, or HGH, remains on the rise. That, he added, is because there still is no conclusive test for HGH.

Mr. Mitchell laid out 19 guidelines the sport should undertake to address the matter, including a toughening of the drug policies in the current labor agreement between MLB and its players union.

Bud Selig, MLB's commissioner since 1992, responded by vowing immediate action.

"So long as there may be potential cheaters, we will always have to monitor our programs and constantly update them to catch those who think they can get away with breaking baseball's rules," Mr. Selig said. "In the name of integrity, that's exactly what I intend to do."

Mr. Selig would not say, however, if he plans to punish players mentioned in the report.

The current drug agreement between MLB and the union runs through 2011, though, and union chief Donald Fehr, who is thought to have urged players not to cooperate with Mr. Mitchell, did not sound conciliatory after the report's release.

"Many players were named," Mr. Fehr said. "Their reputations have been adversely affected, probably forever, even if it turns out down the road that they should not have been."

Much of Mr. Mitchell's report included previously released testimony or investigations conducted by other organizations or media. His committee had no authority to compel testimony, and only two current players, Mr. Giambi and vocal steroids opponent Frank Thomas, agreed to be interviewed.

Mr. Mitchell called the players union "uncooperative."

There also were 550 current or former team officials, managers, coaches, doctors, athletic trainers and security agents interviewed.

Frank Coonelly, the Pirates' president since September, said his team cooperated fully, saying they "spent a countless number of hours working to assist in the efforts of this investigation."

The bulk of the new information in the report was the result of testimony from Kirk Radomski, a clubhouse attendant and equipment manager for the New York Mets in 1985-95. As part of a plea bargain with the federal government in the case against the Bay Area Co-Operative Laboratory that has been the focus of steroids scandals, Mr. Radomski agreed to speak to Mr. Mitchell.

Mr. Radomski was connected to each of the two players implicated for buying drugs while with the Pirates.

The Mitchell report states that Mr. Young, now 38, met Mr. Radomski in New York in the offseason of 2000-01 and bought "one or two" kits of HGH in a hotel room. Mr. Young bought "five or six" more kits in 2003, mailing $9,600 in cash to pay for it. Mr. Radomski said Mr. Young was trying to recover from lingering injuries.

Mr. Radomski's address book, seized months ago by federal agents, including multiple phone numbers for Mr. Young.

Mr. Young declined to be interviewed by Mr. Mitchell and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

He was a productive and popular player for the Pirates in 1992-2003 - he spent 1996 with the Kansas City Royals - but his farewell was sour.

He won full-time duty in 1997, then hit 27 home runs the next year. That prompted management to sign him to a four-year, $24 million contract extension. He hit 26 home runs the following year, but he dipped to 20, 14 and 16 in the next three. The team released him in June 2003, even though it meant swallowing the final $3 million due on that extension.

Mr. Young's dip in production was blamed on chronic knee trouble that required several surgeries, and his alleged encounters with Mr. Radomski all happened after the knee began to slow him.

Mr. Laker, now 38, was one of the few players in the Mitchell Report who admitted usage.

He bounced between the minors and majors for much of his career despite good power, then retired after the 2006 season and served as manager for the Cleveland Indians' Class A affiliate in Mahoning Valley this past season. Because he was a team employee, he was compelled to testify to Mitchell.

Mr. Laker admitted to buying testosterone and syringes from Mr. Radomski on four occasions, paying between $500 and $1,000 each time. The final purchase came while the Pirates were at New York's Shea Stadium to face the Mets in 1999.

Over his career, Mr. Laker testified, he would inject himself in the buttocks once a week for eight to 10 weeks, at his home or in his hotel room while on the road. He said he never discussed his usage with any of his various managers or coaches.

The other five former Pirates cited with new information:

• Mr. Bonds was mentioned 103 times in the report, but the only new element was that San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan told Mr. Mitchell that Mr. Bonds admitted using steroids. Mr. Magowan later tried to withdraw his statement. Mr. Bonds' tenure in Pittsburgh was 1986-92, and all accounts of his usage are connected to his time in San Francisco.

• Mr. Neagle, a starting pitcher for the Pirates in 1992-96, was implicated for buying HGH in 2000-04 from Mr. Radomski. Eight checks signed by Mr. Neagle were included in the report.

• Mr. Christiansen, a relief pitcher for the Pirates in 1995-2000, is implicated for buying one HGH kit for $1,600 in 2002.

• Mr. Manzanillo, a relief pitcher for the Pirates in 2000-02, was seen being injected with steroids in 1994. Mr. Radomski called that the only occasion in which he witnessed a player using steroids. Mr. Manzanillo, through a lawyer, admitted that his client purchased steroids from Radomski but added that he "chickened out" and never used them.

• Mr. Villone, the Pirates' opening day starter and a reliever in 2002, is implicated for buying six kits of HGH from Mr. Radomski in 2004-05.

The Mitchell report also reiterated previously published allegations against four other former Pirates: One was that Armando Rios, an outfielder for the Pirates in 2001-02, and Benito Santiago, a catcher for two months in 2005, obtained steroids from Bay Area distributor Victor Conte. The other was that outfielders Jose Guillen (1997-99) and Gary Matthews Jr. (2001) bought HGH and steroids from Signature Pharmacy in Florida.

None of those four, by all accounts, was involved with performance-enhancing drugs while with the Pirates.

Mr. Coonelly was MLB's chief labor counsel before taking his current post, and he was involved in the process on that end, too. He said he worked to collect documents from MLB and member teams, and answer questions for the commissioner's office.

He applauded Mr. Mitchell's work and pledged that the Pirates will abide by any recommendations that MLB implements.

"We understand the seriousness of this issue, not only for our organization and our players but also for the entire game of professional baseball," Mr. Coonelly said. "The use of performance-enhancing substances goes to the core of the integrity of the game and cannot be tolerated."

The Pirates, he added, "will go to great lengths to educate our players on the dangers of using such substances." That will include instruction and enforcement at all levels of their system, with a "food-first" emphasis on how simple nutrition can be enough to help improve strength, fitness and durability.

No active member of the Pirates ever has been suspended for using a performance-enhancing drug.


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?