by Gary Gaffney, MD, Steroid Nation
It's been a wild year in the Roid World. 2007 went out with the Mitchell Report roid bang. 2008 will be going out with much less juiced fan fair. You know it was a boring year for the NFL juicing when the biggest story we remember for the year concerned players using a woman's weight loss supplement.
As we discussed last week the Mitchell Report hit the baseball world like an inside fastball in December of 2007. By now most fans can remember only a couple of the surprises that Ex-Senator Mitchell exposed, say like Andy Pettitte. Everyone knew Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jose Canseco would be exposed as juicers. However Roger Clemens clearly stands out as the biggest Mitchell Report loser. The year 2008 will not go down as a banner Clemens year. Not only was Clemens revealed as a fairly large juicer, but he appeared as a player whose trainer saved the bloody steroid syringes; a man possessing a cloudy memory about steroid use; a ladies man entertaining a bevy of beauty during his career including a teenager; a Congressional punching bag; and a husband all enthusiastic about pimping the Mrs. with HGH. Even late into 2008, things deteriorated for the Ex-Rocket: Clemens saw a hospital unload his name from it's honoroed halls, and way too many legal problems for a vintage Rocket.
Actual baseball seemed sedate in 2008 compared with 2007. Barry Bonds retired, thus relieving the MLB of one large festering boil. Several players became embroiled in the Mitchell Report hangover -- like Miguel Tejeda; however the stories concerning steorids diminished significantly. The Dominican Summer League disqualified about half of the players for steroid use; Other highly rated baseball prospects sat down with PED-suspensions. However the MLB was not electric with new revelations about juiced sluggers. Power hitting seemed to reflect that 'roid reduction. (and here)
The NFL's roid use remained almost obscure despite the publication of the San Diego Tribune's NFL Mitchell Report -- even when a draft prospect may have been involved with doping prior to death. What appeared to be a scandal when several players, including New Orleans's Deuce McAllister, and the Viking's Kevin and Williams looked to be using a masking agent -- a powerful diuretic named bumetanide. Turns out that the players were using a woman's weight loss supplement -- Star Caps -- which is spiked with the potent water-loss pill. These players apparently were just trying to make weight so they could collect bonuses. Nonetheless the NFL played out the drama which ended in Federal court. 'Pee to Play (Pay) we called it.
Perhaps the sleaziest NFL story concerning roids happened decades ago.: Former Michigan State Spartan, Green Bay Packer, and Indianapolis Colt Tony Mandarich revealed his steroid, narcotic, drug, and alcohol abuse. Mandarich even took 'roids before the Rose Bowl when the Spartans played at Psadena...kinda like USC players in the 2008 Rose Bowl
The main event of the year took place in Beijing China, home of clenbuterol in the salad, steroids in the meat (and swimmers), and half-pint athletes on the gym mat. Many elite athletes were wiped out before the 2008 Olympic Games, caught by their local anti-doping agency. For instance Russian world class track stars -- like world record holder Yelena Soboleva -- were ruled ineligible for Olympic competition when a urine-switching scheme was revealed. Other athletes dropped like juiced flies including Greek power lifters and sprinters, American swimmers (and here), Indian female weight lifters, and Spanish-Italian cyclists. Several dopers made it to Beijing where a couple fell out. Even horses contributed to the doping scandals in the 2008 Olympics at their venue in Hong Kong. However, many former dopers competed at Beijing, even when there is evidence certain PEDs lead to long lasting muscle enhancement.
Speaking of horses, horse racing made the headlines, and continues to make the headlines due to steroids and other performance enhanced drugs (PEDs). Although there was a heavy hitting Triple Crown candidate -- Big Brown -- his course appeared tainted when his trainer (the irrepressible Rick Dutrow) admitted to juicing the steed with a monthly dose of Ben Johnson, er Winstrol. The horse went cold turkey from 'roids, then ran like a cold turkey losing the final leg of the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes.
Horse racing itself will be examining it's soul as a filly at the Kentucky Derby -- 8 Bells -- shattered it's forelegs, thrashed about helplessly in front of millions, then was euthanized on-track. As disturbing as this lethal spectacle was, more disturbing were accusations of doping and genetics leading to frail horses. In the end the poor filly tested clean of steroids, however she remained dead.
Perhaps someone should euthanize the Tour de France. Once again cyclists revealed they can resist dope-cheating about as much as hedge fund managers on Wall Street can resist Ponzi schemes. Many Tour de France riders including Germany's Bernhard Kohl took CERA-EPO to thicken their blood, and to skate by the dope testers. Wrong, a test had been developed for the new drug, and was waiting to trip up some cycling dopers. The International Olympic Committee admitted that it's dope lab was now also testing 2008 Olympians for CERA-EPO, which may break as a large story in early 2009. In other news, Floyd Landis once again lost the 2006 Tour title due to a doping offense.
One cyclist who may not squeeze by with any dope will be the comeback kid (gulp) Lance Armstrong. After years outside the hot spotlight of world attention, the 7-time Tour de France champ announced I'm back" -- with a Shining new anti-doping program customized by the legendary Don Catlin. As of this writing Lance continues on the comeback trail, but without his super-duper new anti-doping program, although he seems to be annoyed with the normal anti-doping measures pro cyclists brought on themselves with their incessant rule-breaking -- and worried that a berserk French fan may punch his headlights out..
In the next installment of the Roid Year 2008, we will examine the names who were not caught doping...surprisingly.
by Gary Gaffney, MD, Steroid Nation