Steroids From a Doctor, Over the Phone
According to a report in the New York Times, at least four major league players received steroids and syringes from a doctor in the mail between 2000 and 2004, all cases that were identified via interviews connected with the federal investigation of a California doctor -- 62-year-old Ramon Scruggs -- who wrote and filled prescriptions for players after telephone interviews, without ever seeing them in person.
The story, which was reported by Michael Schmidt with help from Joshua Robinson, Thayer Evans and Alan Schwarz, illuminates just how easy it was for players to obtain steroids in the years leading up to mandatory testing. The four players who spoke to investigators -- pitcher Scott Schoenweis (now with the Diamondbacks), third baseman Troy Glaus (of the Blue Jays), catcher Todd Greene and pitcher Ismael Valdez -- all admitted that they used the drugs and received them without an in-person interview.
Most striking among the cases is that of Glaus, an all-star with the Angels and Blue Jays who has struggled to overcome shoulder injuries throughout his career. According to the now unsealed report, Glaus was utterly unconcerned that the doctor who prescribed steroids for his rehabilitation never saw him in person.
Asked by the investigators whether he was concerned that Scruggs did not ask to see him, Glaus was quoted in the report as saying: "I just wanted to get better, it didn't alarm me. I just wanted to get better and play. ... It worked, and I was getting better."
Schoenweis also presents a dangerous scenario for investigators, largely because of an extra layer of questionable behavior. During the season in which Schoenweis admits injecting himself with steroids, 2003, he also served as the Angels' player representative to the union. Because of that role, Schoenweis would have had more access to information that could have tipped him off about a forthcoming test. He insists that he only used the drugs once and ceased after learning that all players would be tested, largely because "he was concerned he would get in trouble."
Interestingly, Scruggs insists that his behavior was ethical throughout, claiming that he prescribed the drugs solely for "restoration, not performance enhancement."
"These players benefited from restoration, not performance enhancement," Scruggs said in a telephone interview with the Times. "Steroids don't make someone a good athlete or a bad athlete; they may make you stronger, but they don't make you a better athlete."
It's an interesting claim, but it does nothing to affect the legality of the drugs he provided to players. Restoration is a sort of performance enhancement in itself, and while claiming that steroids were used to help recover from an injury -- just as Andy Pettitte did a year ago -- may help garner public sympathy, it doesn't make their use any more acceptable to major league baseball.
It also doesn't make Scruggs' practice of prescribing the drugs without an in-person appointment any less startling. Needless to say, he'll be facing fairly severe sanctions, yet that does little to mitigate concerns over how widespread this practice may have been, underscoring how resourceful players, despite growing concern over the prevalence of drugs in baseball, could always find a way to get the steroids they needed.
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