Archive for Steroids

New Oversight Committee Report Supports Clemens

From ABC:

A month after House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., released a memo questioning whether former ballplayer Roger Clemens lied to Congress about his alleged steroid use, Republicans fired back Tuesday, releasing a report of their own that disputes some of the Democrats’ prior conclusions and likens the Democrats’ report to a “prosecutorial indictment” of Clemens.

The Republican rebuttal dismisses as irrelevant the Waxman memo’s outline of “seven sets of assertions, made by Mr. Clemens in his testimony, that appear to be contradicted by other evidence before the committee, or implausible.”

“The Democratic staff memorandum’s characterizations and conclusions regarding these other matters is simply not relevant to the core question of whether Clemens knowingly lied about using anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (HGH),” the minority report said.

The 109-page Republican report includes new testimony about Clemens’ former trainer Brian McNamee’s allegations that Clemens attended a 1998 party at then-teammate Jose Canseco’s house, Clemens’ statements that he received vitamin B-12 injections from McNamee, and McNamee’s accusations that Clemens developed an abscess on his buttocks, an injury that could have been the result of steroid injections.

When I first heard news of this yesterday, I scoured the web for the actual 109-page report. I figured it would be up by this morning, but I still cannot find it. If you know of a link, or if you have a copy of the report that you could pass along, please let me know. I am eager to read it.

UPDATE: The report is now available online here.

In a “related” story, President George W. Bush pardoned 15 people yesterday. What does this have to do with Roger Clemens?

Most of those on Bush’s most recent pardon list were convicted of white-collar or drug offenses.

One name notably absent from the list was star pitcher Roger Clemens. The FBI is investigating whether Clemens lied to Congress about steroid use. An attorney for his trainer has predicted Clemens will be pardoned because of his friendship with the Bush family.

Clemens has not been charged with a crime.

What on earth is this line doing in this article? Why would anyone expect Bush to pardon Clemens? Because Brian McNamee’s lawyer suggested it might happen? Come on. In other news, the Trilateral Commission has yet to enact its plan to whisk Clemens away to an unmapped island aboard a black helicopter. I wish reporters would follow the story instead of the propaganda.

Canseco’s New Allegations

As has been reported on Deadspin, Baseball Primer, and soon-to-be everywhere on the internet, Jose Canseco’s latest list of names in his new book Vindicated has been leaked by Joe Lavin. The big names are Magglio Ordonez, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez. Even by Canseco’s standards, the evidence is weak. Ordonez is the only player whom he claims to have witnessed use, but we already knew about this story from Ordonez’s side. He accuses Clemens of telling jokes about steroids, and he says he introduced A-Rod to a steroids supplier. Basically, it’s a big bunch of nothing.

In light of these new claims, I want to point to a study that I did of Canseco’s influence on steroid dissemination throughout baseball (Was Jose Canseco the Johnny Appleseed of Steroids?). Canseco claims to have helped many players learn how to use the drugs. The problem is that there is not a lot of evidence that his teammates improved when playing with him. After reading a study by two economists that claimed to show Canseco’s teammates improving, I decided to look at the evidence and reached the following conclusion.

After reading the study, I am not convinced by the authors’ conclusions. It’s not just one thing, but a collection of issues that form my opinion. I have problems with both the study’s design and the interpretation of the reported results. My disagreement does not mean that the effect does not exist, only that I do not see a pattern consistent with Canseco spreading steroids to his teammates….

To concur with the conclusions presented in the study you have to interpret the findings in a way that I do not believe is correct. Upon further examination, I believe the significant effect on home runs after playing with Canseco identified in the Gould and Kaplan study is a product of spurious correlation, and thus this tells us little about Canseco impact on disseminating steroids throughout baseball.

Of course, there are many possible reasons why the data don’t indicate an influence even if he did transmit his steroid knowledge to others. Still, when evaluating he-said-he-said allegations, it’s nice to have some other corroborating evidence.

The real bad news for Canseco: as of 11:22am his Amazon sales rank (16,302) is not as good as mine (14,548), and no one is booking me for television interviews.

More on Human Growth Hormone

Headline: Growth hormone doesn’t boost athletic abilities: HGH may actually impair performance, review of studies finds

While growth hormone adds some muscle, it doesn’t appear to improve strength or exercise capacity, according to a review of studies that tested the hormone in mostly athletic young men.

“It doesn’t look like it helps and there’s a hint of evidence it may worsen athletic performance,” said Dr. Hau Liu, of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., who was lead author of the review.

Of course, this doesn’t stop the AP reporter from offering several qualifiers.

But the new research has some limitations and sheds no light on long-term use of HGH. The scientists note their analysis included few studies that measured performance. The tests also probably don’t reflect the dose and frequency practiced by athletes illegally using the hormone. Experiments like that aren’t likely to be conducted.

“It’s dangerous, unethical and it’s never going to be done,” said Dr. Gary I. Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine.

Consequently, those in the field have to depend on such reviews or “what we hear on the ground,” he added.

You know, I don’t recall the media being so vigorous on catching up on the science when all of the stories were reporting on growth hormone as a performance-enhancer.

There is no doubt that the perfect study on the subject has yet to be done, nor will it ever be done. But, the studies that have been done lead me to believe that were such a study to be done I would expect it to find minimal ergogenic effects. It’s not just that some empirical studies have been done on strength, but that when the muscles themselves are studied, they are developing differently from normal muscle. Thus, when we hypothesize about larger doses, I think the current studies give us a good idea about would occur.

The problem going with WADA scientist Gary Wadler hears “on the ground” is that in uncontrolled experiments, the placebo effect rears its head.

If Only All Players Were Married to Medical Professionals

Mike Greenwell says that he was tempted to use steroids, but his wife talked him out of it.

Had it not been for his wife, Greenwell said he probably would have used them, too. He studied steroids “because I was very, very tempted as a player to do it,” he said Tuesday.

His wife convinced him not to.

“My wife’s a nurse, and basically told me she’d kill me if she caught me doing it,” Greenwell said. “I think there’s many, many players out there that were tempted to do it. Probably if I didn’t have my wife, I would have done it to try to perform at that level.”

Why Do Players Take Human Growth Hormone If It Doesn’t Work?

I hear this question quite a bit when I point out that growth hormone does not improve athletic performance. One plausible explation is that players are not well informed on the subject, given that most of their information comes from drug pushers (see Andy Pettitte’s and Chuck Knoblauch’s depositions) and the ill-informed media. But, Justin Wolfers at Freakonomics points to a new study that offers another possible explanation: the placebo effect.

A placebo is a benign substance used in medical trials to control for psychological responses to drugs. For example, a drug given to arthritis patients may cause them to feel better just because they expect to feel better, not because the drug actually worked. Similarly, players who use human growth hormone may notice themselves feeling stronger and more productive after taking a substance that is supposed to have this effect. A colleague of mine who conducts clinical trials on athletes tells me it is common for his placebo subjects to insist they are getting the real stuff.

It turns out that the placebo effect of human growth hormone could be even stronger than previously expected. New research by economist Dan Ariely finds that the placebo effect is exacerbated by the price of the drug.

A higher price can create the impression of higher value, just as a placebo pill can reduce pain.

Now researchers have combined the two effects. A $2.50 placebo, they have found, works better one that costs 10 cents.

The finding may explain the popularity of some high-cost drugs over cheaper alternatives, the authors conclude. It may also help account for patients’ reports that generic drugs are less effective than brand-name ones, though their active ingredients are identical.

Why is this relevant? Human growth hormone is very expensive relative to other performance-enhancing drugs. According to the Mitchell Report, Kirk Radomski charged his clients $1,600 for a one-month supply of human growth hormone, while he only charged $400 for Winstrol.

Radomski typically paid at least $1,000 or more for one “kit” of human growth hormone, which included seven vials of distilled water and the same number of packages of lypholized human growth hormone powder, but the price depended on availability. He generally resold kits for $1,600 each, but in some instances charged less depending on his relationship with the player (pp. 144–145).

Radomski believed he made between three and five sales to [Chad] Allen involving Winstrol, testosterone, and Deca-Durabolin. According to Radomski, Allen could not afford human growth hormone…. Radomski mailed a one or two-month supply of Winstrol to Allen at his home in Texas. Allen paid Radomski approximately $400 by check (pp. 225–226).

Players who use performance-enhancing drugs have a strong reason to believe that a drug that is four-times as expensive as a common anabolic steroid is also going to improve performance. Thus, in light of Ariely’s study, it is not surprising that some players have convinced themselves that human growth hormone is responsible for improved performance.

How Players View Drug Testing

Yesterday, AJC Braves beat writer David O’Brien featured an interview with Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine about blood testing for human growth hormone in baseball. I don’t want to get sidetracked by the fact that it would be a total waste of resources to test for HGH, or that it would make more sense to allow it than to police it; instead, I want to focus on the player’s decision to submit to testing.

I believe that Chipper Jones echoes the sentiments of many major-league baseball players.

“I don’t care,” the third baseman said Tuesday. “I’m not on anything, so it doesn’t bother me. The only people I would say who would object would be people afraid of needles, or who are on something.”

A player who is clean has every reason to want testing, but users may favor testing as well. A substance that is performance-enhancing gives users an edge over non-users, which translates into higher salaries. Players face the choice of using to keep their edge or abstaining and settling for compensation less than equally-talented players who use. Thus, there is a strong incentive to use. In a world where all players use, the end result is that players are no better than one another, yet they incur the expense and health consequences of using. Therefore, it makes sense for players to want stringent testing to stamp out this behavior.

However, there is another side to this, and Chipper is well aware of it.

He added, “I’m sure the players association would have something to say about it.”

Jones was asked about the issue three days after Yankees star Derek Jeter said in a radio interview that he wouldn’t object to a blood test, since players already are required to have blood drawn for physicals during spring training.

“You’re talking about individual guys coming out and saying they wouldn’t mind,” Jones said. “I’m sure if [players union head] Don Fehr sat us down and listed the pros and cons, and what the majority of players thought, it might be different.”

Former union representative Tom Glavine elucidates the cons.

“I’m not going to say it’s never going to change, but I see it as a very thorny issue right now,” Glavine said. “There’s too many potential problems, too many question marks.

“It’s potentially opening up a big can of worms. There’s the potential for so many problems with the way that it’s handled, the way it’s stored.”

Glavine said he could envision a player’s career being ruined by blood sample being tampered with by someone with a vendetta.

“On a personal level, it scares me to think of somebody having my blood and the potential to tamper with it down the road,” Glavine said. “Your career could be ruined, and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.”

Urine is urine and blood is blood. These substances yield more information than just the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Players are right to be suspicious about the motives of owners, players, and other associates. This is why I suggest handing over all testing and enforcement to the players. Here is my Op-Ed in the NY Times, and here is post with further explanation. I also discuss this in Chapter 9 of my book.

Good Old-Fashioned Fingerprints

In the age of DNA analysis, fingerprint evidence seems a bit antiquated as a forensic tool. But, in the Roger Clemens–Brian McNamee saga, it could prove crucial. The main physical evidence in the case includes syringes and vials of unused steroids submitted by McNamee. The syringes, McNamee claims, ought to contain DNA and steroids or human growth hormone (for the evidence relating to Chuck Knoblauch). While this might seem like a silver bullet, the value of this evidence has been dismissed by experts. There is no way to prove when the substances were put in the in the syringes, and we know that McNamee had access to Clemens’s DNA.

However, fingerprints on some of these items would indicate that Clemens handled the materials in question. I do not think that fingerprints on the syringes are all that relevant, because Clemens admits to receiving B-12 injections from McNamee. However, fingerprints on the vials of steroids, which McNamee claims that Clemens gave him in 2002 could be damaging to Clemens, as they would represent the first physical connection to the drugs.

If a Clemens fingerprint is found on a vial of steroids, it would not prove that Clemens had used the substance, but it would show that he had come in contact with the vials and raise new questions about his denials.

Richard Emery, one of McNamee’s lawyers, said McNamee gave Clemens an undisclosed number of unused steroid vials in 2001; it was from that batch, Emery said, that Clemens returned the eight unused vials to McNamee at the end of the 2002 season.

The issue of fingerprints comes up in McNamee’s deposition, and I remember thinking this might be important. But the reason I remember it is that McNamee appears to have thrown away a key piece of evidence: the Ziploc bag that held the vials that Clemens allegedly gave to McNamee.

A [Sentence blacked out] Cleaning up, putting stuff away in boxes. He was cleaning out his bedroom. I was filling up a bag — a duffel bag that I still have that he gave me with stuff he didn’t want, some kids games, some clothing, some sneaker, some shirt, some athletic wear. And he just walked out of his bedroom and he says, listen, I’m not going to travel on the plane with these, can you either hold on to them or get rid of them.

Q So what did he physically hand you?

A A Ziploc bag full of that stuff.

Q So this was all in the bag?

A Absolutely.

Q So he would have touched the bag as he handed it to you?

Mr. Emery. Because the Ziploc bag was part of —

The Witness. He touched the bag, yeah.

Mr. Emery. The Ziploc bag was in there. We gave him the Ziploc bag. Sorry. It must be in one of the other pictures.

Mr. Schiliro. Isn’t it that one?

Mr. Emery. That is the bag that we just used so we wouldn’t touch it.

The Witness. The Ziploc bag is in there.

Mr. Emery. Yeah, there must be a Ziploc bag picture.

Mr. Schiliro. I’m confused because we have pictures from two different years; isn’t that correct?

Mr. Emery. Right. But we gave the Federal Government —

The Witness. Wait. No. No.

Mr. Ward. Let’s —

The Witness. No, no, I’ve got it. No. I emptied that — I emptied that stuff in another — in the box.

Mr. Emery. Right. The Ziploc bag was with the other stuff.

The Witness. Yeah. I physically removed the unused — I took the pills out and the testosterone bottles, the seven or eight bottles, put them in the can bag and threw all of those single wrapper needle heads in the bottom of the box. I didn’t keep that bag.

Mr. Emery. Right. You’re right.

Q You didn’t keep the Ziploc bag?

A That Roger gave me. No, I — because we were looking at that. We knew there wouldn’t be fingerprints on the bag.

Mr. Emery. Right. The bag that was in there was a different bag.

The Witness. That was my bag. It might have been his bag, but I only kept one bag. And it was the bag that the can was in, the can I had. The other stuff I emptied in.

Q So you have no expectation his fingerprints would be on any of these substances?

A Possibly, but, no, I ain’t counting on that. I’m counting on the blood and the needles and the stuff in the needles. (pp. 202–204)

And at this point, I expect Philiip Schirilo (Henry Waxman’s Chief of Staff) hung his head like an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow who just learned that the rare piece of furniture in front him of was refinished by a well-meaning great-uncle. Was this a mistake of honesty or convenience?

It will be interesting to learn what the fingerprint analysis reveals. Clemens’s attorney Rusty Hardin is not expressing concerns.

“We would expect if the Department of Justice conducts an investigation, it would be a thorough and fair one,” he added. “Does that mean that they would test items they were given for fingerprints? Of course, they would.”

Clearing the Air on Clemens

I almost put up a post similar to this one last week, but I didn’t think it was necessary. I thought it was clear how I felt about the Clemens-McNamee situation. However, since that time the blog comments indicate that I need to clarify my position on Roger Clemens’s guilt/innocence regarding the steroid charges made by Brain McNamee.

I do not know if Clemens is innocent or guilty of the charges. I remain agnostic on the issue, and this upsets people who have already made up their minds that he is guilty. I am not in the tank for Clemens: I have no connection to Roger Clemens that ought to make me care one way or the other. I ask that you please view me as a skeptic who has higher standards (I do not intend “higher” to mean “better”) for reaching conclusions. There are several conflicting accounts of past events, and I think it is proper to wait until I have more information before reaching a conclusion. And until the accuser demonstrates guilt, I assume that the accused is innocent, but under suspicion. As I see it now, I don’t think that Clemens will be indicted for perjury; and even if he is, given the current evidence I think it is unlikely that he will be convicted. These beliefs are subject to change as more information comes out.

While my posts have generally been supportive of the Clemens side, that is because the general presumption in the media is that Clemens is lying. It is easier to find evidence against this presumption when many people who comment publicly on the topic support McNamee. For example, Pettitte gives Clemens “misremembering” theory more credit than Rep. Elijah Cummings suggests, Pettitte’s own statements do not fully support McNamee’s accounts of events, and the statistical record is not as damning as some believe. Other people are saying or writing things with which I disagree, and I am merely pointing out why I disagree. Without the prior statements to the contrary, I would have no need to make my comments.

So please, let’s tone it down with the comments. I am willing to hear contradictory evidence and engage in debate; but, simply labeling me a Clemens apologist isn’t going to accomplish much. State what is wrong with what I have posted or move on. Also, for those of you submitting multiple comments under different aliases—I see your IP address when you submit comments— please stop doing so. This behavior is inappropriate.

Media Bias

Headline from The New York Daily News:

Roger Clemens’ attorney: Maybe Rocket was at Jose Canseco’s party

Article opening:

Roger Clemens may be backpedaling on his long-time stance that he never attended a 1998 party at Jose Canseco’s house.

In the wake of the Daily News’ report Friday that a photograph exists of Clemens posing with a young man at Canseco’s Florida home – a photo said to have been taken on June 9, 1998 – the Rocket’s attorney issued a statement that seems to suggest Clemens may have attended the party after all.

Clemens’s congressional testimony:

In his testimony before Congress, Clemens told ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.), “So could I have gone by (Canseco’s) house later that afternoon and dropped my wife or her brother-in-law, the people that golfed with me? Sure, I could have. But at the time of the day that I would have expressed it to be, I was on my way to the ballpark. I know one thing. I wasn’t there having huddled up with somebody trying to do a drug deal. I know that for sure.”

And the “backpedaling”:

Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin issued a statement Friday that in part reverses course. “We know that baseball announcers broadcasting the games at the time said Roger was not at the party. Jose Canseco has said Roger was not at the party, as has Canseco’s former wife. Roger was playing golf at the time of the party, and has stated that he may have stopped by the Canseco house after playing golf before heading to the ballpark for the game,” read Hardin’s statement.

Hardin’s statement merely reiterates the Clemens’s testimony. I see no backpedaling or change in the story. And people accuse me of being biased? Sheesh!

Pettitte versus McNamee

For a moment, let’s put aside the the discussion about how we should judge Andy Pettitte. I want to view him as a witness. Given the common perception of Pettitte as an honest man, I think it is interesting that people generally assume that Pettitte’s story backs up McNamee’s account of events. This then boosts McNamee’s credibility in regard to Roger Clemens’s alleged drug use. While Pettitte concurs with McNamee’s accounts of his own use, Pettitte does not back McNamee on all accounts, especially on this particular event, which ought to be memorable.

Here is McNamee’s story from his deposition.

And it was in, it was in Roger’s gym when he — I was cleaning up after one session. Then we do like an agility program, then we toss and then we go. They throw off the mound and then we do weight work. Roger was changing his shoes, tying his shoes on the side in his gym, Andy is long tossing in the corners of the gym diagonally to be the first — I think C.J. Nitkowski was throwing first and then I’d catch. So it was cleaning up the area, then we did the cardiovascular and agility work. Andy Pettitte was having a conversation with Roger 5 feet away. I walked in between the middle. Andy started to back up, back up, back up. He was getting further away from Roger. And all he did was bark at me and say why didn’t you tell me about that stuff.

Q That was Andy Pettitte speaking?

A Yes. And I said what stuff are you talking about? And I said — he goes, growth hormone. And I said why. He goes, well, Roger is telling me that he’s taking it and you know you get me all this protein and this recovery stuff and why don’t I take it. And I said well, Andy, it’s illegal and I know how you are. And he just looked at me and he says well, if it’s illegal then never mind, never mind. That was pretty much the last time we spoke about it. (pp.29–30)

He continues later in the deposition.

Q In that incident in the gym did you overhear what Clemens and Pettitte said to one another?

A Not really.

Q Did you hear anything?

A I was annoyed. I was annoyed. And I think Roger just shut up because he knew I was annoyed. But no, I didn’t really hear what they were talking about.

Q And why were you annoyed?

A Because it makes me look stupid when a guy, you know, does that, undermines me where you know I don’t feel comfortable about doing something and then he tells somebody that. I have a confidentiality thing where why would I go talking about this. And I’m telling you that C.J. Nitkowski, I just got done telling him he doesn’t need to take Winstrol. And then he’s telling Andy that he’s taking growth hormone and I don’t even know what else. And I was like why would you do that to me because then Andy thinks — you know, I didn’t want to break a trust. And that’s how Andy was going about it. He’s like, what are you talking about, you don’t tell me about this. And you know it just put me in an awkward situation. So I looked at Roger, and I mean that was the end of the conversation. So no, I didn’t hear what they said or what they were talking about other than what Andy said.

I find it strange that Pettitte has no recollection of this conversation in his deposition when he is specifically asked about the event.

Q I want to ask some questions about other conversations that you might have had with others, other players about this topic of steroid use or HGH use. And we’ve received some information that there was a training session at Clemens’ house in the 2001-2002 off-season that you attended and other players attended in which the subject of steroids or HGH was discussed. And I want to see if you recall anything about that. Do you recall anytime when you were training at Clemens’ house with McNamee and the topic of steroids or HGH ever came up?

A I don’t.

Q I’ll give you a few more details of what we’ve heard and see if it jogs your memory. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The other players who were there at the time were C.J. Nitkowski and Justin Thompson in addition to you and Clemens, and Brian McNamee was there training you guys. And what we’ve heard is you were long tossing with C.J. Nitkowski in the gym in Clemens’ house and Clemens apparently mentioned his use of performance-enhancing substances to you and it prompted you to go to McNamee and ask him questions about it. You said — apparently or that what we reportedly heard is that you said McNamee, you never told me about this before, about what Clemens is doing and it’s making him feel great. Does that jog your memory at all as to that episode?

A I definitely remember being over there with C.J. and Justin. But I just — I don’t remember us having that conversation. I don’t believe that — I don’t believe that we’d have been talking about that in front of those — you know, the young kids you know. (pp.41–42)

Pettitte, who has been praised for his honesty, does not recall what sounds to be a rather animated discussion according to McNamee. And C.J. Nitkowski also does not remember this conversation, but says that if such a conversation had happened, he would not have been able to hear it (p. 26–27).

If you are interested in this case but have not read through these depositions (available here), I would encourage you to do so. It is clear that the Congressional hearings did a poor job of sorting through all of this information.