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A former player opens up about PEDs

Mar 10, 2014, 8:52 AM EST

Greenies

David Laurila of FanGraphs has a fascinating interview with a former pitcher — now retired — about his PED use. It’s not clear whether this guy was a major leaguer, but his comments about PED use — extremely detailed comments about what they did for him and how they made him feel — refer to his time in the minors.

He took steroids and amphetamines of various kinds. It’s worth noting that he felt significant effects from all of them, though the psychological effects come off stronger with the steroids and the physical effects come off stronger with the greenies. Oh, and the Adderall:

“The next step would be to get an Adderall or another ADD medication. Legal amphetamine prescriptions are how I circumvented drug testing. Now I had a “medical issue” which required Adderall. When I stood on the mound while on Adderall, everything faded away except for the catcher’s mitt. No crowd noise, no distractions. It was almost like being in the Matrix. Although you were sped up, everything slowed down.

A reminder that a far greater percentage of players in Major League Baseball have therapeutic use exemptions for ADD medicine than the population at large. People tend not to be critical of that, but I suspect the quotes around “medical issue” here apply to a great many of them.

Beyond that, a really good insight into PED use by players. I wish, rather than making a show of naming names and creating the perp-walk that was the Mitchell Report, baseball had actually tried to investigate PED use like this by talking to players anonymously and trying to explain and understand the reasons and habits behind PED-cheating as a means of getting at the problem and, for a time anyway, declaring the problem as one in the past.

  1. themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    That was a good read. All of the stories there, not just the PED pitcher story.

  2. ningenito78 - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    This would only be significant if this guy was a known major leaguer. If he was a career minor leaguer then ‘being in the ‘Matrix’ wouldn’t carry quite the same weight.

  3. karlkolchak - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Interesting. I never really understood what advantage the ADD medcation could give to a player. So much for the “roar of the crowd” being inspiring.

    • deathmonkey41 - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      If it didn’t give an advantage, Carlos Ruiz wouldn’t have been caught taking it illegally twice before going out and getting some doctor to write him a BS prescription for his “Medical Condition”…after he completely tanked last season without it. MLB- selectively decided who they’re going to go after and who they’re not.

      • danrizzle - Mar 10, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        And this is why it’s impossible from our point of view to determine whether someone’s medical exemption is legitimate or not. Even if we accept that Ruiz’s poor year was due to his not using an amphetamine, and that he obtained a medical exemption in order to get better, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t actually suffer from a condition that could be treated with Adderall which, untreated, actually did hamper his baseball play and his overall functioning. Yet people assume it’s a “BS prescription”.

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 10, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        So, what? He couldn’t go to a doctor for it before? Were the Phillies not paying him enough? Is Obamacare finally allowing him to afford a trip to the doctor? He risked getting suspended twice rather than just go to a doctor and get a prescription for something he could be diagnosed for? Why didn’t he get a prescription for it last season?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 10, 2014 at 5:22 PM

        He risked getting suspended twice rather than just go to a doctor and get a prescription for something he could be diagnosed for?

        That’s not how TUE’s work. It takes far more than just a “doctor’s note” to get an exemption.

  4. sfm073 - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    From day one players have always tried to get an edge over the other team, I don’t understand why anyone is shocked and angered by steroid use.

  5. xdj511 - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    So those scenes in “For Love of the Game” when Kevin Costner says “Clear the mechanism” and everything becomes indistinct except for the catcher’s mitt, it was actually because he was taking Adderall?

    • gloccamorra - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:09 AM

      No, he’s talking about focus. Some people can do it naturally, some never learned how to get into the “zone” and use chemicals. In every sport, the best know how to reach intense focus when they need it.

      In golf, Ben Hogan was so famously intense the entire round, that he barely noticed when one competitor had a hole in one. Others, like Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino, could banter with the crowd, and snap into focus to hit a shot, then banter with the crowd again. Still others, like Nicklaus, were somewhere in between.

      It’s unfortunate that chemicals are used in baseball, but you have to remember that they don’t give the player super powers. They have to possess the eyesight, coordination, bat speed, and pitch recognition first. There’s no substitute for God-given talent.

  6. sdelmonte - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Here’s the thing: no one wants the truth. Because then we would be forced to accept that everyone does something and always will. And then be forced to either turn a blind eye forever, or stop being fans.

    • American of African Descent - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Of course we can’t handle the truth. We watch a sport where a hit a week means the difference between an eight figure contract and riding the pine for league minimum. Who’s not going to look for an edge? Professional ball players have a greater responsibility than we can possibly imagine — they need to make money playing ball because too many don’t have other skills to fall back on. And while we may weep for the records and curse outed P.E.D. users, deep down in places we don’t like to talk about at parties, we want to see the records broken, we need to see the records broken. . . . Do professional athletes take P.E.D.’s to make money? Your gosh darn right they do.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 10, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        DID YOU ISSUE THE CODE GREENIE???

    • clemente2 - Mar 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      Or grow up and realize (1) it has always been done and always will be, and (2) that (1) means we should think about it in more detail than “drugs bad”, and see that things that help one perform/recover/feel good physically might not be so bad after all. Yes, the records are not comparable—why do you think they were anyway, with TJ surgery, better nutrition/health/vaccinations, etc.?

  7. campcouch - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Good to see a player’s perspective besides the usual,”I thought I was taking Skittles,and I’m sorry I got caught.”

    • dcarroll73 - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      One amendment and your comment will be the perfect summary of this farce: “skittles that my cousin bought at a candy store in the Dominican”

  8. jrob23 - Mar 10, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Maybe some of you will finally accept that, yes, PED do affect performance and stop with the idiotic ‘steroids don’t make you see the ball bettter’ b.s. you spout all the time.

    • paperlions - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM

      Feel free to cite where he actually said that steroids actually made him better at baseball as opposed to making him think he was better. Just because you think you sound great singing drunk karaoke doesn’t mean it is true.

      • NatsLady - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        Here ya go.

        The physical gains of steroids are a given, but what I didn’t expect were the mental gains.

      • NatsLady - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Also,

        “On Winstrol, I could long toss further and further every day. I could pitch back-to-back-to-back games with no fatigue whatsoever.

      • gibbyfan - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        This would cetainly seem to imply physical benefits……………..“On Winstrol, I could long toss further and further every day. I could pitch back-to-back-to-back games with no fatigue whatsoever. My arm and shoulder grew stronger and stronger until I felt like I was myself again.”

      • jeffbbf - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:06 AM

        christ, paper. read the gd story before you spout off about how smart you are

      • paperlions - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:18 AM

        I did read the story. There wasn’t a single mention about being better at baseball. Not one.

        More focus. Great. He didn’t say he pitched better as a result.

        Stronger and more confident. Great. He didn’t say it added MPH to his FB or movement to breaking pitches or any thing related to actually playing baseball.

        There is a huge chasm between physical/psychological effects and the translation of that into better performance on the field.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        The physical gains of steroids are a given, but what I didn’t expect were the mental gains.

        It’s always been obvious that steroids make you stronger, that’s why people have been using them for 60+ years. What PL is referring to is the direct connection between added strength and being a better player.

        Make a list of the best pitchers ever, and best hitters ever. If all it took was added strength, then wouldn’t those guys all be muscle bound freaks?

      • paperlions - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        At least one person knows how to read (church). Being bigger or stronger does not necessarily mean being better at baseball. There are plenty of skinny guys that throw harder and with better control than the biggest pitchers. There are plenty of skinny guys that hit the ball harder and farther than more muscle-bound players.

        Hitting and pitching are highly derived skills and may not improve just because someone gets stronger/bigger/faster.

      • chacochicken - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Being the best athlete on the field does not correlate with being the best baseball player on the field. Look at the numerous college football players that play baseball. How many make it? Check out the Mitchell Report for the list of all those huge power home run hitters and 95 mph pitchers, most of them are neither, in some cases not even close. Steroids do not improve vision or pitch recognition or help with contact against same handed pitchers among other things.

      • gibbyfan - Mar 10, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        Hey Paper I think many of us on here read just fine. I know I do. Now we may not be as gifted as you in knowing everything there is to know about PEDs, and baseball in general. In fact, because these issues are so controversial and have costs millions to try to sort out, I am really surprised that MLB hasn’t scooped you up as sort of a supreme arbiter of all issues related to baseball.
        As to my reading ability, you made the point that the write alluded to only psychological effects and my response was that having more endurance and strenght are something more than psychological. I would also add, that of course physical strength and endurance alone do not make a ball player but I think MLB and many others feel that perhaps if you already have the skill to be a MLB player then PEDs might give you a substantial edge. Doyou think it’s possible that the super human feats of Barry Bonds might have been at least in part due to something beyond his rigorous workout schedule.Unlike you, I don’t know for sure what the answer is, but I would assume that with all that has transpired in regard to this issue in terms of dollars spent and actions taken, there must be something to it.At least some of those involved in the process must have had your supreme ability to know all the answers.

      • davidpom50 - Mar 10, 2014 at 12:46 PM

        Paperlions back with his false comparisons: “Being bigger or stronger does not necessarily mean being better at baseball. There are plenty of skinny guys that throw harder and with better control than the biggest pitchers. There are plenty of skinny guys that hit the ball harder and farther than more muscle-bound players.”

        All true, but as Paper well knows and chooses to obfuscate, that’s not what we’re comparing. We’re comparing that skinny player who hits the ball harder to HIMSELF, his existing skill set, but stronger thanks to gains from steroids.

      • Reflex - Mar 10, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        I’m just going to add to this that in a game where you play 150+ games per year in only six months, plus spring training and potentially winter leagues, a drug that helps you not feel fatigued is a major benefit. It is not coincidence that many of the PEDs popular in baseball are the same ones popular in cycling, baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Simple strength gains are not enough, its endurance that really matters. As pointed out, an extra hit or two per week makes the difference between a scrub and an every day player, but the difficulty is maintaining that extra hit or two each week, having the energy to keep up with the game, to run out every pop fly and every weak grounder.

        Pretending that drugs that help endurance aren’t as valuable as those that build strength is ridiculous. Yes some people focus on the muscle building aspect of PEDs, and I agree that the gains are limited. But most of the drugs people are being caught with are not the ones that build muscle. And they likely have a much greater effect over the course of a given season.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM

        but I think MLB and many others feel that perhaps if you already have the skill to be a MLB player then PEDs might give you a substantial edge.

        See the bolded word, that’s where PL and I, and others, are arguing to show proof to make that statement. We all agree that PEDs help, it’s the degree to which they help that’s under debate. If you think the help a ton, to make the “substantial” claim, show proof.

        Doyou think it’s possible that the super human feats of Barry Bonds might have been at least in part due to something beyond his rigorous workout schedule.

        See above, we know they helped, but how much did they help? If they were of “substantial” help, why did Bonds never hit more than 49 HR in any year other than ’01? Was he only taking them that year? Was he taking a worse version? Were the other years placebo years for BALCO’s statistical study?

      • bh192012 - Mar 10, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        Yes, strength is completely useless for baseball.

        Which is why at the beginning of camp no major league teams do any kind of physical workouts. It’s why over the season nobody gets tired. When people show up to camp fat it doens’t bother anyone. You don’t need muscle to run or swing a bat quickly. Apparently the only thing I’m lacking to be a professional baseball player is the ability to recognize pitches.

      • clemente2 - Mar 10, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        The main point of agreement seems to be that it makes you feel good about palying and lessens fatigue.

        Doesn’t that just mean we get to see the players at their natural talent throughout the season, and not worn down versions by the end? Not so bad.

    • dcarroll73 - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      And he did say that uppers had more of a physical effect (so why no outrage about greenies and the Aaron-Mays-Mantle Era?)

      • NatsLady - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:34 AM

        I think there is “outrage.” There just isn’t much that can be done about it at this late date.

  9. cocheese000 - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    My friends and I used to take adderral before playing poker at casinos. That is a great drug. I always tell people it makes you better at life. No matter what you are doing it makes you better at it.

  10. raysfan1 - Mar 10, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    You could try reading the linked article. The player does not talk about seeing the ball better on steroids. 1st, he was a pitcher. He talks about getting a confidence boost from steroid use and about being able to pitch back to back days. Steroids mimic/boost testosterone levels, so the emotional response he described was not at all surprising. The ability to recover quickly and pitch the next day is because steroids have potent ant-inflammatory properties. This is also not a new revelation; it’s why also athletes can take them and work out longer and harder repeatedly.

    There was one drug mentioned that was described as helping him focus/concentrate better–Adderall. That happens to be an amphetamine. Greenies are also amphetamines. The point of using amphetamines is that they provide an immediate performance boost by enhancing the ability to concentrate, so this was zero surprise too.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:18 AM

      This was a reply to jrob23.

  11. pastabelly - Mar 10, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Actually, it’s fascinating. For those who don’t want to click on the link, here is the key passage for me as it confirms not only the physical effects from juice, but also the mental ones as well.

    “I was never an angel when it came to the drug policy. Androstendione was legal at the time. I used Winstrol after coming off rotator cuff surgery. The benefits were amazing. The physical gains of steroids are a given, but what I didn’t expect were the mental gains. The confidence boost the added testosterone gave me was exponential. I went from “I hope they don’t hit this pitch” to “Try and hit this, mother_____”. All of a sudden the negative thoughts and self doubt were replaced by supreme confidence.

    “On Winstrol, I could long toss further and further every day. I could pitch back-to-back-to-back games with no fatigue whatsoever. My arm and shoulder grew stronger and stronger until I felt like I was myself again. A killer instinct came back and it was amazing. Yes, there was always the nauseous feeling of having the steroids in my system the fear of testing positive.

    “I never really thought of steroids as an issue. I have shot up guys who were afraid of needles and afraid to ask trainers to do so. I never thought we were doing anything wrong. It was just a given. I never once thought others using took away from my performance on the field. I saw it as just trying to get an edge and the big paycheck.

  12. fleaman1381 - Mar 10, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    Interesting read. I wonder though, if you asked someone else who was on the same drugs if they had the same effects? I was in school during the beginning of the “You Aren’t Paying Attention, Here’s Some Drugs” era and I don’t really remember the amount of focus this pitcher seems to talk about. And I took a lot of different drugs. Maybe because I actually needed the drugs and they just made me more normal instead of enhancing? Or because the combination of medication Player X was taking (as I was obviously not on steroids)? I don’t know. I wish there were some more interviews like this. Because while there are arguments all over about whether or not PEDs actually help or it’s a mental thing, I think it has something to do with the individual, meaning it helps some, but not others. And I’m the first to admit I have no proof to back that theory up…

  13. genericcommenter - Mar 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    I know a lot of people in the general working population who use “brain drugs,” too. It’s not like a Bradley Cooper movie, but for some it seems to make the difference between a mediocre middle-class existence and doing very very well in business.

    I would even say I try to “hack” that myself, but I mostly try to do it with diet and more “natural” measures. Though I do use some medication off-label for a legit disorder.

  14. moogro - Mar 10, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Someone should do confidential interviews with every former player they can get for a study.

  15. Carl Hancock - Mar 10, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    “Trying to explain and understand the reasons and habits behind PED-cheating as a means of getting at the problem.”

    Does anyone really need to have the reasons behind why layers use PED’s explained to then? Does Major League Baseball need to investigate WHY the players were using PED’s? Give me a break. Let’s break this down so that an elementary school kid could understand it and then hopefully a former lawyer can too…

    PED’s increase performance and help you recover from injuries quicker. Increase your performance and recover from injuries quicker and you’ll out up better numbers. Out up better numbers and when it comes to signing a contract, you’ll sign a contract for more than you would have had you not used PED’s. The reason behind PED use is money.

    I wasn’t aware there was anyone out there that actually needed to know why athletes used PED’s considering its so obvious. That’s a great nickname for Craig. Captain Obvious. It’s great because it applies in a variety of ways. In this case the answer to his question was obvious.

    But it also applies to every article he writes. It’s obvious who wrote an article that it pro-PED, trolls Cardinal fans or trolls the fans of just about any team in baseball… Captain Obvious. Craig Calcaterra. The man who’s claim to fame in the big leagues of sports media is a blog post ranking Major League Managers by their looks. I still chuckle every time in think about that video, The way Harold Reynolds looked and laughed at you was priceless considering he wasn’t laughing with you, he was laughing at you.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 10, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      Good to know you enjoy listening to someone who sexually harasses multiple women. Also is it hard jumping through as many hoops as you do to get at what you think Craig is “writing”?

  16. kevjones75 - Mar 10, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Everyone was on some form of PEDs in the 90s and 2000s. It’s a wash. MLB and the owners/agents turned a blind eye for the sake of the turnstiles. Let the greatest layers of a generation into the HOF. You still have to hit the ball and throw strikes

  17. detectivejimmymcnulty - Mar 10, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    I’ve always thought the mental effects of PEDs are typically greater than the physical effects. Baseball is such a grind with so many peaks and valleys that being mentally strong is more important than being physically strong for most players. I’m actually a little surprised that others didn’t see it like that, considering most baseball fans that post here seem to be pretty intelligent. Excluding nymets4ever obviously. :)

  18. missingdiz - Mar 10, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    “A reminder that a far greater percentage of players in Major League Baseball have therapeutic use exemptions for ADD medicine than the population at large. People tend not to be critical of that…”

    I’ve commented on this before here. The “population at large” is roughly half female. Males are two to three times as likely to have ADHD as females. So, it should be expected that an all-male population will have a higher percentage of cases than the population at large.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 10, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      There were 119 therapeutic use exemptions last year, about 10% of the total number of players on 40-man rosters.

      From WebMD:
      “Prevalence rates for ADHD in adults are not as well determined as rates for children, but fall in the 4% to 5% range.
      ADHD affects males at higher rate than females in childhood, but this ratio seems to even out by adulthood.”

      http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adhd-adults

      • missingdiz - Mar 10, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        Raysfan1, you’re right. I need to stay updated before I blurt stuff out. It looks as though even in childhood it might be roughly even. Girls might not be diagnosed as readily as boys because the type of ADHD is different or the symptoms such that girls don’t act up and get into trouble so much.
        Sorry, Craig, I was too quick on the trigger.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 10, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        No sweat, I’ve done it before too.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 10, 2014 at 5:29 PM

        You might still be correct though, considering how much better women are at seeing doctors than men.

  19. 461deep - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:47 AM

    PEDs may not improve innate talent, vision, or hearing etc. They do embellish those gifts by increasing a users size, strength, stamina confidence and focus. Bonds always had great talent but never performed as a hitter in so awesome a manner before getting so much bigger from PEDs. He did lose some foot speed and fielding agility. Drugs do things to us. Cure headaches, control BP, thyroid imbalances, on & on. Laws of physics say if you hit a ball with 240 pounds behind you it will go farther than hitting it with 180 pounds all other things being equal. It is this visual evidence that lead me to believe PED’s improve your game.

  20. gloccamorra - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:51 AM

    Remember, it’s a long, long season, 162 games over 6 months, and the scheduling is more fractured than ever. Instead of 4-5 game series and train travel before 1960, with all the teams in the northeast quarter of the country (no teams west of St. Louis or south of D.C.), we now have jet travel across 3 time zones to Seattle, San Diego, Miami and Boston. Seattle hosted San Diego for a 2 game set, then both teams flew to San Diego the next day. Nearly all teams have that interleague schedule, and it’s brutal on the players.

    WWII pilots were given amphetamines before flying their missions to keep them alert in a life-or-death situation, but ballplayers used them to keep alert with all the travel, and the crazy schedule. Now that amphetamines are banned, the players are resorting to ADD medication to get the same effect. How else are west coast teams going to play at a high level after a game at home, followed by a 4 hour plane trip across two time zones to play the next day in Chicago, or Milwaukee or Detroit the next day?

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