Records Show More to Come in MLB Steroid Case
- 04-29-2007, 10:01 AM
Records Show More to Come in MLB Steroid Case
New York Times
April 29, 2007
Records Show More to Come in Steroid Case
By JULIET MACUR
The day after one of the most significant breaks in the continuing baseball steroids scandal, information in court documents shows that the federal investigation is far from over.
Court records show that there are at least three more search warrant affidavits, each signed by Jeff Novitzky, an Internal Revenue Service special agent who is investigating drug use in baseball. Novitzky has been the lead investigator in the most prominent steroids distribution cases this decade, including the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case that ensnared dozens of athletes, coaches and suppliers.
Novitzky’s latest case involves Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse assistant who pleaded guilty Friday to supplying performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of current and former Major League Baseball players and their associates, and laundering the proceeds from those transactions.
Novitzky signed an affidavit on Dec. 13, 2005, filed in conjunction with a search the next day on Radomski’s Long Island home. After that raid, Radomski immediately began helping federal investigators look into drug use in baseball. In that affidavit, Novitzky wrote that he had written affidavits in support of search warrants “on 35 different locations” during his 13 years with the I.R.S. Criminal Investigation Unit.
Less than six months later, Novitzky signed another affidavit, that one to search the home of the journeyman pitcher Jason Grimsley. Novitzky said it was his 39th affidavit in support of search warrants, meaning that there had been three other affidavits filed — and likely three other searches of homes or businesses — between the Radomski and the Grimsley searches. The Radomski and Grimsley affidavits are the only two that have been unsealed by courts.
In a telephone call yesterday, Novitzky declined to comment on the investigation because it was continuing.
Still, the Radomski investigation has turned the spotlight on the steroid problems that have loomed over baseball. Radomski’s plea agreement filed Friday in the United States District Court in the Northern District of California included his admission that he had sold anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and amphetamines to dozens of professional baseball players. His guilty plea to felony charges of steroid distribution and money laundering could mean up to 25 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
The Grimsley affidavit, dated May 31, 2006 — five and a half months after the Radomski affidavit — stated that Grimsley had used performance-enhancing drugs like human growth hormone, amphetamines and the anabolic steroid named clenbuterol, one of the drugs that Radomski said he had sold once a go-between in baseball had set him up with many of his clients.
The affidavit also stated that Grimsley told investigators about former and current players who had used performance-enhancing drugs.
There are some similarities between the two affidavits. Both mention virtually the same drugs, both list payments in similar price increments and both have many names of professional baseball players whose names are redacted.
Grimsley’s agent, Joe Bick, said Saturday that Grimsley had never given up names of players who had used drugs, but that federal agents had offered him names of possible users. “They had a list and asked him about the players; he never volunteered names,” said Bick, via telephone, who added that federal investigators had not contacted Grimsley since they raided his home last summer.
One question is whether the names in the Grimsley affidavit were first offered by Radomski.
Radomski, 37, had worked for the Mets from 1985 to 1995. He said he had dealt anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and amphetamines to players for about a decade, beginning in 1995.
As part of his plea agreement, Radomski agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and nongovernmental investigators, which includes an inquiry into steroid use in baseball by the former Senator George J. Mitchell. When contacted yesterday, Mitchell did not comment.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, who led hearings into steroid use in 2004, repeated his calls for the players union to agree to effective drug testing during a campaign stop yesterday in Tempe, Ariz. He said that the players union and its executive director, Donald Fehr, had “basically stymied progress on this issue to a significant degree, including a lack of cooperation with Senator Mitchell.”
“I hope they’ll cooperate, and eliminate once and for all,” he said.
Of the most recent developments, McCain said, “You’ll probably see more Congressional hearings, if the initial stories are true.”
Dr. Gary I. Wadler, an associate professor of medicine at New York University and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said that the Radomski case could hasten another big change in the way doping cases and drug-testing are handled. He said that baseball is on the cusp of realizing it is overwhelmed by the steroids problem and that it cannot handle it on its own.
“I do think we are moving more and more in the direction that we’ll wind up with federal legislation,” he said. “People can’t lose sight that it’s drug-dealing. Whether it’s heroin or cocaine or steroids, it shouldn’t matter because it’s all the same.”
What happens to the players involved, when and if their names are made public, is still in question. When asked if Major League Baseball would get players’ names if Mitchell gets them, Commissioner Bud Selig said in a telephone interview, “It’s a matter we’ll discuss with Senator Mitchell.”
There are several ways that the names could come out. The players named by Radomski could be asked to testify in a grand jury investigation, similar to the athletes who were compelled to testify before the Balco grand jury. The Mitchell investigation, or Major League Baseball itself if it does receive the names, could also release the information. Also, Congress could force prosecutors to provide the names.
Selig declined to discuss other aspects of the case.
Under baseball’s drug agreement, players do not have to test positive for use of illegal substances to be disciplined. If Major League Baseball had checks written by players and could establish that the checks were for payment for illegal substances, the players could be disciplined, according to the agreement. Grimsley was suspended for 50 games after he admitted using banned substances. He subsequently retired.
If the purchases from Radomski were made since the start of the drug agreement, Major League Baseball’s right to discipline would be clear-cut.
If the purchases were made before the agreement, it would not be as clear-cut but could be done anyway under the “just cause” provision of the collective bargaining agreement. Using steroids as a performance-enhancer is illegal in the United States, so Major League Baseball could discipline a player for engaging in illegal conduct by violating that ban.
Murray Chass and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.
- 04-29-2007, 03:02 PM
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