Steroids posed wrenching decisions for some players
Baseball players' depositions provide insight into the nature of the sport's drug culture.
The thing is, Andy Pettitte knew the human growth hormone (HGH) wasn't going to help him. He'd tried it once, briefly, and felt no benefit. He'd advised his own father that the substance was too dangerous to use.Skip to next paragraph
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But even wealthy left-handed pitchers can be desperate. And in 2004, that is what Pettitte was. He'd badly injured his arm during his first game with his hometown team, the Houston Astros. There was the pressure of money – he'd just signed a $30 million contract. There was the pressure of expectations – he did not want his career to end on the disabled list.
So he used HGH for one more day. He injected himself twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Later, talking to lawyers for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the thing he seemed to struggle with most was the fact that he'd dragged his father into the mess by asking him for leftover HGH syringes.
"You know, now that I look back on it, it was about as boneheaded ... a thing as I could have done," Pettitte said in his deposition to the House panel.
The words of players who have admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, or considering them, provide wrenching insight into the nature of the drug culture in the sport long portrayed as America's pastime.
Those words come from depositions taken by House Oversight lawyers in preparation for the panel's Feb. 13 hearing, which focused primarily on whether ex-Yankees star Roger Clemens used steroids, as alleged by his former trainer, Brian McNamee. The FBI has begun an investigation into whether Clemens lied when he denied steroid use. But the depositions of other players, such as Pettitte, and former Yankees infielder Chuck Knoblauch, reveal much about the motivations – and perhaps vulnerabilities – that could lead many athletes to reach for a chemical boost.
Knoblauch, for instance, always knew he was not the finest physical specimen in the majors. He told lawyers that as a rookie second baseman with the Minnesota Twins, the first time he reached base against the Oakland A's and stood next to their mammoth first baseman, Mark McGwire, he was awed.
"If everybody is like this, man, I am in trouble," he said.
He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award that year. But a few years later, an obstacle appeared. "I had a throwing problem," he told the lawyers.
Sports fans might say that is a bit of a understatement. The second baseman developed an epic inability to make a simple throw to first base. There was no physical injury to his arm, as far as doctors could tell. His mind and arm simply no longer cooperated for a toss.
By spring training of 2001, he was with the Yankees. "I worked Monday through Friday, worked my tail off, to correct this problem," he said in his deposition.