Commentary

A steroid life in baseball's fast lane

Updated: January 28, 2012, 9:19 AM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. -- Kirk Radomski didn't set out to be a drug supplier when he hired on as a bat boy and clubhouse attendant with the New York Mets in 1985. Though street-wise beyond his years, he was just a 15-year-old from the Bronx who had stumbled into a dream gig because Mets equipment manager Charlie Samuel lived down the street and liked to hire kids from the neighborhood. Suddenly, Radomski was tending to the needs of marquee talent such as Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez.

Kirk Radomski
Mike Fish/ESPN.comBy the end of 2005, Kirk Radomski says, he had supplied close to 300 major league players with performance-enhancing drugs.
But after a decade of running errands and cleaning up the clubhouse, Radomski says it was time to "make real money and stop playing," a decision that led to his role as baseball's No. 1 supplier of performance-enhancing drugs. Once he left the Mets, he held multiple jobs, most recently as co-owner of a car detailing business, while he was supplying the drugs.

He estimates that by the time federal agents showed up at the door of his Long Island home in December 2005, his client list had included more than 300 ballplayers through the years, ranging from marginal characters such as Pete Rose Jr. scuffling just to get a taste of the bigs to accomplished major leaguers such as Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Paul Lo Duca, Todd Hundley and -- indirectly, Radomski claims -- Miguel Tejada.

Forced to cooperate with the government and turn over financial, shipping and other documents as part of a plea deal (he pleaded guilty to distributing steroids and laundering money and was sentenced to five years' probation), Radomski, 39, later surfaced as the central figure in the Mitchell report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Radomski supplied the drugs to personal trainer Brian McNamee, who has testified that he provided performance enhancers to Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch.

Now, he has told his story in a book -- "Bases Loaded" (Hudson Street Press), scheduled for release this week -- that chronicles his role as a key figure in baseball's steroids era. In it, he touches on several hot topics, including his take on the shortcomings of the $20 million Mitchell report. As part of the marketing for the book, Radomski agreed to interviews with ESPN.com and ESPN, and he elaborated at length about his life in baseball.

Among his contentions are:

Witness for the Prosecution

In addition to his role in the Mitchell report, Kirk Radomski appears to be one of the star witnesses in the government's investigation into whether Roger Clemens committed perjury when he told a congressional committee that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. Already, Radomski has given testimony in front of a grand jury. ESPN.com has followed Radomski's story since his name first surfaced as a primary source of PEDs.

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• That Mitchell decided to include the names of players in his report because the players' union had stonewalled his requests for cooperation and information.

• That former Oakland A's player Adam Piatt told him that some of the performance-enhancing drugs he purchased were given to Tejada, the former American League MVP under investigation by the Justice Department because it believes he lied to House committee staff when he denied using drugs. Tejada's agent, reached by ESPN, declined to comment on the allegation.

• That not all player agents were naive about the doping problem in baseball. Some, Radomski writes, steered their players to him and, in some instances, even thanked him for helping their clients. He doesn't name the agents.

• That he has no hard feelings toward Jeff Novitzky, the government's lead investigator in a number of steroid probes. Radomski's book includes Novitzky in the acknowledgements, and he has surprisingly kind words to say about Novitzky -- very likely in sharp contrast to the way lawyers for Barry Bonds will portray Novitzky at Bonds' perjury trial in March.

• That, as part of his cooperation with the government, Radomski recorded close to 200 phone calls, in which 15 to 20 players inquired about performance enhancers, between January and June 2006. The last caller, Radomski told ESPN.com, was Jason Grimsley, whose house was raided by the feds that June after he received a shipment of performance-enhancing drugs from Radomski.

[+] EnlargeDwight Gooden and Kirk Radomski
Courtesy Kirk Radomski Radomski and Dwight Gooden, together here with the Mets, were friends. Radomski says he even took urine tests for Gooden.
Radomski describes in the book how easily he fit into the major league clubhouse culture, working just the regular season at first and later traveling to Florida for spring training with the Mets. Over the years, he writes, he grew into a confidant, a trusted caddie. Pitching ace David Cone, for example, gave him $5,000 toward the purchase of his first new car, a white '91 Dodge Stealth. He paid bills for some players and ran errands such as going by a player's house to let the cable guy in. He made sure a player's wife and girlfriend didn't cross paths at the ballpark. He took care of a player's car during a road trip.

In the late 1980s, according to the book, Radomski scooped up a corked bat used by a Mets slugger and substituted another one to give to an inquiring umpire who had followed the player back to the dugout.

In one section, he writes about helping Gooden, who had tested positive for cocaine in spring training of 1987, pass two urine tests in the early '90s, but then declined a third request from Gooden, finally telling the pitcher he had a problem and needed to get help.

"You know, he came in one day and he came up to me, and the 'pee guy' was there," Radomski told ESPN.com. "He says, 'Could you pee for me?' I said, 'Doc, what am I going to do? How are we going to do this?' So I said, 'Let me think about it.' So somebody just had a baby and they were handing out cigars, and they had a chrome cigar thing. I said, 'Doc, give me the cigar holder.' I said, 'I'll pee in it, I'll heat it up. … You'll put it in your pants and let it get to room temperature. Once it gets to room temperature, go in there and pee.'"

Gooden didn't respond to numerous requests for comment by both ESPN and ESPN.com, beyond a text message channeled through a representative that simply said, "LOL."

[+] EnlargeKirk Radomski book cover
Courtesy of Hudson Street Press Radomski's book is scheduled for release this week.
As for performance-enhancing drugs, Radomski told ESPN.com that the only Mets he supplied during his clubhouse days in New York were Lenny Dykstra and David Segui, though he writes that his plea agreement with the government states that he didn't begin distributing until after he left the Mets.

"I asked for that date because I didn't want this scandal to affect the good people I'd worked with who were still with the Mets,'' he writes.

He says he continued to supply Dykstra after he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1989 season. Segui, who remains a close friend, passed his name on to multiple other future clients, including Clemens' personal trainer, McNamee, according to Radomski.

Because Radomski had become well-known as a supplier in baseball circles, Segui told ESPN.com that he suspected his friend would eventually face trouble.

"Dealing with as many guys as he was dealing with, I assumed there was going to be a point where he was going to get caught," Segui says. "All it was going to take was one player getting caught with it and you know what they are going to do. They're going to throw everybody under the bus. That is just the way it goes. So I assumed at some point, especially as more and more guys [were] going to him, that he was eventually going to get caught."

As a teenager, Radomski says he was something of a fitness freak, dabbling in competitive bodybuilding shows and hanging out in gyms. He says he started using steroids himself about the time he began advising Dykstra, based on what he'd learned from the bodybuilding community.

Eventually, he reached the point that he was writing up off-season workout and supplement regimens for players. He later began tracking down steroids for Dykstra and Segui, then his phone started ringing. He lived a double life, not even telling his wife about his steroid dealings with players.

Kirk Radomski
Mike Fish/ESPN.comHow effective would the Mitchell report have been without Radomski's input?
"It was basically [a player] giving my number to another guy," Radomski says. "Another guy giving it to another, it was like a snowball. The guys trusted me. I knew what I was talking about. Paul Lo Duca saying, 'I'm giving your number to a player; he will be calling you. I'm not going to tell you his name just in case he don't call you.' I said, 'Fine, whatever.' Like, Dave [Segui] would give Jerry Hairston my number. And he would call. And it just snowballed. My name was just getting passed around, passed around, passed around."

One of the players Lo Duca referred, according to Radomski, was his then-Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Kevin Brown. In the book, Radomski says he provided Brown with both steroids and human growth hormone, which the pitcher hoped would aid his recovery from injury.

Radomski's account says he sent HGH to Brown in the winter of 2003, and several days later discovered a wet overnight shipping package containing $8,000 in cash in the bushes by his house. Radomski says the FedEx account number and return address on the package were from the sports agency of Brown's California-based representative, Scott Boras.

Boras, reached by ESPN.com, says his agency had no connection to the alleged payment.

"The Federal Express package or anything like that, Kevin Brown was asked about it and denied it," Boras says. "The fact of the matter is we obviously give out our Federal Express numbers to a wide number of sources -- team officials, people, clients, that kind of thing -- because we obviously are sending out and mailing back and forth."

Radomski says government agents found FedEx labels from Brown in the raid of his Long Island home, but he was uncertain whether they were in possession of this particular label.

[+] EnlargeKirk Radomski
Courtesy Kirk Radomski Radomski first came in contact with performance-enhancing drugs in his days as a competitive bodybuilder.
Asked whether Brown denied doing business with Radomski, Boras says: "I am not going to talk about that, except this specific allegation. Kevin Brown has flat-out denied any truth to that. … I have never talked to this gentleman. I didn't know who he was until these elements came out. Our office has had no contact with him; and to my knowledge, none of my clients have had any contact with him that I know of."

One of Boras' former clients is Segui.

Radomski says he believes Brown and the other players listed in the Mitchell report would not have been named in the report if leadership of the MLB Players Association had not played hardball with Mitchell by discouraging players from cooperating with his investigation and refusing to supply documents he requested.

The former clubhouse attendant met three times with Mitchell in his New York law office on Sixth Avenue across from Radio City Music Hall. In the final meeting, late in the summer of 2007, the former Senate majority leader informed Radomski he was going to include the specific names in his forthcoming report.

"When I first sat down with Mitchell, they promised me it wasn't a lynching, that the names were never going to come out," Radomski told ESPN.com. "This was just for information to find out how big the problem was. They only later came after me with the fact that they were going to release names, and that killed me because I wasn't there to hurt anyone.

[+] EnlargeDavid Segui
Mike Fish for ESPN.comDavid Segui says he knew his buddy would get caught.
"Sen. Mitchell was pissed about the memorandum the union sent to its own ballplayers, saying if you say anything [to Mitchell investigators], it opens you to legal action and whatnot. He told me, 'Listen, I promised you [names wouldn't be included], but it has to get done now.'"

Those close to the investigation, however, say that no such promise was made to Radomski and that Mitchell had always left open the possibility that he would name names. Ultimately, Mitchell decided he had to include names, they say, if his report was to have any impact.

Mitchell, who was named to the post of Middle East peace envoy by President Barack Obama this week, declined to be interviewed.

In the book, which was written with David Fisher, Radomski accuses union leadership, as well as the commissioner's office, of tipping some players off late in the 2004 season that they had tested positive in 2003 and could expect to be drug-tested again before the end of the season. Radomski says three of his clients -- Segui, Grimsley and Larry Bigbie -- told him they had been told that they had failed what was thought to be anonymous testing in 2003.

Mitchell addressed the question of that advance notice of 2004 testing in his report, and he appeared to clear the union and ownership of wrongdoing. The issue, however, is complicated by baseball's temporary suspension of its drug-testing program in April 2004 because of legal issues that surfaced after federal agents seized records from two firms that conducted the sport's testing in 2003. Because the season was coming to a close, the commissioner's office contacted the union between mid-August and early September 2004, and the parties agreed to notify the players that their records had been targeted by the government and that they would be tested again before the close of the season.

[+] EnlargeKirk Radomski
Courtesy of Kirk Radomski On occasion, Radomski took a turn as a Mets bat boy.
Through a spokesman, Mitchell also challenged a claim in Radomski's book that during his three interviews, investigators at times threw out names to Radomski of marquee players he had not dealt with and inquired whether he had heard anything that linked them to performance-enhancing drugs.

John Clarke, the Mitchell spokesman, said that because Radomski didn't have records for all the players he dealt with, Mitchell provided him with a list of all the players who were on major league rosters.

"If I am so inaccurate or didn't remember things, why was I used for more than half of his report?" Radomski countered in his interviews with ESPN.com. "Of course, I'm right. He was asking about everyone and anyone. He wanted to know everything."

Radomski says the inquiries typically came from Mitchell himself or his lead investigator, Charlie Scheeler. He says that his attorney sat in on only one of the interviews but Novitzky and a handful of other federal investigators attended every interview.

He still speaks highly of his dealings with Mitchell, and he says he appreciates that Mitchell acknowledged his cooperation when the report was released in December 2007. Mitchell, Radomski says, also confirmed his good work to the federal government and picked up the $63 in parking costs incurred for the three Manhattan meetings.

But, as Radomski sees it, he provided the names and relevant new information in the 409-page report, which might have saved Mitchell from taking an embarrassing shot to his reputation and from having to defend the estimated $20 million bill he presented to MLB for his work. So, a little more than a year later, Radomski is irked that Mitchell declined at least two overtures to be interviewed for his book.

[+] EnlargeKirk Radomski
AP Photo / Bob LarsonIn February 2008 in San Francisco, Radomski, right, was sentenced to five years' probation for his involvement with steroids.
"I was a little disappointed because without me, his report is a joke," Radomski told ESPN.com. "I asked his people, 'Listen, all I need is for him to talk about the fact that I was saying the truth.' I mean, just come out and say, 'Listen, this kid was put in a corner and he told the truth, and that is why he was creditable and that is why we put it in the report.'

"I didn't bury him in the book because it looks like I am being defensive and trying to sell books. He did his job. But if I was in his position and had some guy come to me, I'd do anything possible to make his story better. I got to repay. One hand washes the other."

Radomski also believes Mitchell's 20-month investigation came up short in relying almost exclusively on the names and documents he provided.

"I felt bad for the guys that dealt with me, that their names were being implicated but there were so many other guys out there that were so blatant, and their names weren't mentioned," Radomski told ESPN.com. "That was the biggest problem I had with the Mitchell report. If you're going to name names, you had to do more digging, had to give yourself more time to get names out there and not just depend on me and what was in the paper and BALCO. Listen, because these guys didn't deal with me, they're getting a free pass."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.