Clubhouse culture led ex-Mariner to steroids and greenies
There is something different about this. Most big leaguers and recent baseball retirees have been scrambling to distance themselves from the Mitchell report. Some have called on their agents or used a neatly crafted statement to explain away their performance-enhancing drug use. But here comes Shane Monahan out of nowhere to confess, unsolicited, his past misdeeds.
Monahan -- who, in baseball parlance, enjoyed a cup of coffee or two in a couple of short stints with the Seattle Mariners over parts of two seasons in the late 1990s -- wasn't exposed by a loose-lipped former teammate, and his name didn't surface as part of a criminal case. He isn't mentioned anywhere in former Sen. George Mitchell's 409-page report on steroid abuse in baseball, released two weeks ago. As Monahan tells it, he was more than willing to detail the temptations and pressures he faced as a 24-year-old trying to stick in the majors, but Mitchell's gumshoe investigators never called.
Monahan, now 33 and living with his family in Vail, Colo., openly admits to being a juiced player in baseball's steroids era.
So here's the question: Why come clean if he didn't have to? Before he contacted ESPN.com, Monahan said his father, Hartland, a one-time NHL winger, posed the same question.
"I've been in minor league and major league clubhouses," Monahan says. "I know the pressures and what goes on. Like I told my dad, it is coming from the perspective of a guy who had to fight for everything I got in the big leagues.
"I'm not a superstar. Nobody remembers who I am. But you know what? I don't want kids from college or kids from high school going through what I had to go through. I certainly don't want my son, 20 years from now, having to be faced with that decision so he could play professional sports."
A decade ago, Monahan came to professional baseball with talent and pedigree, though the pedigree was heavy on the hockey side. His hockey roots go back generations to his great-grandfather, NHL Hall of Famer Howie Morenz; and his grandfather, Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, father of the slap shot. His uncle, Danny Geoffrion, played for the Montreal Canadians. His cousin, Blake Geoffrion, was a second-round pick of the Nashville Predators.
Monahan, who grew up in the suburbs north of Atlanta, was the ACC's baseball player of the year at Clemson in 1995. In baseball's draft that year, the Mariners selected the speedy outfielder in the second round, passing on notable future big leaguers Carlos Beltran, Sean Casey and Mark Bellhorn to get him. Monahan made it to the big leagues in 1998, playing in 62 games that year. After he appeared in 16 games the next season, he never returned to the majors. He finished with a .235 career batting average.
Monahan says he began taking steroids late in the 1998 season.
"I saw what kind of money it is going to get you," he says. "I had great minor league seasons, but I wanted to stay in the big leagues. I know my teammates and I know guys on other teams are doing it, and they're hitting home runs left and right. And I'm sitting there going, 'All right, well, what I'm going to do?'
"I read up on it. I learned how to use it. I started lifting weights and I went from like 190 pounds to 215. I mean, muscles on my body where I didn't know you had muscles. I already ran fast. I could hit. I had a good arm. But all of a sudden now, recovery time felt better. Everything was a lot better."
Even so, the steroids didn't take his baseball skills to superstar heights. Nor did they transform him into a consistent long-ball slugger. By the end of the 1999 campaign, Monahan says, he moved away from steroids; and he didn't stay around the game long enough to experiment with human growth hormone, which gained popularity in clubhouses after baseball began testing for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. HGH is undetectable in current urine testing procedures.
The one-time fringe major leaguer turned to the dark side, he says, partly because he believed that steroids were rampant throughout the Mariners' clubhouse and the game. If that's what it took to level the playing field, he was willing to try them.
He recalls a conversation during his rookie year with Lou Piniella, during which Monahan says the then-Mariners manager stressed the need to pick up his game. By that point, Monahan had tried everything but steroids.
"Don't get me wrong: The onus is not on Lou Piniella. I made the decision. Lou didn't come out and say, 'Hey, go get yourself bigger.' I was the one that took the message and said, 'Well, I got to get bigger if I'm going to make this team.'"
During his brief time in Seattle, Monahan came to believe steroid use was widespread in the Mariners' clubhouse, although he refuses to identify those he suspects were using. The Mitchell report identified a handful of players whose tenures overlapped with his in Seattle, including Ryan Franklin, Glenallen Hill, David Segui and Todd Williams.
Monahan says that back then, Major League Baseball had yet to tighten access to clubhouses, and that many players regularly worked out with their personal trainers while using team facilities.
"In locker rooms," he says, "you kind of look at your teammates and go, 'Well, he is on it. He's on it. Well, he might be on it.' And it is kind of like you don't really say anything. You don't go up to somebody and say, 'Hey, are you taking steroids?' They'll slap you."
Sources for steroids and amphetamines, he says, floated freely through the Seattle clubhouse. They were friends of team members who, at the time, had access to the players' sanctuary. He remembers paying cash, and even bartered baseball gear, for steroids and amphetamines.
"There were two or three guys," he says of the suppliers, though he says he is unable to recall their names. "You'd go up to them and say, 'Hey, I need some greenies. What is it going to take?' Well, it might be 100 bucks here. It is a jersey here, or a dozen baseballs and two bats. And you'd give it to him."
Asked if Piniella knew about that clubhouse culture, Monahan says, "Yeah, I think so. I think he knew everything that was going on in his locker room. I just think he turned a shoulder to it and really didn't care."
Through his agent, Alan Nero, Piniella, now the Chicago Cubs manager, declined comment on that characterization.
"He's not interested in getting into a 'he said, she said' kind of thing," Nero said.During his career, Monahan says, amphetamine use was more widespread than instances of players dabbling in steroids. The Mitchell report, however, didn't examine the use of greenies, citing the additional time that would have been required as well as the belief that anabolic steroid use was a more pressing matter.
Monahan suggests it's disingenuous to offer up a history of the game's doping culture and leave out a chapter on amphetamine use, which dates back half a century and, most certainly, involves some of the game's most storied names. In his autobiography, "I Had a Hammer," former home run king Henry Aaron admitted to having experimented with greenies. And Sen. Jim Bunning, who has been outspoken about the game's steroid issue, is another Hall of Famer that investigators might have interviewed for an insider's historical view of the clubhouse culture back in the 1950s and '60s
One recently retired player said of amphetamine use, "If they're including guys that used greenies, they ain't got enough paper to print all that."
Monahan says dietary pills and amphetamines were far more readily accessible than steroids and growth hormone. He recalls playing winter ball in Mexico and returning with boxes of amphetamines that helped get him through the next season.
"If Sen. [George] Mitchell wants to brush that off, then basically they have accomplished nothing," Monahan says about amphetamines. "Almost everybody takes greenies. I was in the locker room for two years with the Mariners, and I'll be honest with you: The only person that I didn't see take greenies was Dan Wilson. He was a big Christian guy, big moral guy. He just didn't believe in the stuff.
"I took greenies -- the amphetamines and that stuff. It is tough. We get beautiful accommodations, let's say that. But flying from Tampa to Seattle, three time [zone] changes, and then playing the next afternoon or night all these guys are using them."
Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.