Radomski's legacy: The man who made the Mitchell report sing
SAN FRANCISCO -- Sitting in an outdoor food court along Fisherman's Wharf, as Alcatraz Island and the infamous former federal prison lurk on the San Francisco Bay horizon, Kirk Radomski is reflecting on what ultimately might become the defining line in his obituary.
"When I die, you know what they are gonna say? 'The guy that did the Mitchell report,'" says Radomski, the one-time New York Mets clubhouse attendant who helped blow the lid off the story about widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
This is something of a fresh start for Radomski: A lazy sunny afternoon along the waterfront that should be the first day of the rest of his life. His cell phone is ringing almost nonstop with words of congratulations and encouragement. Just hours earlier, the husky former bodybuilder stood -- admittedly "scared to death" -- before a federal judge empowered to put him in prison for six months. But Radomski walked away a free man, slapped with five years probation and a $18,575 fine.
Radomski, as required by terms of a deal cut with federal prosecutors, spelled out the juicy details, identifying dozens of current and former players to whom he supplied steroids and human growth hormone. He helped build Mitchell's case with bank records and canceled checks, phone records and shipping receipts.
Several of those checks led investigators to personal trainer Brian McNamee and, subsequently, McNamee's baseball-playing clients -- among them, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch. Come Wednesday morning, Clemens and McNamee are scheduled to appear in front of a congressional committee attempting to sort through the steroid saga.
Radomski, Pettitte and Knoblauch will not testify.Henry Waxman, the Democrat chairman of the committee, and ranking minority member Tom Davis issued a joint statement confirming the news on Monday night. "Kirk Radomski, Andy Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch will not be testifying at the February 13 hearing," the statement reads. "Charlie Scheeler of Senator Mitchell's staff will be testifying. Mr. Knoblauch and Mr. Pettitte answered all the Committee's questions and their testimony at the hearing is not needed." Radomski was relieved to learn he won't be required to appear before the committee. He also said he doesn't anticipate having to appear before committee lawyers Tuesday morning for his scheduled deposition. "I haven't heard from them," Radomski said of committee staff members. "Unless something changes I have no reason to go." Radomski's preference, he says, is to stay out of that spotlight if he can, and avoid the TV cameras and media circus that waits on Capitol Hill. He says he doesn't have proof that McNamee injected Clemens, as McNamee told Mitchell he did, but he believes the trainer more than he believes the pitcher.
"I know Brian as a person," Radomski says. "Brian has always been straight and honest with me. I think he is very believable."
At 38, with a wife and a young daughter, Radomski claims he only did what he could to protect himself when he cooperated with federal authorities and the Mitchell Commission. He bristles at the way he has been portrayed by some as a rat, believing one or more players squealed on him first. He also is dismissive of suggestions that he was a steriods peddler, suggesting he didn't solicit players but, rather, provided drugs to them as a favor, often at little or no profit.
"I was a reliable source for the ballplayers," Radomski says. "I kept my mouth shut. I never talked about things. The only reason I did what I did is because there was a lot of talk about me.
"The only reason [federal investigators] came at me is because of the ballplayers. That is the only reason. I would never have been on the radar. I wasn't a dealer."
He is where he is today, in part, because he's a likeable character, a hard worker and a self-described hustler. Players, he says, enjoyed having him around in the clubhouse. They seemed to trust him. Some allowed him occasional access to their tight-knit fraternity.
As a youth, Radomski had the good fortune to live around the corner from Charlie Samuel, the Mets' longtime equipment manager. Samuel often hired kids from the neighborhood to work the clubhouse. By the time he was 15, in 1985, Radomski was already working weekends at Shea Stadium. Over the next 10 years, he moved into a full-time gig, assigned to the Mets clubhouse and occasionally filling in as a bat boy.
When the Mets won the 1986 World Series, Radomski joined the bat boys and clubhouse staff leading the victory parade down the Canyon of Heroes. He has a photo of himself alongside pitcher Ron Darling and Mayor Ed Koch at city hall.
He says some of that team's high-profile players, including Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, used to come by his neighborhood to play basketball.
Around the clubhouse, Radomski was known as "Murdoch.'" His friend, Vinny Greco, another former Mets clubhouse attendant and his current partner in a Long Island auto detailing business that caters to car dealerships, gave him the nickname because he played hockey with the gusto of former New York Ranger Don Murdoch.
"A lot of players thought that was my last name for the longest time," Radomski says in his thick New York accent. "That's why when my name first came out [in the steroids investigation], a lot of guys didn't know. Sometimes, guys would make checks out and I'd say, 'No, that is not my name.'"
By the early 1990s, as the Bash Brothers -- Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire -- were bulking up in Oakland and baseball's steroid era was reaching full bloom, Radomski was dabbling in performance-enhancing drugs himself. He hit the gym hard. He began competing in bodybuilding contests around the New York area, often taking one of the top spots.
Around the clubhouse, the transformation didn't go unnoticed.
"Guys started asking me questions about steroids," Radomski says. "I was always in good shape. Guys knew I was doing s---, because I was getting ready for shows. Guys knew what was going on.
"At the end of the year, I used to make programs for them -- weightlifting programs. I got guys doing Met-Rx [supplements]. I showed guys how to eat [properly]. I was a young kid back then; but as I got older, they started respecting me.
"I did a lot of things for guys -- things they didn't want [their] wives to know or anyone to know. That is part of being in the clubhouse. I have always been there to protect guys. I have always watched out for guys. At this point, too, I didn't throw people under the bus."
Radomski says he educated himself about steroids by hanging around New York gyms. He chatted up more experienced bodybuilders, some of them human guinea pigs who learned to use performance-enhancers by trial and error. At the time, the bodybuilders were mostly using oil-based steroids that stay in the system for a considerable period of time. Human growth hormone (HGH) -- currently the rage throughout sport, in part because it remains undetectable to testing -- hadn't yet become popular.
But when a bulging disk in his lower back was slow to heal at a time when he was employed by a delivery service, Radomski says he injected himself in the stomach with HGH.
"I did a lot of investigating," he says. "And I learned that the growth [hormone] would help my back, and it did very much so."
That insight spread to the ballplayers who were learning to look to their friend for advice about drugs. They quizzed the self-taught Radomski about pharmaceuticals, he says. Word spread throughout the game about his knowledge. Eventually, players begin to call, asking if he could find stuff.
If he didn't have them himself, he often knew where steroids could be had.
"I'd always buy a little extra if it was around," he says. "People think it is like you go to a 7-11 [store] and you can pick up some. When something is around, you would get whatever you could. And it is good for a couple years. That is basically what I did. So if guys needed something on the spot, I always had [something] extra."
It may come as a surprise to the players he supplied with growth hormone that his sources were AIDS patients. He says patients typically received four kits of human growth hormone a month; and the ones with whom he dealt often would sell three of those. Each kit, he says, lasts an athlete a month and costs upward of $1,600.
"You had your reliable sources," he says. "They were sick, but they needed the money."
Radomski says he doesn't recall precisely when he turned from training adviser to drug procurer for big leaguers, though he suggests it was after he left the Mets in 1995. His memory also turns murky when asked about his first customer.
"There were just so many, everything blends in," he says. "I know so many ballplayers. It is not like I knew just one ballplayer. Everyone knew me around the game. There are a lot of guys that I was very friendly with. They had no idea what I was doing. Only ballplayers that I helped and asked questions, they knew. That is basically how we kept it. If a guy asked another guy, he'd pass on my cell number.
"But I never pushed anything on guys. Sometimes, guys would ask me about this or that. If they didn't need it, I'd tell them. A lot of times, guys would call me just to pick my brain."
Radomski knew first-hand, and the players soon learned, that HGH works.
Radomski says he believes it prolonged careers and helped players heal more quickly. And, he says, as it helped to create cartoon-like sluggers, it helped put the long ball back in the game -- which was a welcome marketing tool for baseball after the season-ending 1994 work stoppage.
"Anyone who says it [the surge in the game's power numbers] is not due to performance-enhancing [drugs] is wrong," Radomski says. "You've still got to hit the ball. But what it does is, it helps you recover. Like I explained to the government, it makes you play at your 100 percent every day. Because the schedule is so grueling, you're not playing at 50 percent [if you're using a performance-enhancer]. ... It is keeping you where you need to be.
"Even anabolic [steroids] put the weight on and it helps. You've got to realize you start shrinking as it gets hotter and hotter [during the season]. Your body wears down. You lose your strength. You're tired. Now you are 100 percent. All it is doing is bring you to that level you want to play at.
After Major League Baseball began to test for steroids in 2002, Radomski says he recommended that players use only HGH, though he says some continued to use both. He says he recommended doping protocols on an individual basis. He might advise a player coming back from surgery, for example, differently than a relief pitcher wanting to bounce back after throwing 30 or 40 pitches in consecutive games.
"The main thing guys always said was, 'I want a little strength and recovery,'" Radomski recalls. "That was why HGH was the choice. It is probably in every sport. It is rampant in society now. Doctors, lawyers, they're all taking it. Instead of going to get plastic surgery, they are going that route. Your skin gets better. There is so much to it as long as you don't abuse it and know what you are doing."
When the feds showed up at his front door shortly after 6 in the morning on Dec. 14, 2005, the investigators weren't interested in an HGH sales pitch. They came armed, and with a warrant to search his two-story home on Long Island.
Radomski says he remembers seeing about 50 agents, protected by flak jackets. Guns were out, though they weren't raised.
The lead investigator, the one who stood above the morning crowd, was Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator Jeff Novitzky, a tall, bald man who has led the five-and-a-half year investigation into steroids in professional sports from his office in Northern California.
"I was like, 'Yeah, come in. You got me,'" Radomski says. "I had an idea what it was about, because they didn't look like New Yorkers. I knew what was going on with BALCO and stuff.
"I just let them talk, let them do their thing. When they came in, they asked me questions. They provided checks that players wrote out to me. And they asked me, 'Do you know who this guy is?' I said, 'Yeah, I know him. You have the check; I cashed it.'"
His wife was caught off-guard.
"My wife never knew,'' he says. "No one knew. I don't talk about my business to anyone. I never told her."
According to court documents, agents found "thousands of doses of numerous types of anabolic steroids" during the raid. They also seized vials of human growth hormone and syringes.
Novitzky described his Long Island catch as "a major drug source in professional baseball who took over after BALCO laboratories were taken down." Radomski begs to differ, saying he was dealing with ballplayers long before the BALCO scandal.
"I really didn't have any connection to those guys," he says. "I'd been doing this before [BALCO founder] Victor Conte even thought about doing this. I was in the clubhouse. I worked with these guys. I was around these guys. I went to guys' weddings. I did a lot of things with guys. I was friendly with guys. I helped guys out.
"I wasn't out making the money from these guys. If I made all this money, then where is it? I have a normal-size house. I did all the work myself, my own hands. [The government] has all the checks. Everything was declared on my taxes. You think if I made all that money, they wouldn't have seized my house, took all my property even though I was cooperating? They know everything."
So who turned him in to the authorities?
A telling document is the affidavit in support of the search warrant executed the day before the December raid in 2005. In it, Novitzky writes that the FBI had provided a confidential informant -- described as an individual awaiting sentence on felony real estate fraud -- who learned through baseball acquaintances of an individual in New York who was supplying anabolic steroids to players.
The informant told Novitzky that one of the players supplied by Radomski had been publicly connected to the BALCO scandal. The identity of that player remains unknown publicly.
According to documents, the informant contacted a baseball source who eventually put him in contact with Radomski. The FBI tape-recorded the calls. Beginning in April 2005, the FBI informant placed at least five steroid orders on behalf of agents with Radomski, the last of which was shipped to a San Jose address provided by Novitzky.
"I know who it is. I know the real estate guy," Radomski says. "It took me a while, but I understood."They had a lot of information. I never talked to people about it, so it had to be ballplayers. And the so-called FBI informant, he didn't know as much as they thought he did. There had to be ballplayers that were talking."
If those ballplayers weren't talking directly to the feds, Radomski reasons someone spilled to the real estate buddy.
Radomski believes he knows the identity of at least one of the players. The player is still in the big leagues, but Radomski won't name him.
"I'm not getting involved in that," he says. "I'm in enough trouble now."
It could have been worse. Restlessly walking the waterfront before dawn on Friday, clad in jeans and a dark gray fleece pullover, Radomski says he knew his sentence wasn't a slam dunk. Prosecutors deemed his cooperation worthy of probation, though U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston could have sent him to prison for six months.
Before he pleaded guilty last April to steroid dealing and money laundering, Radomski faced a maximum 25-year prison sentence. So the decision to cut a deal was easy. He has a wife and daughter living under his roof on Long Island, and his mother lives in the Bronx. And because he suspected that ballplayers he'd once counseled were behind his bust, his allegiance to them wasn't as strong as it once was.
"I did what I did to get my side out there," he explains. "If I didn't, God knows how many guys would have talked. I still don't know how many talked. There could be 20 players out there talking about me."
Anyway, the government had him jammed up when they came knocking. They already knew the answers to their questions. They had tape-recorded phone calls. They had a folder full of cashed checks and phone records, all bearing players' names.
A lot of them were his friends, players who'd passed through Shea Stadium or friends of players who'd passed through Shea. Their names could be found on nearly every big-league roster. They were people whose careers he may have helped.
"I didn't make ballplayers millions; I made them hundreds of millions," Radomski says. "Guys got contracts. They have the records to show when guys' careers took off and they signed $50-, $80-, $100-million deals when they were dealing with me.
"Did I try to shake them down? I didn't do anything. I was happy for them. They want to give me something, that was fine. ... If they didn't, I didn't have a problem with that. But if they had a question, I would still answer them.
Radomski says the lone player who called offering support after his arrest was David Segui, now retired in the Kansas City area. When the Mitchell report on the sport's steroid era was released last December, he says, several of the players named in it either denied knowing him or misrepresented the reason they'd written him checks.
He met with Mitchell and his staff three times for interviews in the DLA Piper law offices on Sixth Avenue across from Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Another interview was conducted via teleconference.
The government made his cooperation with Mitchell a part of his plea deal, but Radomski says the federal authorities didn't turn over records they'd seized from his house. So Radomski says he retrieved copies of checks deposited in his bank account, at Mitchell's expense, again enabling the dots to be connected to players.
"He told me from the get-go, 'You have to be honest with us,'" Radomski says about Mitchell. "His own words were, 'Just tell me the truth and tell me what happened, even if it is the smallest thing. Just let me know. If I ask a question and you don't remember or are not sure, don't say anything. I just want the truth.'
"I said that was fine as long as he was honest with me and I wasn't portrayed as some peddler or pusher. The government knows I never pushed anything on anyone. They have the phone records. Guys would call me, I would call them back. The only time I called ballplayers is when I received checks or to make sure they got their shipment. Or if something was going on with them, I wanted to make sure they're OK. I was not peddling. And Sen. Mitchell did exactly what he said he would do."
But Mitchell's investigation, Radomski says, didn't uncover the whole story about baseball and performance-enhancing drugs.
"The bad thing about the Mitchell report is there are so many other names out there that they missed," he says. "Am I the only source? No."Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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