PHILADELPHIA -- With little fanfare, Major League Baseball
and its players have banned the use of andro, the steroidlike
substance made famous by Mark McGwire when he hit 70 home runs in 1998.
The ban, which began this season, was never announced by the
commissioner's office or the Players' Association. Bob DuPuy,
baseball's chief operating officer, referred to it Friday during a
panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Associated Press
"I think it's a good thing," Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina said
later in the day in New York. "It's still one of many things to be
The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of
androstenedione as of April 12. Baseball's decision, confirmed by
management lawyer Frank Coonelly and union lawyer Michael Weiner,
took effect the same day and means players who test positive for
andro face penalties, including suspensions after two positive
"Baseball has made key progress on several points," DuPuy
said, defending the sport's drug policy, which has been criticized
by many in the Olympic movement as being too lax.
Coonelly and Weiner said that based on the FDA decision and a
study conducted by Harvard in 1999 that was financed by baseball,
the union and management concluded andro acted like an androgenic
anabolic steroid and should be added to the sport's list of banned
Andro is used by the body to make testosterone. Congress is
considering legislation that would designate andro and more than
two dozen other steroidlike supplements as controlled substances --
making them available by prescription only under certain
In survey tests for steroids last year, 5-to-7 percent of samples were
positive, triggering testing with penalties this year. A first
positive test would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day
suspension or fine of up to $10,000. The length of suspensions
would increase to 25 days for a third positive test, 50 days for a
fourth and one year for a fifth. These suspensions also would be
Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield, among the players who
testified before a federal grand jury in California investigating
illegal steroid distribution, was not aware of the decision.
McGwire stopped taking andro the following year, saying he did
not want kids to follow his lead.
"When they were making the big stink about McGwire, I didn't see what the big deal was," Baltimore player representative Jay Gibbons said. "You have to ban it now. Obviously, there's some concern if they took it off the shelves."
Also appearing on the panel were Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of
the World Anti-Doping Agency's medical research committee; former
Pittsburgh Steeler Steve Courson, who has admitted using steroids;
and Steve Holman, a former middle-distance runner who is an athlete
ambassador for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Courson referred to the investigation of BALCO, the California
lab at the center of the federal probe. Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds'
trainer, was among four men indicted by the grand jury -- all four
have pleaded not guilty, and Bonds has denied using illegal steroids.
Tim Montgomery, who testified before the grand jury, was one of
several sprinters who received a letter Wednesday from USADA
warning they could face punishment for alleged steroid use. Marion
Jones, who won five medals at the Sydney Olympics, also is being
Jones and Montgomery have denied using prohibited drugs.
Courson said it's a myth that there are "only a few bad
"BALCO shows us that some of the people under suspicion are
some of the greatest athletes in the world," he said. Courson said
that if Montgomery is banned for life, "there are probably 100
sprinters waiting in line who are using the same drugs."
DuPuy was asked whether baseball would put an "asterisk" next
to Bonds' record of 73 home runs, set in 2001, if it is proven that
the slugger used steroids.
According to a report Thursday in the San Francisco Chronicle,
Montgomery testified to the grand jury that BALCO founder Victor
Conte told him he supplied Bonds with performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds said he never met Montgomery and Conte's lawyer, Robert
Holley, called the accusations "absolutely untrue."
"We're not going to speculate on what would be done if," DuPuy
said. "There's no evidence of any time period. There's no evidence
of the record having been affected by that.
"Bonds has repeatedly denied and Conte has repeatedly denied
any steroid usage or any distribution to Barry Bonds. It's only
someone he's never met who came out and suggested he had given
steroids to Bonds. I don't want to sit here and prejudge any
player's usage or nonusage."
Wadler called the current investigations "painful."
"In many ways we don't want to hear it because it shames us to
see our heroines and heroes tarnished," he said.
Oakland outfielder Bobby Kielty thinks all the attention has changed attitudes.
"Definitely, people aren't going to be taking much stuff,
period, after everything that's gone down," he said. "I think the
sport's pretty much clean right now. You know people were taking
them last year. The percentage is down. It's all going to be gone
sooner or later."
Boston's Kevin Millar tried putting a humorous spin on things.
"I just eat hamburgers and hot dogs. That's all I take," he said.