Steroid investigation: Who knew, and when?

Looking back at the Steroids Era in Major League Baseball, there are many questions, but one stands above all: Who knew?

In a special report in its latest issue, ESPN The Magazine offers a 16-page examination of the spread of steroid use throughout baseball, and how many of those closely involved with the game -- executives, players, trainers, the media -- watched it happen … and looked the other way.

Among the details revealed in the report, available on newsstands Wednesday with additional features on ESPN.com:

• Baseball ignored its own rules about steroids. In 1991, then-Commissioner Fay Vincent effectively put steroids on baseball's list of banned substances in a memo sent to all MLB teams. Baseball could not test for steroids, the memo said, but should a player be caught with steroids, he would be sent for treatment and subject to penalties. This memo was never publicized and, seemingly, was largely ignored by both management and the players' union. Commissioner Bud Selig reissued the same memo in 1997, with minor changes but with the same lack of conviction. Several GMs at the time tell ESPN the Magazine the memo probably was lost in the blizzard of other paperwork coming out of the commissioner's office.

• More than 20 major-league players were using anabolic steroids as early as 1991, according to a dealer who claims to have supplied them.

• In the mid-1990s, a bodybuilder essentially turned spring training for one Phillies player into his personal chemistry experiment.

• In 1998, major leaguer Wally Joyner asked fellow player Ken Caminiti to help him obtain steroids, and Caminiti supplied him with pills that Joyner ingested. Joyner says he regretted taking any of the pills and threw the rest away.

• Team doctors began trying to deliver information about the effects of supplements and steroids to players as early as 1997, but repeatedly were delayed by MLB and the Players Association, both of which felt more research was needed and didn't distribute such data until 2001.

• BALCO founder Victor Conte, in an exclusive analysis for The Magazine, concludes that under MLB's current steroids policy, it is still remarkably easy for players to cheat.

The special report traces the arc of the Steroids Era in baseball from 1987 to 2005 through several principals: a trainer, a supplier, an FBI agent, a baseball executive, a writer, a doctor and four players.

The product of a six-month investigation, the "Who Knew?" special report is told in four parts, each weaving together a series of scene-driven narratives: "Steroids Meet Baseball" (1987-1994), "The Tipping Point" (1994-1998), "Busting Out" (1998-2001) and "Crash and Burn" (2002-2005).

"Who Knew?" was written and reported by Shaun Assael, Peter Keating, Buster Olney, Amy K. Nelson and Tom Farrey, who collectively interviewed more than 150 subjects and examined hundreds of pages of documents.