Tejada gave other O's B-12

Clubhouse injections in House data

November 11, 2005|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

A clubhouse where players inject themselves with supplements on casual recommendations from teammates. One where the star player is injected 40 times in a year with a substance that, in its liquid form, can't be purchased over the counter in this country.

This is the picture of the Orioles painted by a congressional committee's report, released yesterday, on whether Rafael Palmeiro perjured himself in testifying about steroids.

The report details how All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada was injected with vitamin B-12, an ostensibly harmless but unregulated substance, and how he shared B-12 doses with Palmeiro and two unidentified teammates.

Palmeiro has repeatedly pointed to the B-12 dose he obtained from Tejada as the source of his positive steroid test, though baseball officials ruled otherwise.

Tejada could not be reached to comment yesterday. His agent, Diego Bentz, did not return calls.

But Tejada has said he believed he was taking a legal substance in vitamin B-12.

It's hardly surprising Tejada's teammates would want to try B-12 injections, physicians and observers said. Dietary supplements, energy boosters and the like have become engrained in clubhouse culture.

"Athletes, if they think something is good for them, will take it," said Dr. William Howard, a surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Union Memorial Hospital.

"If a good player does it," said Will Carroll, who writes on medical issues for Baseballprospectus.com, "everybody wants to do it."

The congressional committee found inconsistencies between Tejada's testimony and that of his unidentified teammates. He said he provided B-12 doses to the pair only in 2005 and that in 2004, he brought only enough B-12 for about a dozen injections.

But the unidentified players said Tejada had supplied them with the injectable vitamin in 2004 and had himself been injected 40 to 45 times that year and 30 to 35 times in 2005.

The report notes a doctor who served as a consultant for Major League Baseball said liquid B-12 is available only by prescription in the United States (as with most injectable substances). Tejada said he purchased the substance legally in the Dominican Republic, but he might have violated U.S. regulations by sharing it with teammates.

B-12 `nothing sinister'

Doctors and other experts who have followed baseball's steroid scandal say that vitamin B-12 is not a performance enhancer and that Tejada's use of it shouldn't taint his records.

"Physicians have been giving it forever and ever to give energy," said Dr. Charles E. Yesalis, a Penn State epidemiologist who studies sports doping. "There's nothing sinister about B-12 whatsoever, though my advice to most people is that they'd be throwing their money away on it."

Carroll said Tejada's B-12 use didn't strike him as odd. "They say it gives you more energy, it makes you feel better and it helps you with recovery," he said.

B-12 is found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk and helps maintain healthy nerves and red blood cells. People with normal diets usually get enough of the vitamin, but it's available over the counter in pill form and is sometimes recommended for older people, anemics and vegetarians.

"Generally, it's for people who have a need for it, because generally, you can get enough through diet," Howard said. "There's very little evidence that it would increase your blood rates above normal. It only addresses problems you notice if you don't have enough of it naturally."

Excessive use of the vitamin isn't likely to cause any harm, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Carroll said fans shouldn't read anything into the fact Tejada injected the vitamin rather than took it orally. "It would just be a more efficient way to take it, because it would go directly into the bloodstream," he said.

But injectable vitamins are not available over the counter and should be administered by physicians, said Dr. Tony Tommasello, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. "It's something that would not be self-administered in the normal course of medicine," he said, noting that an untrained hand could hit a vein or inject too large a dose.

Tommasello said he's not sure if purchasing such vitamins in another country and using them in the United States would be illegal. "That's a very unregulated area of practice," he said.

Officials with the Food and Drug Administration said oral vitamins are not regulated as drugs but weren't immediately certain if injectable vitamins would be classified differently.

Doctors said they hadn't heard of B-12 samples being tainted with anabolic steroids such as stanozolol. The congressional panel contacted national and international anti-doping agencies and an independent expert and also found no examples of B-12 samples being tainted by steroids.

Tejada longtime user

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