Questions, concerns on medical files' use

Experts and players wonder exactly what records would indicate about steroids

May 10, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

A day after it was reported that a group investigating steroid use in baseball is seeking medical records of several former Orioles, experts in the field acknowledged that it is highly possible that standard records wouldn't show evidence of the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Gary I. Wadler, one of the world's leading authorities on drug use in sports, allowed that under routine screening, it would be unusual to find telltale signs of steroids, unless the individual was "somebody in their 20s, an athlete, very fit, with a high red [blood] count.

"One reason people used anabolic steroids many years ago was to counteract anemia and raise the red count," he said.

Wadler did say it's not too far-fetched to believe there could be evidence of performance-enhancing drugs in a player's medical records if, in fact, the player confided such use to the physician or the doctor suspected it.

In yesterday's editions, The New York Times reported that the Orioles had been asked to send the medical records of former team members David Segui, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Jason Grimsley and Fernando Tatis to the players. Those players will then be asked to authorize the release of their records to Major League Baseball's investigative group headed by former Sen. George Mitchell.

The New York Daily News also reported that the investigators are seeking the records of Texas Rangers utility man Jerry Hairston Jr., another former Oriole.

Dr. Bill Howard, founder of Union Memorial Hospital Sports Medicine, estimated that if the Mitchell investigation obtains medical records, at least 80 percent would be useless.

"It would really surprise me if the records list any illegal substances these guys might be taking," said Howard, who added he would be shocked if players turned over their records, noting medical documents are considered private by law and by custom.

Segui said yesterday that he hadn't yet received his records from the Orioles and he wasn't sure whether he'd authorize their release to the Mitchell investigators. At this point, he seems inclined to refuse for privacy reasons. But he said players aren't really sure what is in their medical records, something several current Orioles agreed with.

"They'll record your blood work, your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, enzyme levels, and they'll tell you if there are any red flags, if it's too high or too low," said Segui, who added he knows the medical files include spring training physicals.

"It's like any physical you'd get from a doctor. And we have no control over what they put in our records. We don't even know what's in there. I can guess. If I had a cortisone shot or took pain-killers. If I had surgery. All the stuff you guys [reporters] printed the next day. You all knew if I had surgery or pulled a hamstring. If I got an ultrasound, that would be documented. There are no secrets there."

Current Orioles seemed split on whether they would supply their records if asked.

"This is Major League Baseball," third baseman Melvin Mora said. "Whatever they are going to do, they are going to do. I'd do everything they wanted me to do. I don't care. I don't think I am going to test positive for eating yogurt."

Veteran utility man Chris Gomez, however, didn't see the point, a sentiment with which Segui agreed.

"Why would anyone give up their records? That's silly," Gomez said. "I don't even know what they'd find there anyway. What's going to come out of this? Let's just say they find out whatever they find out and then what? It's just real silly. We have drug testing in place. For some reason, people don't feel like it is an effective policy. But I guarantee you it is effective. If you use steroids, you are going to get caught. I don't know what the problem is."

Said Segui: "If teams tested for steroids or [amphetamines] in the past, I could see why [investigators] would want to see the records. But that didn't happen, so I don't know what that would determine."

The Times, which cited an anonymous baseball official, also reported that the Orioles were not asked to release the medical records of current players Miguel Tejada, Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts. The official said their exclusion showed a lack of evidence against the three players, who were named in a 2006 federal affidavit that detailed Grimsley's admission of steroid and human growth hormone use after a search of his Arizona home.

Tejada wasn't reached for comment, and Gibbons and Roberts didn't have much to say about the news.

"What does this have to do with me?" asked Gibbons, who said a day earlier that he is not going to waste his time talking about it.

Said Roberts: "I don't have a comment, really. My stance on this hasn't changed since Day One."

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