Former MLB Trainer Has Questions for Clemens

Caught in the hurricane of steroid controversy blown up by the Mitchell Report, Roger Clemens has trotted out the tired explanation that he was taking vitamin supplements and anti-inflammatory medication, not performance enhancing drugs. But one former MLB athletic trainer says it doesn't add up.

Former Florida Marlins and Cincinnati Reds athletic trainer Larry Starr, 61, says reporters are asking the wrong questions of the once certain hall of fame pitcher. Starr, now the Assistant Athletic Director at NOVA Southeastern, spent three decades working as an athletic trainer in the Major Leagues, and saw the steroid problem spread over the years.

Like Rafael Palmiero before him, Clemens claims that he was taking B-12, not PEDs. He said the shots his personal trainer Brian McNamee gave him were lidocaine and B-12.

B-12 is used in the medical community for people who are truly vitamin deficient. A typical use is for alcoholics with liver damage. The theory on B-12 is that it helps athletes recover from fatigue faster and strengthens their immune system, Starr said.

“In the 70s, B-12 was very common in baseball,” Starr said. “Players would come to me and say they needed a B-12 shot, and I would tell them 'I don't give shots.'”

B-12 is also thought to work as a masking agent in urine tests for steroids and other PEDs, Starr said.

“Clemens said he didn't get the drugs himself, but why would Clemens go to his trainer?” Starr asked. “Lidocain and injectable B-12 are prescripton items. Someone else would have to get the drugs. Also, trainers really shouldn't be giving shots unless directed by a team physician or doctor. You are putting a needle in someone, you can hit a nerve or blood vessel.”

Starr was interviewed four times by the Mitchell Report investigators, but he is not mentioned in the report because he refused to name names as he had no concrete evidence of use among the players he worked with. So he told him what he knew.

He saw the first signs of what he suspected was steroid use among players when he was working with the Cincinnati Reds in 1984.

“We weren't allowed to test [for steroids], but my first suspicion was a player that came out of the minor leagues to Spring Training and had gained an incredible amount of weight in a short period of time,” Starr said. “The weight he gained was almost totally lean muscle mass ... His production went up incredibly that year.”

Four years later Starr and other athletic trainers tried to warn MLB about the growing problem of performance enhancing drugs during a meeting. Neither the owners nor the players' association denied that a problem existed.

“The two sides couldn't agree on procedure, on how testing should be done. In 1988 steroids weren't a public issue.” Starr said. “The trainers felt very frustrated and handcuffed. If I'd done more I would've been fired ... if I'd gone to a GM or player and accused someone without proof, the players would have severed their relationship with me and when that happens my ability to be and athletic trainer would have been done.”

Starr doesn't entirely blame the players, who were looking for an edge in a very competitive environment.

“The day it was made public that Mark McGwire was using of androsterone during his chase of the homerun record, two hours later four players asked me where they could get it,” Starr said.

Starr partly left baseball after three decades so he could speak out more about the issue of performance enhancing drugs without jeopardizing his career or relationship with players. Today, he says he wishes he had done more.

“With Clemens it's very sad, he may be the greatest pitcher of all time. For him to be indicated, it's sad for the game and sad for him and his family,” Starr said. -- Tovin Lapan

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Tovin Lapan