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Dodgers deeply implicated

Drug use report paints the team as complicit at almost every level.

December 14, 2007|Dylan Hernandez, Ross Newhan and Paul Pringle | Special to The Times

Fans and teammates anointed him the "heart and soul" of the Dodgers, the late-blooming hard-charger whose 2004 trade stung like a betrayal to those who bleed blue.

Now, the explosive report by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell on the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in baseball paints a much different picture of Paul Lo Duca. The All-Star catcher is described in the document as the pivot man in the virus-like spread of steroids and human growth hormone through the team clubhouse, to the lockers and doorsteps of then-Dodgers Eric Gagne -- the beloved "Game Over" relief icon -- and pitcher Kevin Brown, and even to the former minor league franchise in Albuquerque.

Lo Duca is portrayed as both consumer and conduit of the drugs, the happy-to-oblige middleman between teammates and Kirk Radomski, a onetime New York Mets clubhouse worker and admitted steroid pusher.

"Thanks," Lo Duca once wrote to Radomski on Dodger Stadium stationery, the report says. "Call me if you need anything!"

And when Dodgers officials decided to trade Lo Duca, the report suggests, one of the reasons wasn't his own use of steroids, but the fact that he apparently had stopped taking them.

"Got off the steroids. . . . Took away a lot of hard line drives," the report quotes from notes of an internal discussion by the officials in 2003. "Can get comparable value back would consider trading. . . . If you do trade him, will get back on the stuff and try to show you he can have a good year. That's his makeup."

Perhaps no team comes off worse in the 409-page report than the Dodgers, who are portrayed as nearly top-to-bottom complicit in the steroid culture from roughly 1999 through 2004. The depiction features bundles of cash, one dropped on a front stoop in the rain, a Gagne query on proper injection technique and sober front-office musings on the link between a player's muscle growth and use of the "stuff" and "meds."

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, who bought the team from Rupert Murdoch's Fox Entertainment Group in early 2004, said in a written statement that he had not read the entire report, but was "steadfast in the belief that performance-enhancing drugs have no place in baseball."

In addition to Lo Duca, Gagne and Brown, the report names Todd Hundley, Matt Herges, Chris Donnels and Adam Riggs as among the players who used the illicit drugs while in the Dodgers organization. Hundley and Santangelo could not be reached for comment. Agents for the other players either declined comment or did not return phone calls.

The report shows that unnamed Dodgers officials had been highly suspicious, if not plainly aware, that steroids had become part of the Dodgers training regimen, at least where certain players were concerned. The internal team notes excerpted in the report indicate that the officials, including apparently then-general manager Dan Evans, had matter-of-factly assessed which of the players were using the drugs -- and, more important, whether the drugs were helping or hurting them on the field. (Evans declined to comment Thursday.)

"Kevin Brown -- getting to the age of nagging injuries. . . . Question what kind of medication he takes," the report quotes from the October 2003 team notes. "Common in soccer players and are more susceptible if you take meds to increase your muscles -- doesn't increase the attachments.

"Is he open to adjusting how he takes care of himself?" the notes continue. "He knows he now needs to do stuff before coming to spring training to be ready. Steroids speculated by GM."

During the same month, other notes said of Gagne, according to the report: "He probably takes medication and tendons and ligaments don't build up just muscle."

Those present at the 2003 meetings, the report said, included Evans, trainer Stan Johnston, manager Jim Tracy, advance scout Mark Weidemaier, team physician Frank Jobe, senior scouting advisor Don Welke and director of amateur scouting Logan White. The notes were taken by Ellen Harrigan, an administrator in the scouting department, and were provided to investigators by the team, according to the report.

Weidemaier said Thursday that during meetings the possibility that some players around the league had used steroids was discussed.

"However, I don't recall it coming up in regard to any of our own players -- at least not in the meetings I was in," Weidemaier said.

A former Dodgers executive who requested anonymity said Thursday that "individually, a lot of us may have had our suspicions during that period, but it was difficult to know what was really going on or how to address it."

The Dodgers' passages in the Mitchell Report begin with Lo Duca on Page 208, where it is noted that he played seven seasons in L.A. before the trade to the Florida Marlins.

In spring 1999, Albuquerque Dukes conditioning coach Todd Seyler allegedly spoke with five of the minor league players -- including Lo Duca and Herges -- about using the performance enhancer.

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