In the wake of four players including New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia recently being suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, a former big-league pitcher explained in a column for Fox Sports how easy it can be for players to take them without their knowledge.
C.J. Nitkowski, who pitched for eight teams across 10 seasons in the big leagues from 1995 to 2005, said the excuse of a player being unaware he took steroids isn't as unbelievable as it may seem.
Sometimes the player knows what's in the vial; sometimes they do not. The cases of Winstrol (Stanozolol) being in B-12 vials has become a recent cause for concern.
I watched a teammate do it and I followed along. The same can happen away from the field. Ultimately yes, the player is responsible, but don't be so quick to judge or make fun of a player when he tells us he didn't know, especially from a country like the Dominican Republic.
Nitkowski spent two seasons, 2011 and 2012, pitching in the Dominican Winter League and said it was easy to get B-12 injections, as well as injectable forms of anti-inflammatory medications such as Voltaren, in the Dominican Republic.
After receiving a shot he was told contained B-12 and Voltaren, Nitkowski wrote that he professed his new affection for the concoction to a teammate who was still in the majors.
I had to know, "How much is it?"
"I paid $500."
A little steep for my taste, but I was still curious.
"What's in it?"
"I'm not really sure."
What?!? This guy was in the big leagues, had been in the big leagues for a while and was taking a mystery injection. He knew it was B-12 based, but was unsure what else it contained.
Mejia was suspended 80 games as a result of his failed test for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. The 25-year-old pitcher said through his agent that he would accept the suspension, although his statement following the announcement of the failed test said, "I can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system."
Other players recently administered 80-game suspensions for failed performance-enhancing drug tests include the Seattle Mariners' David Rollins, the Atlanta Braves' Arodys Vizcaino and the Minnesota Twins' Ervin Santana.