A REVEALING INQUIRY
He spoke loftily of a "brotherhood of the needle," but what Dr. Jamie Astaphan seemed to be describing in Toronto last week was an underworld crawling with self-interested, distrustful and unethical people. Testifying before Canada's Commission of Inquiry into the Use of Drugs and Banned Practices Intended to Increase Athletic Performance, Astaphan, 43, a native of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, was a defensive, often testy witness. He seemed less troubled by the fact that he had administered steroids to sprinter Ben Johnson than by the suggestion that he might have made the miscalculation that resulted in Johnson's testing positive for the steroid stanozolol at the Seoul Olympics and having to forfeit his 100-meters gold medal.
Astaphan's appearance also had grave implications for Johnson, who is expected to begin testifying on June 12. Johnson has maintained all along that he never "knowingly" took steroids. But that defense appeared to weaken when, in one of the inquiry's most dramatic moments. Astaphan produced a scratchy tape of a phone conversation he said he had with Johnson in January 1988. The tape, which Astaphan made without Johnson's knowledge, makes it clear that Johnson was a witting participant in the steroid program Astaphan had designed for him. During the conversation, Astaphan asked Johnson, "You haven't used any of the white stuff, the steroid, since December, have you?"
Johnson replied, "Part of it, yeah." Astaphan said that he made the tape—on which he also recorded conversations with Charlie Francis, Johnson's coach; Canadian sprinter Angella Issajenko; and sprinter Pierfrancesco Pavoni of Italy—to protect himself. Said Astaphan, "I wanted to make sure that they understood and admitted that they were taking anabolic steroids so that, excuse my expression, when the——hit the fan, my tail would be covered too."
June 4, 1989
Rather than express any remorse for what he had done to—and for—the athletes, Astaphan, a general practitioner, took obvious pride in his abilities. Indeed, he bragged that he knew of seven substances that mask steroid use, including one, carinamide, that he called "the golden boy of them all." Listening to Astaphan's smirking boasts of pharmacological wizardry last week, one had to wonder how he could have been caught just when the stakes were highest. A few interesting possibilities came to light.
Astaphan testified that in June 1985 an East German athlete (whose name he would not reveal) came to him to make a trade: Astaphan gave the athlete 144 bottles of an inosine/B mixture, in exchange for 48 bottles of furazobol, a steroid which the East Germans had found to be very successful. To keep the identity of this steroid from what the East German referred to as "the damn Americans," Astaphan and the athlete agreed that the drug should be called by the phony name of "estragol." Astaphan said that when he discussed the drug with Francis and his athletes, he told them that it was furazobol, but that they should always refer to it as estragol.
Late last August, when Johnson and his teammates returned from Europe. Astaphan decided to put some of them on a "quick program" of drugs that included estragol. Astaphan testified that he gave Johnson an injection containing estragol on Aug. 28, 27 days before the Olympic 100-meter final.
Last November, in the wake of Johnson's positive test, Issajenko surrendered to the inquiry 12 bottles of the milky white substance that she believed was estragol or furazobol. Yet when the substance was analyzed, it turned out to be Winstrol-V, a veterinary steroid that has the same properties as stanozolol, the steroid detected in Johnson.
There are two ways to explain this discrepancy. First, there's the possibility that the East German athlete bilked Astaphan, and that Astaphan gave Johnson and the other sprinters stanozolol under the belief that he was giving them furazobol. The second possibility is that Astaphan, for reasons that can only be guessed at, knowingly administered stanozolol.
The latter suspicion gains credence when considered in the light of the inquiry's Exhibit Number 153, a series of order forms from Winthrop Laboratories in Aurora, Ont. The order forms show that between November '85 and December '87, Astaphan ordered 81 30-milliliter vials of injectable Winstrol-V.
The big question at last week's NFL owners' meeting in New Orleans was, naturally, Who will replace Pete Rozelle as the commissioner? The owners narrowed the field to 11, though few of the names have been officially revealed. The candidates will be screened in the next two weeks, and the owners will vote in late July.
The leading candidate is Jim Finks, the president and general manager of the New Orleans Saints. Finks, a former Pro Bowl quarterback, is an excellent administrator who is well regarded throughout the league. The only knock against him is his age, 61, though he's considered a youthful 61. Several politicians have been mentioned: Jack Kemp, the former NFL quarterback who's now the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development; Pete Dawkins, the former All-America halfback at Army and a retired general who recently lost a U.S. Senate race; and New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley. Two prominent blacks, Vernon Jordan, the former president of the National Urban League, and Lowell Perry, a former flanker with the Steelers who now heads NFL Charities, have been proposed, and that brings up the possible irony of a black commissioner for a league that hasn't had a black head coach in modern times. Perhaps the most intriguing name was that of Roone Arledge, the president of ABC News. He would certainly be an asset negotiating television contracts.
Or the new commissioner may be none of the above. After all, Pete Rozelle was a surprise compromise choice 30 years ago.
THE COOKIE CRUMBLED
The Franklin & Marshall baseball team had long been planning a two-week trip to China, with a departure date of May 25. But because of the unstable political situation there, the tour was postponed until next year.
Before the postponement, though, the school's public relations staff had a send-off lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Lancaster, Pa. Director of public relations Paul Brawley opened his fortune cookie and found this message inside: DON'T TAKE ANY UNNECESSARY GAMBLES. Two hours later Franklin & Marshall announced the cancellation of the trip.
WAKE UP THE ECHOES
Irish eyes were drooping on May 20. Still, Notre Dame swept four games that day to win the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament and advance to the Far West regionals of the College World Series, from which they were eliminated on Sunday.
Notre Dame was forced into the quadruple bill because it was in the losers' bracket of the tournament and because of a lengthy rain delay on the night of May 19. The first of their four games began at 1:38 a.m., against Dayton, and ended at 4:21 with the Irish winning 20-4. The second game, against Evansville, began at 2:30 p.m. and ended at 4:54 with Notre Dame on top 11-2. Then, in a game that started at 5:35 p.m. and ended at 7:57, the Fighting (Fatigue) Irish dispatched Detroit 4-1. They had to come right back a half hour later to play Detroit, and this time they won 21-10.
The players actually reveled in their muddy and arduous task, during which they never changed or washed their uniforms. "Mine was standing up in my locker waiting for me when I came back for the afternoon game," said catcher Ed Lund.
•Jon Peters, the Brenham (Texas) High pitcher who set a national record with his 51st consecutive victory earlier this spring (SI, May 8), finally lost last week, after 53 straight wins. Still, it took a no-hitter by two West Orange-Stark High pitchers to beat him 3-0; Peters gave up five hits and no earned runs in seven innings.
•Two Colorado football players, running back Marcus Reliford and wide receiver Andy Massucco, were found not guilty of sexual assault in separate, unrelated trials last week. The two were among two dozen Buffalo football players who have been arrested since February 1986 (SI, Feb. 27).
•Soviet athletes continue to go for the gold. A few weeks ago, Natalia Zvereva announced her intention of keeping the money she earns on the women's tennis tour (SI, May 1). Last week came the news that three of the Soviet Union's best hockey players have been given clearance to play in the NHL next year. The three are Viacheslav Fetisov, a defenseman drafted by the New Jersey Devils, and Igor Larionov (Vancouver Canucks) and Sergei Makarov (Calgary Flames), two thirds of the famous K-L-M line of the Red Army team. One day after that news, The New York Times reported that all three, as well as the K on that line, Vladimir Krutov (Canucks), had been signed by Mark Malkovich, an American classical music impresario with contacts in Moscow. Stay tuned.
THEY SAID IT
•Henry Aaron, on his golf game: "It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course."