Andro Justice for All
Baseball might have to come clean on Mark McGwire's favorite fuel
This is an article from the Feb. 22, 1999 issue
Big league players began arriving at spring training camps this
week, but they may have another important reporting date to
reckon with soon. Sometime this year a pair of Harvard
scientists are expected to issue a report on androstenedione
that could muscle the 1999 home run chase out of the headlines.
Mark McGwire and dozens of other big leaguers use the
controversial muscle builder, which is found in several
over-the-counter diet supplements, but no one seems to know much
about its long-term effects. "I've heard guys who said they were
doctors explain the dangers of androstenedione, and they
couldn't pronounce the word," says Harvard endocrinologist Joel
Finkelstein, an expert on the effects of androgens--male sex
hormones, of which androstenedione is one--on organ systems. A
passionate baseball fan, Finkelstein recalls driving home from
his lab last summer and hearing his specialty debated on
sports-talk radio. "That andro stuff will kill you," Lennie from
Southie would say. "It'll turn your liver into a sun-dried
tomato!" The next caller would shoot back, "No way, man! It's
nothin'. It's like throwing a T-bone steak in a blender!"
In a show of bipartisanship that would be the envy of the NBA or
the U.S. Congress, Major League Baseball and the players'
association have jointly commissioned a study by Finkelstein and
a fellow Harvard researcher, Benjamin Leder, on McGwire's
supplement of choice. There's a chance they will publish their
findings during the season, perhaps dropping a bomb on the game
that would hang a cloud over Big Mac's 1998 heroics. "We will
take no position on what baseball should do," says Finkelstein.
"We're biologists. I don't care what the answer is. I just want
the right answer."
The players have always lined up against drug testing, but Gene
Orza, associate general counsel for the players' union, says
this case is different. "If the players were to be convinced
that androstenedione provides an unfair advantage to one player
over another," says Orza, "the union would not philosophically
oppose a ban enforced through random testing."
Andro is already banned by the NFL, the NCAA and the Olympics
because it may act like a steroid. One IOC official recently
called McGwire a "souped-up" hero. Orza dismisses such remarks
as uninformed and warns against drawing premature conclusions.
Fans can only do as the lords of baseball have decided to do:
Let the scientists have their say, wait for the facts and hope
two Ivy League eggheads won't help pin a deadly new asterisk on
the home run record. --Gerry Callahan
Walter Payton's Plight
A Hard Burden to Bear
A small, elderly looking man appears at the door of his office
in suburban Chicago. He's stooped, his skin a bit shriveled.
"And who are you?" he whispers. The softness of his voice
betrays his identity. This is Walter Payton.
On Feb. 2 Payton, 44, announced that he is suffering from
primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare disease in which the
ducts that drain bile from the liver become inflamed and
blocked. His doctor said that if Payton didn't have a liver
transplant within two years, he would die. Payton then flew to
the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where a week of tests
brought more bad news: The disease is advancing faster than his
doctors had thought. Last Friday, Payton told SI that without a
transplant he will die by the end of this year.
Payton appeared skinny and frail to television viewers during
his press conference two weeks ago. In person he looks worse.
His eyes, so wide and alert during his 13 years as the Chicago
Bears' tireless running back, are bright yellow with jaundice.
His cheeks are sunken, his shoulders coat-hanger thin. The man
called Sweetness weighed 202 pounds during his playing days. At
the press conference he was reportedly 185. Now he appears to
weigh no more than 170.
Sitting at a large mahogany desk, Payton looks exhausted. He
hasn't slept well since his disease was diagnosed last month.
"I'm not afraid of dying," he says. "Everybody has to die." He
pauses uncomfortably. "I'm afraid I'm not going to be here to
see the things I feel I have the right to see: my son playing
college football, my daughter graduating from college, my kids
As his condition worsens, Payton might qualify for rush status
and get his transplant within a few months. Eighty-six percent
of liver transplant patients survive at least a year after the
operation, but there are no guarantees. As of Monday, Payton was
one of 12,200 people on the waiting list, and the fact that he
is the NFL's alltime leading rusher has no bearing on his fate.
Of his latest setback the Hall of Famer says, "It's like you're
moving the ball down the field and a flag's thrown. Oh, god,
what's the penalty? Fifteen yards. You take the 15 yards, call
the next play and go on. It's all you can do. The official has
thrown the flag; he's not going to take it back."
Hundreds of letters arrive at Payton's office each day.
Envelopes are all over the place; cards are taped to the walls.
Some of them contain home remedies--recipes that could
supposedly cure his ravaged liver. Some are notes of
encouragement from transplant survivors. Others are from former
teammates like Willie Gault, who sent a basket of fruit. The
mail that affects Payton the most, that makes him cry, comes
He picks up a scribbled letter from a nine-year-old boy who has
cirrhosis of the liver. He reads it aloud--cheerful words from a
sick boy to a man five times his age. "Christopher says I
shouldn't be scared," says Payton, wiping an eye. "God will take
care of me." --Jeff Pearlman
De-Lighting The Crowd
Gamblers have apparently found a novel way to fix English soccer
games. On the night of Feb. 10 three men were arrested in South
London for allegedly tampering with floodlights on the grounds of
the Premier League's Charlton Athletic. Police believe the men
were planning to cause a blackout during last Saturday's Charlton
Athletic-Liverpool game. The saboteurs are thought to be linked
to a betting syndicate in Malaysia, where bookmakers pay off on
games that are stopped after halftime.
Suspicions of a link between floodlight failures and Far East
gamblers arose last season after three Premier League games went
black in the second half. Scotland Yard has advised pro clubs in
England and Wales to examine their soccer stadiums for signs of
Good Ol' Boy Toys
All those Furbies from Christmas now lie squished like so many
Texas armadillos, run over by a juggernaut called NASCAR. The
country's fastest-growing spectator sport is also a force in the
Last week at Toy Fair, the industry's annual trade show in New
York City, NASCAR basketballs and board games jostled for space
with five-inch-tall Jeff Gordon action figures and Dale
Earnhardt plush toy cars. Mattel rolled out an item called Smell
My Pits, a Hot Wheels car and trailer that reek of burned
rubber, gasoline and oil. Another Hot Wheels item, NASCAR
Marbles, features small chunks of rubber scraped from stock car
speedways last year. "Every kid grows up playing with cars,"
says NASCAR vice president of marketing George Pyne, who adds
that "speed appeals to kids."
The current surge of interest in stock car toys caps a banner
decade for NASCAR's licensed products. Since 1990, annual sales
of stock car racing goodies have jumped from $80 million to $950
million. Last year Hasbro's NASCAR-themed Winners Circle line
more than tripled its sales, and the company's 1/64-scale
die-cast cars were the 13th most popular toy in the country.
After her debut last year, NASCAR Barbie became the best-selling
collectible Barbie in history.
Stuffed stock cars account for 10% of all sales for Mary Meyer,
a Townshend, Vt., company that specializes in fuzzy toys. "We've
been in business for 66 years, and the Jeff Gordon and Dale
Earnhardt items were the best selling plushes we ever had," says
company president Kevin Meyer.
Now there's even a Saturday-morning cartoon on the way. NASCAR
Superchargers, which will debut in the fall on Fox Kids, won't
be soft-pedaled. Its slogan calls the show "ear-splitting,
high-octane, supercharged fun!"
IOC Good Guy
Honor Among Thieves
Buried in the 300-page ethics report released by the Salt Lake
Organizing Committee on Feb. 9 is the tale of Andrei Siperco,
the son of former Romanian IOC member Alexandru Siperco. After
joining his father for a trip to Utah in 1996--a year after Salt
Lake City was awarded the 2002 Games--Andrei got a letter from
bid committee vice president Dave Johnson. Would he accept a
position in Brigham Young's history department, Johnson asked,
and an opportunity to finish his doctoral studies there?
Siperco had already applied for the position, but after hearing
that Salt Lake Olympic organizers wanted to provide
transportation to and from Romania, free housing and a "living
expense" stipend, he withdrew his application. "If I had the
slightest idea that you would offer financial help from the
organizing committee," he wrote to Johnson, "I would not even
have mentioned to you my intention [to study history]."
According to the report, Johnson wrote back asking Siperco to
reconsider--and suggesting other funding sources "not associated
with Olympic activity." Siperco, whose father was an IOC member
from 1955 until his death last year, never responded. "My father
said he was glad he did not have to forbid me to go," says
Siperco, 36. Now a communications adviser to the Romanian
government, he says he spurned Salt Lake "because I do not think
it's right to have advantages because a member of my family is
in the IOC."
Title IX Trouble
Prof of Doom
Last week Miami of Ohio's board of trustees held a public
hearing on a plan to drop four men's sports--golf, soccer,
tennis and wrestling--under Title IX pressure to fund men's and
women's athletics equitably. Players and coaches pleaded for
mercy, but the highlight came when zoology professor Donald
Kaufman spoke up. Kaufman, 54, noted that he had won three of
Miami's major teaching awards and brought the school $4 million
in grants and subsidies. "I cannot abide the elimination of four
men's sports," he said. "It is morally, ethically and legally
wrong." He then held up a plaque he'd received for teaching at
Miami for 25 years. "I cannot accept this award until this
situation is resolved," he said, striding over to Miami
president James Garland and handing him the plaque.
The trouble with college sports, Kaufman told the Dayton Daily
News, is that schools "give all the money to sports that lead to
pro careers." His solution to Miami's Title IX emergency would
be across-the-board cuts in all sports. "Everybody bleeds," he
says, "but nobody dies."
The next day the trustees gave supporters of the condemned
sports two months to devise a plan for raising the money--as
much as $26 million--that Miami will need to keep the four
Sportschap of the Year
Arsenal's Arsene's No Arse
With the score tied 1-1 in the 76th minute of last Saturday's
tense English Football Association Cup match between Arsenal and
Sheffield United, Sheffield midfielder Lee Morris fell to the
pitch injured. His team's goalkeeper, Alan Kelly, kicked the
ball out-of-bounds to stop the action, expecting that Arsenal
would, per soccer custom, return the ball to him on the next
throw-in. But Arsenal striker Nwankwo Kanu intercepted the
throw-in. Kanu, who would claim he hadn't been aware of the
injury, passed to midfielder Marc Overmars, who scored into an
open net to give Arsenal a 2-1 victory and a berth in the Cup
Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, saying his team was embarrassed by
the legal but unsporting way it had won, offered to replay the
game. Sheffield and the football association accepted the
unprecedented proposal, and the teams will meet again on Feb. 23.
Hollywood Health Club
Let's Do Crunch
Want to see Gene Simmons's infamous tongue hanging out in a
healthier setting than a Kiss concert? Visit the two-year-old
Crunch Gym, a Sunset Strip haunt for Hollywood hardbodies.
Simmons, Ben Affleck and Renee Zellweger are regulars at Crunch,
where computer-mounted LifeCycles let sweat-setters surf the Web
while they work out. The gym also features a hypoxic training
chamber that simulates conditions at 6,000 feet, an
Afro-Brazilian exercise class with live drummers and a gospel
aerobics class with a live choir. For postworkout stimulation,
try the club's peekaboo showers: men's and women's stalls made
of sand-blasted glass, affording a cloudy view of the showerers
from the corridor.
"People in the industry go to Crunch to see and be seen," says
actress Jessica O'Sullivan. "They go to hook up, either in a
business or a sexual sense. Or both, which happens a lot in L.A."
--That every week featured a show of sportsmanship like the
fender-to-fender love tap Dale Earnhardt gave winner Jeff Gordon
after the Daytona 500.
--That the David Duval-Tiger Woods rivalry lives up to its
--That Garth Brooks remembers how humbling baseball was to a
pretty fair jock named Michael.
Second-half field goals by Phoenix (Ore.) High in a 58-51 victory
over Lakeview High in which Phoenix made 28 of 34 free throws.
Winston Cup races among the 20 U.S. sporting events with the
highest attendance in 1998.
Price of Fender's new NHL team-logo Telecaster guitar.
Age of College of the Redwoods basketball player Frank Gildea,
whose son Isaac, 19, is a teammate.
Salary of superstitious Mets pitcher Turk Wendell, who wears
uniform number 99 and agreed to incentive bonuses of $4,999.
Percent increase in St. Louis Cardinals ticket sales over last
year despite a 12% rise in ticket prices.
Cricket bowlers who have taken all 10 wickets in one innings, in
122 years of international play, after India's Anil Kumble
performed the feat against Pakistan on Feb. 7.
Chicken wings eaten in 30 minutes by Bill (El Wingador) Simmons
during a Philadelphia radio station contest.
Scuba divers in the Pacific near the Socorro Islands, 250 miles
southwest of the tip of Baja California, get used to seeing
hammerhead and tiger sharks, 400-pound tuna and the occasional
humpback whale. Cabo Resort Reservations of Pacific Palisades,
Calif., ferries divers from the Baja resort town of Cabo San
Lucas to the Socorros on nine-day, $2,350 tours during which the
real headliners are 2,000-pound manta rays with 20-foot
wingspans. These gentle, stingless beasts can be as playful as
dolphins--they often swim in spirals and do somersaults--and as
easy to please as puppies. They like to have their stomachs
"It took 10 years, but this mad excursion worked out." Andy
Garcia is talking about Just the Ticket, a ticket-scalper movie
that gets the details right, from scalper jargon--money is
cheese and rich folks are Guccis--to the hero's wardrobe. This
is a guy who dresses up for a date by taking the spikes out of
his golf shoes. Garcia, 42, who played point guard for Miami
Beach High, and writer-director Richard Wenk, 41, a former point
guard for Metuchen (N.J.) High, played driveway hoops together
after both men moved to Los Angeles. Wenk told Garcia the tale
of a real-life scalper he knew, and soon the two were shooting
test footage as Garcia worked crowds in L.A., selling real
theater tickets. "We shot the movie down and dirty, with hidden
cameras and wireless microphones," says Wenk, who ultimately
filmed Garcia, unscripted, peddling tickets all over New York.
(Buyers who appear in the movie were signed to contracts and
paid on the spot.) Just the Ticket opens Feb. 26, but the star
already has a favorite review: "One girl, she comes up to me
while we're shooting and says, 'Andy, you're a very good actor.
You don't need to sell tickets.'"
What Makes a Champion?
Loteki Supernatural Being, the papillon that took best-in-show at
last week's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, has had
the makings of a champ since he was whelped in 1990. Here's how
he stacks up against two other top dogs.
John Elway Evander Holyfield Loteki S.B.
Age 38 36 8
Size 6'3", 215 lbs. 6'2 1/2", 218 lbs. 93/4", 6 lbs.
Division AFC West Heavyweight Toy
Bloodline Son of former Son of former Son of bitch
Stanford coach restaurant cook
Jack Elway Annie Holyfield
Payday $53,000 bonus $20 million Year's supply
for winning Super guarantee to fight of Pedigree dog
Bowl XXXIII Lennox Lewis food for winning
Celebration Hoisted trophy Hoisted belt Sat in trophy
Constant Terrell Davis The Lord Chew toy
Sports Roger Sugar Ray Glenn
hero Staubach Leonard Robinson
Next Motivational Motivational Stud
career speaker speaker
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence announced its
May fund-raiser: an aerobic kickboxing marathon.
Fantasy sports leagues are commonplace, especially those that
put fans in charge of baseball, basketball or football squads.
But sometimes the Big Three aren't enough for the true sports
geeks among us. Try these more obscure fantasy sites to while
away the winter hours until your fantasy baseball draft.
Wish there were more to being a motor sports fan than watching
cars ride in a circle? Rev up Virtual Racing, where you can
manage your own NASCAR, CART, IRL or Formula I team. Choose
drivers, hire a pit crew, design your car's technology, line up
sponsors and compete in races--and never get spattered with
The Fantasy Bowling League doesn't rely on professional bowling
stars, which is good, since few people can name any professional
bowling stars. Rather, the FBL lets keglers form teams, post
their scores from local alleys and compete for cash prizes with
bowlers around the world.
Wall Street Sports lets you build a portfolio of athletes whose
values--based on their performances--rise and fall every day like
stocks. Cash and prizes are handed out to the sharpest sports
Weekend duffers can hop onto the gravy train of the pro Tour.
Choose 12 golfers for each PGA Tour event; if your dozensome is
tough around the greens, you could win as much as $10,000 for a
regular event and $15,000 at a major.
sites we'd like to see
Hourly updates on hirings and firings on the Monday Night
Football broadcast team.
Bio of Mitt Romney, the man tapped to pull Salt Lake's Olympic
bacon out of the fire.
Devil Rays senior VP for sales and marketing, on the team's
newest promotion, Lawyer Appreciation Day: "We're going to
charge them double, bill them by the third of an inning and
generally berate them."