Mike Piazza Admits PEDs Use

According to Mike Piazza, his soon-to-be-released autobiography includes the admission of using Androstenedione.

This will not be the first time that Piazza admitted to using a performance-enhancing drug (PED). As was noted in a popular MetsToday post that sparked heated debate two years ago, Piazza admitted taking Androstenedione in a 2002 New York Times article. Back then, of course, the prohormone was legal to purchase over-the-counter and OK to use according MLB’s lack of a PEDs policy (though, “Andro” was placed on the International Olympic Committee’s list of banned substances in 1997, and it was banned by the NCAA and NFL).

It’s an interesting admission in that it likely will be framed as a reason people can feel comfortable casting votes for Piazza on next year’s Hall of Fame ballot. By “admitting” to using Andro — never mind the admission came over ten years ago — Mike looks like a good guy, one marked by integrity and honesty. Because Androstenedione was a legal supplement that could be purchased at a GNC back then, many people will argue that Piazza “wasn’t doing anything wrong” by taking it. Further, the admission of using this legal-at-the-time PED helps explain the “bacne” witnessed by Murray Chass, the hairy back noticed by Marty Noble, as well as every other bit of “eyeball test evidence” that makes people think Mike Piazza was cheating. Convenient.

Was the use of Androstenedione a form of “cheating”? It’s up for debate. Many will point to the fact that Andro was legal to purchase at the time as support for the case of “no” — however, there are many items that can be purchased at a GNC today that are on MLB’s list of banned substances (just ask J.C. Romero). Then there are those who feel that if MLB didn’t test, then you can’t call it cheating. Yet another argument is that Andro isn’t technically an “anabolic” steroid, and at least one study found that its use didn’t promote muscle growth, therefore it couldn’t have helped Piazza’s performance (to which my reply is, “then why is it banned by OIC, MLB, NFL, NCAA and considered a schedule III controlled substance by U.S. law?”).

Interestingly, there’s even a debate as to whether Androstenedione is a steroid. Clearly, Mike Piazza doesn’t think so, per this quote lifted from The New York Times:

“It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids,” Piazza says in the book. “I didn’t.”

Is that a lie? Hard to say, since people can’t agree on how to categorize Andro.

Today, Androstenedione is classified as an “anabolic steroid” by the U.S. government, per the “Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004.” However, many medical professionals refer to it as a “steroid hormone,” “designer steroid,” “androgenic steroid,” and/or “steroid precursor.” Probably the most fitting descriptor is “prohormone,” which means it synthetically amplifies the effects of hormones. In other words, Andro is NOT synthetic testosterone, but its intention is to increase hormones in the body that will in turn increase testosterone production.

So is it a steroid or not? Does it matter? Either way, it’s a PED — just like Human Growth Hormone is a PED, even though its technical classification as a “steroid” is debatable. Just for kicks, here is a piece of the wikipedia entry on prohormone:

… prohormones have also been used by bodybuilders, athletes, and nonmedical users of anabolic steroids and other hormones to refer to substances that are expected to convert to active hormones in the body. The intent is to provide the benefits of taking an anabolic steroid without the legal risks, and to achieve the hoped-for benefits or advantages without use of anabolic steroids themselves. Many of these compounds are legal to manufacture, sell, possess and ingest eliminating the legal problems associated with schedule III anabolic steroids.

Before you go off on me for trying to position Mike Piazza as a liar, please understand that my goal here is to help educate people. There’s every reason to believe that Mike Piazza doesn’t consider Andro a steroid. At the same time, there are many people who feel the same way, pulling the blanket of semantics over their heads. The bottom line, to me, is this: there are young athletes who are taking, or considering taking, prohormones such as Andro, perhaps believing the drugs are not as dangerous as “real” steroids such as Dianabol, Winstrol, etc. However, prohormones can and often will result in the same side effects and long-term health problems as anabolic steroids; the risk is similar if not the same.

Maybe Androstenedione was the “hardest” PED that Piazza ever used — we’ll likely never know. Do YOU believe that’s the worst thing he ever took? If you believe Andro was the worst thing Piazza ever took, do you think he was cheating? If the PEDs issue is what kept Piazza from being voted into the Hall of Fame, does this admission help his chances in next year’s ballot? Or does it make his entry even less likely?

Sound off in the comments.

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Izzy February 11, 2013 at 7:51 am
    I don’t know what Mike took. I do know that there was a test that over 100 ball players failed in 2003 and only one name was leaked; AROD. If those test results were to be released, well leaked since the MLBPA and MLB had an agreement not to release, we’d have a better idea of who took at that point in time. Without the info guys who played that year can never be thought to be clean or dirty with any kind of confidence. I think Piazza will lose HoF votes next year. sounds like the Mark McGwire, pre-confession line if I remember it correctly.
    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 10:52 am
      I think this admission buys him the rest of the votes he needs for HoF induction. The voters are just as ignorant as the rest of the public in terms of what is and isn’t a PED.

      The funniest part of that 2003 test was that the players WERE TOLD BEFOREHAND it was going to happen, and they STILL caught 100 guys. How many more might have been caught if it was an unannounced test?

  2. Walnutz15 February 11, 2013 at 9:03 am

    This ain’t news because Piazza’s just writing it in his book. It’s essentially everything we’ve ever discussed about him for years, and had Met fans cry and whine about how he’s so squeaky clean.

    I’m more irked at his admission of being scared (poop)less of Roger Clemens.

    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 10:42 am
      The most stunning thing about this recent “admission” is that Mike says he used Andro, but “not steroids” and people actually believe that they are not one and the same!

      It’s nearly as mystifying as a high-ranking politician saying we have troops gunning down enemies in a foreign country, but we’re not at war.

      Oh, that’s right — just nod your head as you’re speaking and people will believe whatever you say is true.

      • Walnutz15 February 11, 2013 at 10:49 am
        Hey, it was just the one time Joe — and I didn’t inhale!!

        Hope all’s well, pal.

        • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 11:36 am
          Ha! I just remembered Clinton’s admission to his actions with Monica Lewinsky — followed by “but we did not have sex!”
  3. Walnutz15 February 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm
    By the way, Joe – This was always the article that had me curious, starting from way back when. When he decided he couldn’t hack it at Miami; which we know has been a hotbed for the sauce for years and years.

    ……not only in having the story leak last week, but in seeing firsthand how their CWS monsters cracked balls over the RF parking garage at Mark Light Stadium against my own squad in the Regionals.

    Not validation of anything, of course – but it’s not a stretch to think he looked for some help, especially in transferring from a top program back to a JUCO.


    Lasorda’s longtime friend, Ron Fraser, former University of Miami baseball coach, liked Piazza’s bat, and took him as a walk-on. But Piazza, then a first baseman, said the experience was a little overwhelming. He was on a team of veterans who had recently won the College World Series, and here he was, fresh out of a small-town school that played half as many games as the high schools in warmer climates.

    “I sat on the bench and didn’t even make the travel squad, so I started studying and lifting weights,” Piazza said. “Actually, that is when I started taking weights seriously, and that had a lot to do with my success.”

    With his career seemingly at a standstill, Piazza transferred to Miami-Dade North Community College. He played well there before splitting two knuckles and sitting out most of the season. The day his cast came off, he was in the batting cage, but it was too late to make the scouting reports. No team was interested.

    Lasorda, trying to help Piazza get a scholarship to a four-year college, thought that if Piazza was at least drafted by a major league team, maybe that would impress some college baseball coach. The Dodgers obliged and made Piazza a throw-away pick–their 62nd-round choice in the June draft in 1988.

    “I got a Mail-gram from the Dodgers,” Piazza said, smiling. “They didn’t even call me. It was more or less their way of saying good luck.”

    …………Yes, muscle mass can be built naturally – but Piazza’s story has always sounded like there’s been more to it.

    I concur with everyone else who cites how we’d all toss him in with the others on different squads – provided he wasn’t a Met. There’s always been a “not my child!!” approach to how these talks have gone with certain Met fans.

  4. friend February 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm
    For Comparison

    When it comes to classification of plants, it seems reasonable to consider botanical taxonomy to be the most authoritative source, not to be contradicted by a ruling from a legal entity. This assumption establishes that a tomato should be classified as a fruit. However, due to a Supreme Court decision, U.S. law treats a tomato as a vegetable.

    • Joe Janish February 12, 2013 at 2:17 am
      Interesting parallel. In both cases, though, the tomato still turns out to be a type of food, right?

      Whether one considers Andro to be an “androgenic steroid” or “anabolic steroid” is really irrelevant — in either case, the word “steroid” finishes the phrase. Further, it’s a Performance-enhancing Drug (PED); or, put another way, something synthetic that was purposely placed into the body with the intention of altering the body’s natural chemistry such that otherwise unobtainable strength and/or endurance could be achieved.

      • friend February 12, 2013 at 2:37 am
        … and for my gout I take a corticosteroid.
        • Joe Janish February 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm
          I suppose Piazza could have said “I took Winstrol, Anavar, The Cream, and Dianabol, but NEVER steroids,” — and that would exonerate him with 95% of the public and 99% of Mets fans as well.
        • friend February 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm
          Continuing, cortisone is also a corticosteroid, and is not only legal in MLB, it’s use is common. The point is that we might be getting a little carried away when we see the word “steroid”.

          There’s also a fine line between lobster and cockroach. They’re closely related but it might be a good idea to be able to tell the difference.

        • Joe Janish February 12, 2013 at 11:58 pm
          Wow! Are you working on an audio learning CD titled “Hooked On Semantics” ?

          Well then let’s just forgo all the nonsense and call a spade a spade. Androstenedione is a Performance Enhancing Drug. It is also an androgenic steroid, which, like an anabolic steroid, artificially increases the amount of testosterone in the human body. And when Mike Piazza said he took Andro but “never” a steroid, he was either a) displaying a complete lack of intelligence; b) feigning ignorance; or c) purposely creating an erroneous differentiation between “Andro” and “steroids” to exonerate himself of any wrongdoing — exactly as Bill Clinton did when he claimed he “never had sex with that woman.”

        • friend February 13, 2013 at 2:40 am
          There you go!
        • Nicky A February 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm
          This is what I hate about your argument Joe. Where does it start, where does it end being PED use?

          Your making fun of him for being “Hooked on Semantics” meanwhile the basis of your argument is being “hooked on the legalese” of performance enhancers. The U.S. government is a legally defining authority on substances in this country, but that doesn’t mean that whatever isn’t classified as a steroid isn’t a performance enhancer. They’ve been classifying, and reclassifying substances for their entire regulatory history. There is a reason why they stopped referring to the “problems” of the MLB as steroids and reclassified it as PEDs, there are multiple ways and multiple substances that give you an edge over your peers.

          I have a question for you Joe.
          If a substance was only recently outlawed, except for medical use, by the U.S. authority, does that excuse a ballplayer who took it BEFORE it was made illegal? Is it still considered cheating or was it okay because the U.S. gov’t was slow to regulate this substance?

          And I’m glad the poster referred to cortisone, beautiful example of a legal substance, proliferate in use, but I bet Babe Ruth or Lou Gherig didn’t have it available to them.

        • Joe Janish February 14, 2013 at 1:07 am
          ” Your making fun of him for being “Hooked on Semantics” meanwhile the basis of your argument is being “hooked on the legalese” of performance enhancers. The U.S. government is a legally defining authority on substances in this country, but that doesn’t mean that whatever isn’t classified as a steroid isn’t a performance enhancer.”

          My argument is not “hooked on legalese,” and I’m not sure how you come to that conclusion. The basis of my argument is that Mike Piazza said he did Andro, which is a steroid, and also said he never did steroids. It’s as comedic and incorrect as that line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when the guest says “I don’t eat meat” and the reply is, “fine, we’ll make lamb.”

          “There is a reason why they stopped referring to the “problems” of the MLB as steroids and reclassified it as PEDs, there are multiple ways and multiple substances that give you an edge over your peers.”

          First, who is “they”? Second, I don’t recall anything in MLB’s substance-abuse policy that addressed steroids nor any other PEDs until 2004 — but if I’m missing something please point me to it. When it finally did, it lumped them under the existing title “Drugs of Abuse,” and mirrored Schedule C of the Controlled Substances Act.

          “I have a question for you Joe.
          If a substance was only recently outlawed, except for medical use, by the U.S. authority, does that excuse a ballplayer who took it BEFORE it was made illegal? Is it still considered cheating or was it okay because the U.S. gov’t was slow to regulate this substance?”

          That’s a loaded question, and I’m sure after I answer, some smarty pants from the peanut gallery will come up with something intended to make me look foolish. But what the hey – few others are willing to speak candidly about this issue. Generally speaking, yes, it’s probably cheating, because the PEDs game is akin to cops and robbers — with the robbers always one step ahead of the cops. In other words, it’s impossible to ban and test for substances that the testers don’t know exist. Prime example: newly invented PEDs and “designer steroids” that are undetectable because they were recently invented by a chemist like Patrick Arnold. Real-life example: The Cream.

          My very general litmus test: if a player is secretive about what he’s taking, and/or denies he’s taking something yet actually is, then he probably believes he’s cheating or thinks he’ll be perceived as a cheater. Of course, this litmus test fails if Andro is the only PED Piazza ever took; I wouldn’t bet the house on that.

          “And I’m glad the poster referred to cortisone, beautiful example of a legal substance, proliferate in use, but I bet Babe Ruth or Lou Gherig didn’t have it available to them.”

          I don’t know what this is supposed to prove, as it has nothing to do with the current argument — it’s another argument unto itself. Comparing cortisone / corticosteroids to anabolic / androgenic steroids is like comparing apples to oranges (or perhaps brussels sprouts).

  5. frankstallone February 12, 2013 at 12:38 am
    There is one thing that people never mention in this debate: Mike Piazza had beautiful, mildly feminine facial features. Was he large? Sure. But if you squint he still looks like a pale Rihanna to me.

    I’m obviously not a doctor, but I would not call whatever he was taking “roids”.

    • Nicky A February 12, 2013 at 1:52 am
      Joe, I’d like to mark this “Exhibit A” and enter it into the evidence pool of how nutty the steroid discussion has made us. Then again Ryan Braun looks like Katy Perry without the breasts, so I can see why his steroid test was overturned.
      • Joe Janish February 12, 2013 at 2:20 am
        Alex Sanchez — the first MLBer suspended for PEDs use — wasn’t exactly Charles Atlas, either.
    • Joe Janish February 12, 2013 at 2:12 am
      “whatever he was taking” — or at least, what he’s admitted to taking, IS “roids.” Androstenedione — a.k.a., “Andro” — is a steroid. You are free to call “Andro” whatever you wish thanks to the First Amendment, but the substance’s makeup causes it to be recognized as an androgenic steroid by most medical and science folk, while others (such as the US gummerment) call it an anabolic steroid. Either way, the word “steroid” is part of the description.

      The girlish features you noticed may have been the result of his use of estrogen to balance out hormonal imbalance while “cycling off” and/or to mask the increased testosterone. For comparison, Manny Ramirez was caught using hCG, which is a female fertility drug. Or, he may just naturally have feminine features. Who the heck knows?

      • frankstallone February 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm
        Ok I will get back to the drawing board. Great point.
  6. argonbunnies February 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm
    The link between substance use and cheating is not clear cut at all. I would bet that every player who’s stepped onto an MLB field in the last 50 years was full of substances which were intended to improve their play and ran possible risks of negative side effects. (Yes, this includes too much coffee.)

    So either every player is a cheater, or we have to draw some line between cheater substance users and non-cheater substance users.

    Drawing the line between (a) a GNC creatine-and-Andro pack and (b) illegal stuff from shady clinics… well, that doesn’t seem any more arbitrary or crazy to me than any other distinction I’ve heard.

    If we bash every player who said “if the FDA approved it, that’s good enough for me!” then we’re back into “everyone’s a cheater” territory.

    If we believe Piazza, his use goes in the non-cheater camp for me. That said, I am glad that Andro is now illegal, along with various other things ballplayers have used. As for Mike’s numbers, are they HOF-worthy if we compare them to his contemporaries, rather than to the Andro-free generations? I think they are.

    • Joe Janish February 14, 2013 at 12:35 am
      Every player? And you’re grouping caffeine with synthetic substances that alter DNA synthesis? OK. What the hey — why not just have an MLB that’s like the SNL skit of “all-drug Olympics?”

      Personally I don’t care about the HoF. I did as a kid, but don’t care any more. Bud Selig’s myriad rule changes, illogical expansion, and looking the other way re: PEDs over the years completely transformed and diluted MLB, rendering most accomplishments impossible to define and judge in my tiny, closed mind.

      In other words, I’m too old, stubborn, and impatient to give a crap about Piazza’s HoF-worthiness, nor any other player’s from the 1990s to the present.

  7. BJH February 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm
    Yet another inflammatory title to an article from Mr. Janish. He says he’s not looking for attention though…
    • Joe Janish February 14, 2013 at 12:25 am
      “inflammatory title” ????????????????????????

      What is “inflammatory” about REPORTING NEWS???

      Mike Piazza admitted to taking PEDs, both in his book and in several interviews promoting his book. What exactly is inflammatory about reporting something he’s already written, published, and discussed publicly?

  8. AC Wayne February 15, 2013 at 9:41 pm
    I’m with you Joe that Piazza’s statement screams contradiction, to answer your question if Piazza was cheating, I would have to say yes, why? he moved the release of his book so it would take place after the HOF voting? If there was no doubt in his mind that what he took was okay to take, he would have released his book as scheduled…also, I have to say that this comment string is very refreshing, I voiced my opinion on ‘MetsBlog’ and the majority of the commenters, were livid by my suggestion that his admission could jeopardize his HOF status and that taking andro was just as deceitful as taking ‘real’ steroids, the intent of gaining an edge outweighs what he took, legal or illegal at the time