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Stejskal: A Book Review About Baseball, A-Rod and the Steroid Era

Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End baseball’s Steroid Era , By Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts

Greg Stejskal

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

This is not a traditional book review as those are usually done about the time a book is published and first available for sale. Also in the interest of full disclosure, another retired FBI agent and I are mentioned in the book albeit briefly and tangential to the primary focus of the book. The mention is related to a FBI steroid investigation we did in the early ‘90s. I’ll explain more about that later.

One of the authors of Blood Sport, Tim Elfrink, is a reporter for the “Miami New Times”, and he broke the story of the Biogenesis/Major League Baseball performance enhancing drugs scandal. Tony Bosch, Biogenesis’ founder and owner, had become a supplier of PEDs to a number professional and college baseball players. Several the MLB players were some of biggest stars in the game, and one Alex Rodriguez, “A-Rod,” the highest paid player in the history of the game.

Blood Sport is not only a great telling of the sordid story of Bosch peddling steroids and other PEDs to baseball players, but it’s an insider’s perspective of investigative journalism. The Biogenesis saga is arguably the biggest scandal in MLB since the “Black Sox” conspiracy that fixed the 1919 World Series.

In setting the stage for the Biogenesis story, Blood Sport describes some of the very early efforts to gain an advantage by the use of chemical enhancement. One such episode occurred in 1889 and involved a 32-year-old pitcher for the (Pittsburg) Alleghenies.

The pitcher, James “Pud” Galvin, had been one of the best pitchers of the era, but at 32 was past his prime. He was asked to participate in an experiment involving the use of an anti-aging elixir which was administered by injection and was nothing more than a liquid derived from the crushed testicles of animals. (Pud’s elixir came from sheep testicles, Rocky Mountain Oysters.)

The experiment was publically known and not illegal. (The sale and use of drugs was not regulated by the US government until the early 1900s.) Pud pitched a great game, and for short time his performance was proclaimed as proof the elixir worked. It was later determined that the elixar’s relatively small amount of testosterone could not have enhanced Pud’s pitching. He probably benefited from the psychological benefit of the placebo effect. But in thinking that the male hormone, testosterone, might have performance enhancing potential, they were on to something.

Blood Sport goes on to trace some of the other efforts to gain advantage in sports through chemistry like the open and pervasive use of amphetamines starting in the 50s and going into the 80s and to some extent the present.

Contemporaneous with the decline of amphetamine use began the use of PEDs that could dramatically improve a player’s performance and potentially destroy the integrity of sports – anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are synthetic testosterone which in large amounts increases muscle size and strength. Not all steroids have this anabolic effect, but the steroids that are considered PEDs and illegal are anabolic. Testosterone is produced in males’ testicles, but much larger amounts than occur naturally are needed to enhance athletic performance.

The use of steroids as PEDs came later to baseball than to some other sports, notably football, but when they did come, it was with a vengeance.

This is where the “full-disclosure” thing I mentioned earlier comes in. It was gratifying that Blood Sport tells the story of the advent of the first major federal investigation of steroids, a FBI undercover operation dubbed Equine, and how it relates to MLB’s “steroid era.”

Equine started with a meeting of the legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, his strength and conditioning coach, Mike Gittleson, and me. Bo’s reason for meeting with me was his concern that steroids were becoming prevalent in high school and college football. Steroids were illegal under federal law except by prescription for rare circumstances that did not include enhanced performance in sports. So inspired by Bo, I decided to initiate an undercover operation, Equine, that targeted the illegal distribution of steroids. That UCO ultimately resulted in the successful prosecution of over 70 dealers in the US, Canada and Mexico and the seizure of millions of dosage units of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH).

Read more »

Head of DEA’s Chicago Office Headed to Washington D.C. for No. 3 Job

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Jack Riley, the head of the DEA’s Chicago division, is headed to a top post in Washington D.C., the Associated Press reports.

The 56-year-old, who has shed light on the influence of Mexican cartels on the Midwest, has been named the DEA’s chief of operations. The No. 3 post at the agency means Riley will oversee all DEA activity.

Riley was previously the head of the El Paso office.

He is to begin his new job next month.

A replacement has not yet been named.

Flood Wipes Out Significant Portion of FBI Documents on Civil Rights, KKK

FBI photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A flood has wiped out a good portion of the FBI’s documents on the civil rights era.

IO9 reports the discovery was made recently after a professor had requested documents related to the Ku Klux Klan.

Those documents – and many more – were destroyed when the FBI’s archives in Alexandria, Va., were flooded.

Hundreds of thousands of pages of other documents were destroyed. They include 41 volumes on the National Negro Labor Council, 23 volumes on Claude Lightfoot, 19 volumes on the Nation of Islam and eight volumes on Detroit’s civil rights issues.

The professor, Trevor Griffey, wrote in his blog:

A more important question, however, is: why are these archives in the possession of the FBI at all? Why does the FBI continue to retain millions of pages of historically significant files, many of which are over 50 years old, that have no relevance to its contemporary law enforcement mission? Why have these files not already been transferred to the National Archives?

Many of the historically significant files destroyed in the Virginia flooding included a series of files that were supposed to have been transferred to the National Archives during George W. Bush’s second term….Almost ten years later, these files should not still be in the FBI’s possession.

Other files of major significance to the study of racial justice, the left, and U.S. foreign policy— particularly the FBI’s 105 series files, which include hundreds of thousands of pages of files on the Black Panther Party— remain in the FBI’s possession and decades away from ever being declassified or transferred to the National Archives.

These and other historically significant files that sit in secret FBI warehouses are vulnerable to more than just flooding. Decades-old standards for determining historical significance that tend to treat local history as unimportant, combined with wide latitude granted to FBI records management staff, have resulted in tragic and reckless destruction of many historically significant files.

FBI: New York Man Charged in Terror Plot to Shoot U.S. soldiers, Shiite Muslims

American war reporter James Wright Foley was beheaded by ISIS.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A New York man is accused of trying to buy guns for the terror group ISIS and has been charged with terrorism-related counts following an FBI investigation, NBC reports.

The FBI alleges Mufid Elfgeeh wanted to kill American soldiers and Shiite Muslims in the U.S. He also wanted to recruit potential ISIS fighters for Iraq and Syria, investigators said.

The FBI said he wasn’t just talk and had purchased a handgun with silencer to begin carrying out an attack.

FBI agents had their eyes on Elfgeeh and moved in when he began seeking financial help to carry out an attack.

Justice Department to Investigate Extent of Law Enforcement Bias in 5 Cities

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The rash of shootings of unarmed black teens has prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an investigation of law enforcement bias in five not-yet-named cities, the USA Today reports.

Holder said the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO., underscored the importance of an investigation.

To head the study is a team of criminal justice researchers who will make recommendations, Holder said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton welcomed the investigation.

“We must study the culture of policing … and the reason that the community responds the way it does,” Sharpton said in a telephone interview. He added that the Brown and Garner cases and others have “led to an even further erosion” of relations between police and communities already shaken by growing gun violence.

 

LA Times Editorial: Border Patrol Must Take Deadly Shootings More Seriously

By Los Angeles Times
Editorial Board

The new head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs office made a troubling assertion late last week. Since 2004, he said, the agency has apparently taken no disciplinary action against any of its agents who have used deadly force.

That follows a report released in February by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum, which reviewed 67 shooting incidents by Border Patrol agents from January 2010 to October 2012, 19 of which were fatal, and accused the agency of violating accepted police practices and a “lack of diligence” in investigating agents’ actions.

The American Immigration Council reported in May that of 809 abuse complaints (a broader category) filed from 2009 to 2012, 40% remained unresolved, and in the resolved cases, only 3% found fault with an agent’s actions. Comparative statistics are hard to come by, but a study of 2002 data found that about 8% of complaints against civilian police officers were sustained.

The backlog of cases and the possibility that the agency has been unwilling to discipline its officers led Department of Homeland Security officials in June to replace the internal affairs director, James F. Tomsheck, with an outsider, former L.A. police officer and FBI Deputy Assistant Director Mark Morgan. It was Morgan who told reporters he had yet to find records of disciplinary actions against agents in deadly force cases. While it’s possible that there was no fault to be found, that seems highly unlikely.

It is clear that the agency must respond more quickly to complaints and must be willing to assess the behavior of its employees fairly and objectively when they use their weapons. In one 2012 case, a Border Patrol agent fired across the border into Nogales, Mexico, killing 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez; the boy, who the Border Patrol says may have been throwing rocks, was struck in the back by at least eight bullets. His family says he was merely walking home after playing basketball. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of the family, but so far it has been unsuccessful in getting the agency to publicly identify the officer involved.

To read more click here.

 

Other Stories of Interest

 

FBI’s Facial Recognition System Reaches ‘Full Operational Capability,’ Ready to Use

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s new facial recognition system is now fully operational, the bureau announced Monday.

The Next Generation Identification System also will replace the FBI’s fingerprint identification system.

“The IPS facial recognition service will provide the nation’s law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities,” the FBI said in a press release. “This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler.”

The system has been criticized by civil rights groups who claim the people without criminal records are going to be turned into suspects.

The civil liberties group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, argues the system is an invasion of privacy.

“Law enforcement agencies, probation and parole officers, and other criminal justice entities will also greatly improve their effectiveness by being advised of subsequent criminal activity of persons under investigation or supervision,” EFF said in a press release. “The IPS [Interstate Photo System] facial recognition service will provide the nation’s law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities.”

FBI’s Washington Field Office Focuses on Returning U.S. Hostages Held by Terrorists

Andrew McCabe/fbi photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

American journalist Theo Curtis said he might not be alive if not for the FBI.

FBI agents in the Washington D.C. field office had been working on getting Curtis released from Syria, where he had been held by an Islamist group, the Washington Post reports.

The FBI “deserves some credit for what it did for me,” Curtis said in an interview.

The field office is handling the investigation into the kidnapping and killing of Americans by the Islamic State.

Leading the office is Andrew G. McGabe, who the Washington Post described as a “rising star” who could be the next deputy director after the retirement of Mark F. Giuliano.

“It’s been an intense couple of years,” McCabe says.