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Records detail Steussie's steroid use
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
WHAT HAPPENED A newspaper reports that medical records show several instances in which the Rams' Todd Steussie obtained illegal steroids while with Carolina and Tampa Bay.
Medical records made public in court documents showed that Rams offensive tackle Todd Steussie obtained illegal steroids on multiple occasions as a Carolina Panther and Tampa Bay Buccaneer from convicted doctor James Shortt.
According to the Charlotte Observer, court documents showed seven instances in which Steussie received prescriptions for items such as testosterone cream or humane growth hormone from Shortt.
Along with several other former Panthers, Steussie's name has been linked to Shortt for more than 18 months. But the Observer report in Sunday's editions provides details about the timing and frequency of the prescriptions.
According to the Observer, Steussie had three prescriptions for testosterone cream from Shortt between March 1, 2003, and March 16, 2004, with each prescription renewable five times.
"This wasn't just a passing flirtation with these prohibited substances," Dr. Gary Wadler told the Observer. "When I see (prescriptions) renewed five times, I say, 'What are you trying to accomplish?' "
Wadler is a steroids expert who reviewed the medical records for the U.S. Attorney's office.
Steroids can improve strength, muscle mass and endurance of athletes. But steroid use also is linked to several health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high-blood pressure and liver disorders.
Three of the five starting offensive linemen for the Panthers' 2003 Super Bowl team were mentioned in the Observer report as obtaining steroids prescriptions from Shortt. Besides Steussie, one of those starters was Kevin Donnalley, a St. Louis native who is now out of football.
According to the Observer, the medical records show that Steussie and a former Panthers teammate -- Louis Williams -- were given prescriptions for a total of five banned substances little more than a week before Carolina appeared in Super Bowl XXXVIII against New England. The paper also reported that Steussie received a prescription for testosterone cream on March 16, 2004, or one day after he signed a six-year, $20 million free-agent contract with Tampa Bay.
Steussie, now 35, hasn't been a full-time starter in the NFL since the 2003 season with Carolina, and hasn't started a game since 2004. He was released by the Buccaneers last March after two seasons with Tampa Bay.
On April 14, Steussie signed a one-year deal with the Rams worth $850,000 -- the veterans' minimum base salary of $810,000, plus a $40,000 signing bonus. He is the team's No. 3 tackle, backing up starters Orlando Pace and Alex Barron.
Through a team spokesman, Steussie declined comment Monday about the Observer report. Rams president of football operations Jay Zygmunt also declined comment Monday.
In what may be stating the obvious, the Rams were aware of Steussie's link to Shortt, and his alleged steroid use when they signed him. The team routinely does background tests on players before signing them, and checks on any possible substance-abuse issues with the NFL office.
Shortt, who is from West Columbia, South Carolina, was sentenced last month to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty to illegally distributing steroids and human growth hormone. None of the players linked to Shortt were prosecuted. In fact, none have ever failed an NFL steroids test, prompting questions about the league's testing program. In the wake of the Shortt investigation, the NFL and the NFL Players Association last year agreed to several changes steroids testing, including:
* An increase in offseason testing.
* A lower threshold of what constitutes a positive test for steroids use.
* More substances added to the banned list.
* The ability to re-test players' urine samples.
Even before these changes, all players were tested for steroids at least once per year in training camp. And seven players from each team are selected randomly each week for testing. A first-time positive test for steroids results in a four-game suspension without pay.
Last September, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told the Washington Post that every player who was part of the Shortt investigation would be subject to additional testing.
Re: Records detail Steussie's steroid use
osted on Sun, Aug. 27, 2006
On file: Steroids' risks, ravages
Medical records of ex-Panthers reveal ill effects, multiple refills leading to Super Bowl
The federal steroids case involving members of the Carolina Panthers Super Bowl team provides an unprecedented look at what some athletes risk to play professional sports, including one player who may have gambled with his life.
Medical records made public in court documents reveal that players were given multiple refillable steroid prescriptions and that some suffered unwanted, appearance-altering symptoms, prompting more prescriptions.
The medical records also raise questions that undercut the National Football League's claim that its steroids testing program is the best in pro sports.
"Several of them were using disturbing, particularly alarmingly high amounts with high dosages for long durations -- some in combinations," said steroids expert Dr. Gary Wadler, who reviewed the medical records and prepared a report for the U.S. Attorney's Office. "This wasn't just a passing flirtation with these prohibited substances.
"When I see (prescriptions) `renewed five times,' I say, `What are you trying to accomplish?' "
Wadler's report was used by prosecutors in the case against Dr. James Shortt, formerly of West Columbia, S.C., who was sentenced last month to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty to illegally distributing steroids and human growth hormone (HGH).
The players' names were blacked out of the copy of Wadler's report filed with the court, but the Observer determined their identities by analyzing court records and comparing that information to previous Observer reports and other public records.
Three of the five starting offensive linemen from the Panthers' February 2004 Super Bowl team -- guard Kevin Donnalley, center Jeff Mitchell and tackle Todd Steussie -- were in the report. Another member of that team, practice squad lineman Louis Williams, former Carolina tight end Wesley Walls and former University of South Carolina and NFL defensive lineman Henry Taylor were the other players.
Of the six, only Steussie is still playing in the NFL.
None of the players responded to the Observer's attempts to interview them. Among the revelations from the report and other documents filed as exhibits:
• Donnalley ignored his family history of stroke, putting his life at risk. Mitchell complained of hair loss and shrunken testicles, common side effects of steroid use. Steussie was prescribed anti-estrogen drugs usually reserved for female breast cancer and infertility patients but also used by male steroid users to prevent breast growth.
• Less than a week before the Panthers left Charlotte for the Super Bowl in Houston, Steussie and Williams were given prescriptions for a combined five NFL-banned substances, including two forms of testosterone.
The five included three additional substances Shortt prescribed to Panthers beyond what was previously known. They were injectable testosterone cypionate to Williams, and the banned supplement androstenedione and the hormone DHEA to Steussie. Shortt also prescribed stanozolol to Williams and testosterone cream to Steussie.
• Panthers players were commonly given testosterone prescriptions allowing five refills. Between April 2003 and March 2004, Donnalley and Steussie each were given three such prescriptions for testosterone cream, giving each the opportunity to fill prescriptions 18 times.
• For the first time since the case became public, the report indicates at least one of the players -- Mitchell -- got banned substances from a source other than Shortt. According to the report, Mitchell told Shortt in his first visit with the doctor in May 2003 that he was already using HGH daily.
• All six players in Wadler's report were prescribed or reported using HGH, which has been called the performance-enhancing drug of choice because pro sports such as the NFL and Major League Baseball have not approved a test for it, making it virtually undetectable.
The NFL uses urine tests for steroids and related substances. Blood tests for HGH were used to screen Olympic athletes in Athens in 2004, but NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw recently said he considered the blood tests unreliable and overly intrusive.
• The report shows at least two other NFL teams were affected. Records show Steussie continued getting prescriptions for banned substances from Shortt after joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2004, and that Taylor got prescriptions for testosterone cream, testosterone lozenges and HGH from Shortt between April and July 2002 while with the Miami Dolphins.
The court report provided wide-ranging information taken directly from the players' medical records, which were confiscated by investigators in a September 2004 raid of Shortt's West Columbia office and given to Wadler to examine.
Two other former Panthers previously identified by prosecutors in court as recipients of performance-enhancing substances from Shortt, defensive end John Milem and punter Todd Sauerbrun, were not in the report.
Wadler told the Observer he worries about the players' futures.
"There is no question I am concerned some of these drugs, when abused, will impact the long-term health of these athletes and manifest either in chronic illness, premature death or disability," he said. "These are not little minor medications that people are talking about. These are very substantial drugs."
Wadler also reviewed the medical records of eight other Shortt patients for his report, including body builders, a police officer and a teenage boy.
'Snapshot of' the culture
With doping scandals rocking the international sports community, only in the Shortt case have details from athletes' medical records become public in court documents."You probably have here in these cases as good of a snapshot of the real world of what goes on in that culture as anything that has ever been made public," Wadler told the Observer. "You just don't get these kinds of details.
"It really is a very unique opportunity for the court and the public to see what is entailed in this whole practice."
A committee member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Wadler has testified before congressional committees investigating steroids in sports.
The practice of using steroids illegally for performance enhancement has spawned sports scandals across the globe. Tour de France champion Floyd Landis showed an elevated level of testosterone after winning a stage in the race, putting his cycling title at risk. Record-holding track sprinter Justin Gatlin was suspended eight years for a similar infraction. Five-time Olympic track medalist Marion Jones could face a ban after tests showed she used the blood-boosting drug EPO. A federal grand jury in California is investigating whether baseball slugger Barry Bonds lied under oath about using steroids.
Steroids and related substances such as HGH can improve strength, muscle mass, and enhance endurance and athletic performance. But the drugs also are linked to health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disorders, depression, aggression, prostate enlargement and sexual disorders.
Wadler's report indicates the medical records for four of the six NFL players specifically listed performance enhancement. The players' records also showed they complained of symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, fatigue and decreased focus.
An NFL player's career is short and lucrative. As a player ages and suffers injuries, his grip on his career can become tenuous, tempting him to seek alternative ways to stay in the game.
Donnalley was the first of the five former Panthers players in the report to visit Shortt -- on July 22, 2002, four days before he reported to the team's first training camp under coach John Fox.
At the time, Donnalley was coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that shortened his 2001 season. He opened the '02 training camp as a second stringer but regained his starting position.
Wadler's report said Donnalley's medical file referred to testosterone lozenges and HGH in the player's first office visit to Shortt, but that it was unclear how the substances were obtained. However, the lozenges were subsequently referenced by Shortt when the doctor wrote that testosterone cream would provide Donnalley better absorption than the lozenges.
The report indicates that Donnalley was prescribed steady dosages of testosterone and HGH during his final NFL season in 2003 leading to the Super Bowl. Shortt wrote testosterone prescriptions good for five refills each on April 9, May 21 and Dec. 16, near the end of the regular season and 1 1/2 months before the Super Bowl.
Prosecutors entered into the court files a copy of a note from Shortt to Donnalley dated April 19, 2003, telling Donnalley how to mix and inject HGH.
Wadler's report cited a May 21, 2003, nurse's note saying more HGH was sent to Donnalley.
Wadler's report said Donnalley listed in his medical history given to Shortt that his father, William, had a stroke at age 40.
According to the death certificate, William Donnalley died at age 40 on Sept. 14, 1974, when Kevin was 6. His death came 14 days after suffering a stroke caused by the sudden rupture of an artery in his brain.
Wadler strongly criticized Shortt for giving steroids to Donnalley because of that family history. Studies have shown that steroids can adversely affect blood flow and cause clotting, which can lead to strokes and heart disease.
Donnalley recently announced his resignation as football coach at Charlotte Christian School, saying he took "inappropriate disciplinary action" against a player on Aug. 5. Sources close to the team said he angrily tackled a player from behind.
Of the three starting Super Bowl offensive linemen who were patients of Shortt, Mitchell had the shortest list of prescriptions. According to Wadler's report, he was prescribed testosterone cream with DHEA, each good for three refills, in June of 2003 and '04.The report does not show Mitchell obtained HGH from Shortt but does indicate Mitchell got HGH from another unidentified source.
Mitchell's medical files show he had regular interaction with Shortt between May 2003 and April 2004 and was treated for such medical issues as food allergies, asthma and pain.
A progress report shows Mitchell called Shortt's office on March 16, 2004, six weeks after the Super Bowl, to report that his hair was falling out.
A note dated April 7, 2004, said Mitchell called Shortt's office again to report testicular shrinkage and ask whether prostate medicine given to him by Shortt could be the cause.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday, the lead prosecutor in the case, referred to Mitchell's symptoms -- without naming the player -- in the March 6, 2006, court hearing, during which Shortt changed his plea to guilty.
"The interesting thing about those things are hair loss, a decrease in the size and function of the testicles, and prostate enlargement or problems, are all symptoms of prescribing or taking too much testosterone," Holliday said in court, quoting experts.
Wadler wrote in his report that the symptoms cited "could be readily attributable to anabolic steroids; however, this subject is not addressed at all by Dr. Shortt."
Pre-Super Bowl prescriptions
More than 35,000 Panthers fans attended a pre-Super Bowl pep rally in uptown Charlotte on Friday, Jan. 23, 2004. It was two days before the team flew to Houston, site of the game, which Carolina lost to New England, 32-29. Wadler's report said Steussie got prescriptions from Shortt the day of the pep rally for testosterone with DHEA; androstenedione; and the anti-estrogens Nolvadex and Clomid.
Wadler wrote that the only reason he could surmise for Steussie getting the anti-estrogens was to "minimize the estrogen effects, e.g., enlarged breast" that result from using testosterone.
Three days earlier, on Jan. 20, Louis Williams got prescriptions from Shortt for two steroids much more potent than the doctor normally provided for Panthers players -- stanozolol and testosterone cypionate, with needles and syringes for injecting them.
Williams, a seventh-round draft pick in 2001, rarely played in three years with the Panthers and sometimes was on the practice squad instead of the active roster. Donnalley, Mitchell and Steussie befriended Williams and made him the brunt of their practical jokes. They talked him into doing unusual things for money, including drinking hollandaise sauce, walking through a rat-infested sewer tunnel, and wearing short sleeves and short pants during a snowy practice in subfreezing temperatures.
Williams is the only one of the six NFL players cited in Wadler's report who was prescribed injectable testosterone instead of a cream, which is much less detectable.
Williams becomes the second Panthers player, joining Sauerbrun, linked to stanozolol in the Shortt case. Stanozolol is a powerful, highly detectable steroid that cost Ben Johnson his world record and gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Steroids expert and recently retired Penn State professor Dr. Charles Yesalis said it's hard to fathom how two Panthers players could have used stanozolol without failing an NFL drug test if the system works as well as the league suggests.
None of the Panthers players involved with Shortt ever tested positive for any banned substance while playing for Carolina, according to team officials. Shortt helped players avoid getting caught by generally prescribing them less detectable drugs than he gave body builders, who weren't tested.
Stanozolol was an exception, however.
"For guys who are supposedly being tested, stanozolol would be the last thing in the world they should be using," said Yesalis. "So now instead of one guy (Sauerbrun), you've got another guy? Why would he and Shortt have so much confidence nothing was going to happen?"
"Either the guy was a raving idiot or they knew there was no way results would have ever been reported.
"If you put testosterone cypionate and stanozolol in the body, you're hopping around like a bunny with a big sign saying, `Test me, test me, catch me, catch me.' "
Holliday told the court in Shortt's sentencing hearing last month that the Panthers players involved considered the NFL's testing system "almost a joke."
The NFL strongly defends its steroids testing program as the best in pro sports and has said the Shortt case merely reveals the limits of science to stay ahead of cheaters. League spokesman Greg Aiello said testing during the week leading to the Super Bowl for the two teams participating is the same as during the regular season -- seven players per team per week tested randomly.
The NFL lowered the threshold for a positive testosterone test since the Shortt case surfaced, reducing the requirement for a positive test to the Olympic standard. Aiello said the NFL has also intensified its efforts to identify synthetic testosterone by making greater use of the carbon-isotope ratio test that caught sprinter Gatlin.
Steussie's relationship with Shortt didn't stop when the Panthers released him after the Super Bowl.
On March 16, 2004, one day after signing a six-year, $20 million contract with Tampa Bay, Steussie received a multifaceted prescription from Shortt -- testosterone cream with five refills, testosterone cream with DHEA, and androstenedione. About two weeks later, Steussie placed a phone order for HGH to be mailed to his new address.
Steussie played two years for the Buccaneers and is currently a backup with the St. Louis Rams, who signed him in April.
The unanswered question
Walls, one of the most beloved players in Panthers history, told the Observer for a Dec. 15, 2005, story that he never went back to Shortt after a Feb. 18, 2003, consultation documented by transcripts of an audiotape read by prosecutors in court."I went down there in February, whatever," said Walls. "It was for a consultation and I never went back."
Wadler's report shows that Walls didn't do business with Shortt after the Feb. 18, 2003, consultation but left the doctor's office that day with prescriptions for testosterone cream and HGH -- both good for five refills.
Wadler wrote "there is absolutely no legitimate medical basis established justifying the use of human growth hormone or testosterone in this patient." Wadler reached similar conclusions with the other five players.
Walls' career was in its final stages when he visited Shortt. The doctor noted Walls didn't feel good, wasn't sleeping well and that "guys recommended he come."
The Panthers released Walls eight days later, and he played the 2003 season with the Green Bay Packers before retiring.
Free, but not clear
None of the former Panthers were criminally charged in the Shortt case, but their connection to the doctor drew pointed commentary in court hearings.
Shortt's attorney, Allen Burnside, said prosecutors, who called some former Panthers to testify against Shortt before a grand jury, tried to make a scapegoat of the doctor. Instead, Burnside said, they should have pursued charges against the players, whom he labeled co-conspirators.
Holliday, the lead prosecutor, wrote in a court motion filed June 12 that the players were role models to thousands of young people and their illegal involvement with Shortt sent a dangerous message.
"These young people are no doubt heavily influenced by the win-at-all-costs mindset that (Shortt) served," wrote Holliday. "He appeared at least three times on nationally televised programs to profess his innocence, effectively telling these impressionable student-athletes that abusing their bodies by using performance-enhancing drugs was an acceptable alternative to playing by the rules."
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Joe Anderson, in closing remarks after sentencing Shortt on July 17, said the Shortt case and other recent steroid scandals in sports violated a sacred trust.
"This Court cannot ignore the controversy surrounding the use of steroids by professional athletes," Anderson said. "Performance-enhancing drugs such as human growth hormone and steroids irreparably tarnish the career achievements of many athletes whose records and accomplishments are called into question.
"In that sense, the victims of the crimes such as the one at issue here include not only the athletes themselves, but also sports fans in living rooms all over the country."
Re: Records detail Steussie's steroid use
this is just sad, players just HAVE to take steriods now, i give kudos to the players that are playing legit. do they not feel comforitable with themselves that they have to take steriods?Built RAM tough
Re: Records detail Steussie's steroid use
Steussie is alright. I think we're going to need his veteran experience all season long to backup our OL, especially now that Terrell is out.
As for Todd taking "steroids", no, no, no. He did not. They were Centrum Performance vitamins. Legal and sold OTC. Period.