The Shots Heard 'Round the World

Inside the Bush administration’s steroids scandal

Illustrations by Steve Brodner

An open letter from Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig:

With Opening Day upon us and Hank Aaron’s hallowed career home-run record likely to come under controversial assault this season, it is with some urgency that I share with you disturbing new revelations about the conduct of several current and former Bush administration heavy hitters.

In recent weeks, baseball’s ongoing investigation, led by former Washington Senators left fielder George Mitchell, has turned up damaging new evidence.

Put simply, it has become clear that when key players in the Bush administration appeared in 2005 before the reform committee of Major League Baseball and declared under oath that they had never knowingly used steroids while conducting foreign policy, they were not being truthful with the American public. Formerly classified urine samples conclusively confirm the charges—first leveled in former Oakland A’s star Jose Canseco’s book, Juiced—that Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz regularly injected each other in the buttocks with anabolic steroids during the 2001 and 2002 seasons.

From Atlantic Unbound:

"American as Apple Pie" (March 16, 2005)
A cartoon by Sage Stossel.

In those years, even while many astute critics noted the two men’s freakish increase in head size and sense of invincibility, we in Major League Baseball were slow to recognize the severity of the problem, despite the administration’s dramatic surge in both home runs and invasions of far-off lands.

But coded doping calendars recently obtained by Mr. Mitchell show that the Bush team’s clubhouse watercoolers have for years been spiked with an astonishing array of controlled substances, including testosterone decanoate and the inordinately powerful steroid trenbolone—apparently obtained from President Bush’s Texas ranch—that is intended to improve the muscle quality of beef cattle.

Indeed, the culture of Cabinet-level testosterone supplementation is now so pervasive that Mr. Bush is said to think nothing of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s habit of crushing beer cans against her forehead and belching triumphantly during state dinners.

Further revelations have emerged in leaked grand-jury testimony regarding possible perjury by former vice-presidential chief of staff and personal trainer I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. The perjury case arose from Mr. Libby’s 2003 testimony before a grand jury probing the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), a nutritional-supplement company since exposed as the steroid supplier to several top athletes and neoconservative thinkers. Mr. Libby testified that he was unaware that two gooey substances he had dutifully slathered on Vice President Dick Cheney’s pate (and which presidential strength coach Karl Rove simultaneously smeared inside Mr. Bush’s favorite Stetson) were the undetectable designer steroids known as “the cream” and “the clear.” To his knowledge, Mr. Libby testified, the two substances were Kaopectate and flaxseed oil.

But as early as fall 2001, after the American military’s early success in crushing both the Taliban and the single-season home-run record, members of the administration’s inner circle began to worry that both Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney were becoming prone to the sort of spasmodic aggressiveness common among steroid abusers.

Presented by

John Freeman Gill writes regularly for The New York Times.

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