Four years ago, the Durham Bulls swept the Pawtucket Red Sox to become back-to-back International League champions, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in more than 10 years in Triple-A baseball.
But at least two Bulls players on the 2003 championship team purchased performance-enhancing drugs either shortly after or before that season, according to a scathing, 400-page report by retired U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell on the widespread use of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs in Major and Minor League Baseball.
Of the 89 Major League Baseball players named in the report, 11 passed through Durham.
One month after the Bulls' Jim Parque pitched Game Two of the Paw Sox series—giving up three runs over six innings—he wrote a $3,200 check to Kirk Radomski, the former Mets clubhouse attendant and the investigation's key informant. Radomski said with that check, and a subsequent payment of $1,600, Parque bought two supplies of human growth hormone.
As part of a plea bargain, Radomski provided Mitchell with personal checks, money orders, mailing receipts, phone numbers and corroborating reports of players to whom he sold performance-enhancing drugs.
Radomski said Parque initially contacted him after the Bulls' 2003 championship season, asking him to "check out" a bottle of Winstrol, an orally-administered anabolic steroid. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Parque said the checks were for "a bunch of supplements, some creatine, vitamins, some stuff to increase my red-blood-cell count and some herbs from South America."
In 2001, Radomski said he sold Parque's 2003 teammate, relief pitcher Todd Williams, the same steroid. Over 70 innings during the 2003 regular season, Williams maintained a 1.54 ERA, giving up just 12 earned runs—by far the lowest numbers of his career.
Yet, on June 9, he was placed on a three-day suspension—for which the Bulls gave no explanation.
In an interview with the Indy, Bulls Vice President George Habel denied the team's front office knew why Williams was suspended. Of the pitcher's improved performance in 2003, Habel said, "I could see where you would draw the conclusion."
In a Dec. 15, 2007, interview with the Tampa Tribune, Williams' agent declined to refute the allegations against the pitcher.
Habel, who said he supports the Mitchell report, blamed Major League Baseball for failing to actively enforce drug violations. He said the physical transformation of Bulls players named in the report was less obvious than that of other major leaguers.
"You didn't have anyone undergo this hulk-like transformation where you can say everybody knew something was going on," Habel said. "I don't think our organization has been complicit in condoning that kind of thing. But 10 or 11 guys have been name and it's a blight on the game and an embarrassment to our organization."
Other Bulls players named in the report include journeyman catcher Tim Laker who was with the team in 1998 and 2005. He admitted to using steroids throughout the 1990s, on four occasions, he purchased testosterone and syringes from Radomski.
Relief pitcher Bart Miadich, whom Radomski described as a "frequent purchaser" of testosterone and Winstrol from 2002-2005, pitched 26 games for the Bulls in 2006, his final year of professional baseball. Radomski's last recollection of selling Miadich performance-enchancing drugs occurred during the 2005 off-season, shortly before he arrived in Durham.
Pitcher Josias Manzanillo started 14 games for the Bulls in 1998. According to Radomski, Manzanillo is the only player he "actually observed" using steroids when he personally injected him with Deca-Durabolin in 1994. Manzanillo's lawyer told Mitchell that his client purchased "one cycle" of steroids from Radomski, but that he "chickened out" and never took them. Manzanillo's name and phone number were discovered in the directory of a drug dealer who, in 2001, was detained at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif.
Other Bulls named in the report include David Justice (1986), Kent Mercker (1987), Mike Stanton (1988), John Rocker (1997), and Brendan Donnelly (1999) Jose Guillen (2000).