Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston Death Investigation to Take Weeks

First appeared in LA Times
Toxicology tests that could help show how Whitney Houston died Saturday in Beverly Hills are expected to take weeks to complete.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office performed an autopsy Sunday, but no official cause of death has been determined. Houston was found in the bathtub of her suite at the Beverly Hilton hotel, and officials are trying to determine whether she drowned.

A member of Houston's entourage found her unresponsive Saturday afternoon in her suite at the hotel and called authorities. Beverly Hills Fire Department paramedics performed CPR for about 20 minutes before declaring her dead.

Sources who were briefed on the probe Sunday said drowning is one of several scenarios investigators are exploring. The sources stressed that investigators still have many unanswered questions, particularly about what Houston was doing in the hours before her death. Investigators are also interviewing family members and friends to determine whether Houston had any underlying medical conditions, said the sources, who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.

One source with knowledge of the case said that although Houston was found in the bathtub, officials are still unsure if she died of natural causes or was in some other way stricken.

[Updated at 5 p.m.: At a press conference, a coroner's spokesman said the autopsy was complete but a cause of death was still pending. The Beverly Hills police put a security hold on the case, so no more details were revealed.]

Houston struggled with drug and alcohol problems for years, and last May her spokeswoman said the singer was going back into rehab.

She was in Beverly Hills for music industry titan Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammys party Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton. Over the previous few days, she had made several public appearances. At times, she was said to have been acting strangely, skipping around a ballroom and reportedly doing handstands near the hotel pool. Houston greeted people with a warm smile but at times appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and with her hair dripping wet.

On Thursday, she dropped by the rehearsals for the event, where the news media -- including a Times reporter -- were in attendance. A Grammy staffer said that as reporters interviewed Davis and singers Brandy and Monica, Houston was dancing just off camera to make them laugh. Grammy personnel expressed concern that she'd be caught on camera and that reporters would write about her behavior.

Beverly Hills police, who are investigating the case in conjunction with the coroner's office, said Saturday night it was far too early to determine whether drugs or alcohol played any role in Houston's death.

Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen said Houston was at the hotel with a large entourage of family, friends and co-workers, some of whom helped identify her body after she was declared dead.

On Sunday morning, a bleary-eyed music star Ray J was briefly inside the lobby of the Beverly Hilton with three companions.

Ray J, who reportedly had been dating Houston off and on, had his hood up and was being consoled.

“Whitney dead,” he repeated multiple times, as one friend grabbed him by the shoulders. “Whitney dead. We all gotta live with that.”

A little later, he left the hotel in the passenger seat of a red Ferrari.

The hotel has been besieged by fans who assembled a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and notes for Houston.

“Bittersweet memories that is all we will take with us,” read one note. “We will always LOVE you.”
One woman drove by, turning onto Santa Monica Boulevard from Wilshire Boulevard, asking a reporter on the street corner to add a bouquet to the mix. Another woman snapped a photo with her iPhone on the way to the bus stop.

“Oh, there's my bus, I'm always late,” she said, running to the stop. “Just hope I'm not late to heaven.”

Worshipers at the First A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles held a special moment of silence in honor of Houston at their 10 a.m. service. Their pastor, John J. Hunter, described Houston as “one of the most dynamic voices of our time,” according to an announcement on the church website. “We are all deeply saddened by her passing, and our hearts go out to her family,” he said.

Meanwhile, Whitney Houston’s teenage daughter was taken by paramedics from the Beverly Hilton to a nearby hospital Sunday morning. She was reportedly released in the afternoon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cocaine vs Steroids in MLB

First appeared in Bleacher Report
Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd has a book coming out in which he admits to using cocaine throughout his baseball career. Boyd admitted in an interview with WBZ-Radio that he played under the influence of cocaine two-thirds of the time he was on the mound. According to Boyd, it wasn't just him (via

“I feel like my career was cut short for a lot of reasons, but I wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time; because that’s how I learned it," he said.

Boyd's career spanned the decade of the 1980s when cocaine was the worst-kept secret in baseball. Today's culture is so caught up with steroids that many of us forget—or weren't around yet—when the drug of choice for Major League Baseball players was cocaine, not steroids, human growth hormone or the new wave of performance enhancers.

Is there really a difference?

That's the question I can't wrap my head around when former athletes come out and admit they used cocaine or other "recreational drugs" during their careers: Why is that different than taking performance-enhancing drugs?

It's not different. Taking amphetamines or cocaine before a game would enhance performance just as much, if not more, than taking steroids. In fact, taking steroids is the long-form way of breaking the rules while cocaine and amphetamines should be looked at as the "get hits quick" method of cheating the game.

Most anabolic steroids, as we have learned through baseball's very public history with the drugs, are used to help athletes heal faster and give muscles the ability to recover quicker after exertion.

With steroids, the player still has to put in the work. You can't just shoot yourself in the ass and magically become faster or stronger. Yes, surely it has been well-documented that steroids help that process, but you can't compare the immediate benefits of anabolic steroids or human growth hormone to the instant reaction your body has by taking cocaine.

We look at the history of cocaine use (and abuse) in baseball as a recreational problem because it exists in recreational circles. In the 1980s, anyone in the stadium—players, coaches, fans, media—could leave the game and find a place to do cocaine. Players could go into the stadium bathrooms during games to find some blow just like the guy in the nosebleed seats (cheap pun, I know).

Cocaine exists in the real world. In the 1990s and into the 2000s, steroid use added a layer of disconnect the more recreational drugs never had. Reporters and fans would never go hang out with friends after a game and stick steroid needles in each other. Unless you are a workout freak, there is no "recreational" reason to use steroids like there is with cocaine.

That doesn't mean cocaine isn't also a performance enhancer.

Let's WebMD this for a minute:

What's so great about being high on coke? Cocaine users often describe the euphoric feeling as:

·         an increasing sense of energy and alertness
·         an extremely elevated mood
·         a feeling of supremacy

Those sure sound like performance enhancers to me.

In September of 1985, MLB made national news when players on the Pittsburgh Pirates and several other teams in the league were brought before a grand jury in connection to the buying and selling of cocaine. There was talk at the time that Dave Parker's potential Hall of Fame bid was hurt by his involvement in the scandal. Tim Raines, now a hot topic with baseball purists for Hall of Fame induction, was right at the center of that scandal as well.

Jerry Crasnick of ESPN wrote a story back in 2007 that laid out the case for Raines making the Hall of Fame. After highlighting his numbers—certainly Hall of Fame statistics when properly dissected—Crasnick explained Raines' (literal) baggage:

Raines has some personal baggage to overcome. During the Pittsburgh drug trials in the early 1980s, Raines testified that he kept a gram of coke in his uniform pocket, snorted during games, and made a point of sliding head-first so as not to break the vial. Not exactly a wholesome image there.

It would be a cheap joke to wonder why Raines really he had the nickname "Rock," but Raines' involvement with cocaine was certainly no joke. He had it in his pocket during games? Cocaine was so important to Raines the drug actually impacted the way he played on the field. Twenty-seven years after Raines was embroiled in an enormous scandal for the sport, it seems there is not a baseball writer alive who doesn't stump for Raines to get into the Hall of Fame. Well, except whatever voters are still keeping him out.

Because cocaine is seen as a recreational stimulant, people looked at players hooked on the drug as addicts. Cocaine has ruined the lives of many people in the world and certainly had negative effects on the careers of several prominent baseball players in the 1980s. Bring up cocaine to Mets fans and they can run down a list of players whose careers were impacted by the drug.

I'm not downplaying the addictive nature of cocaine. I'm merely trying to point out that because normal people get addicted to it all the time, fans and media covering baseball seem to make excuses for players who use cocaine when it comes to the history of the game.

Players who abused cocaine had a problem. Players who abused steroids are cheaters.

In 2005, Bud Selig got the MLB Players Association to officially ban the use of amphetamines (greenies), a drug experts suggest had a far bigger impact on the drop of offense between 2005 and 2010 than steroid enforcement.

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt wrote a book in 2006 that openly discussed the use of greenies during games, saying amphetamines were "widely available in major-league clubhouses."

Schmidt explained that amphetamines helped players get up for games during the long, daunting baseball season. Blogger Murray Chass, writing back then for The New York Times, mentioned that players couldn't take the pills too early in case the game was rained out and they "spent the rest of the night climbing walls."

Willie Mays—one of the four or five greatest players in the history of the sport—reportedly had a liquid form of amphetamines in his locker when he played with the Mets.

Mays reportedly had a bottle in his locker containing a liquefied drug, classified as a controlled substance, and how is this different from Mark McGwire having a bottle of Androstenedione or Barry Bonds having "the cream" and "the clear" in his locker? How?

Yes, thankfully baseball has better testing now than it did when Mays or Boyd or even Bonds played. From what we know, the game is remarkably cleaner than it has been at any time in history. It just feels like the gatekeepers of baseball's history are making an example out of this generation of player without using proper context into how drugs—both recreational and performance-enhancing—have helped the careers of previous generations.

Ferguson Jenkins was once briefly suspended from baseball when a customs agent found drugs in his luggage, including three grams of cocaine. Some suggest "that cocaine incident" delayed his induction into the Hall of Fame. Others have suggested the same for Raines, that his involvement with cocaine could be a reason why he hasn't gotten into Cooperstown yet.

But he will. Raines will be a Hall of Famer, maybe as early as next year, the same year that Bonds and Roger Clemens are eligible. Do voters have a that short of a memory? Do they not recall the drug use that impacted Raines' career and helped him perform on the field, or do they simply not care because there are other more topical drug issues to expose?

If Raines or any player—Schmidt, Mays and other Hall of Famers included—who used and abused "recreational" drugs is ostensibly forgiven for their drug-related sins over time, then Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and, heck, even guys like Ryan Braun should eventually be judged with the same wide scope. Throughout the history of the game, players have always been using something to get them through the rigors of the season. Using drugs to cheat the game is wrong, but to pretend this generation of cheating is somehow worse feels just as wrong.

In 25 years when players are injecting their muscles with liquefied oxygen because a scientist found it can regenerate muscles tears faster than steroids, will we look back at Bonds, McGwire and this generation of cheaters any differently? Will steroid users be remembered as addicts like history remembers the cocaine users in baseball and we will eventually feel sympathy for those who ruined their lives (or lost their lives) by taking steroids?

Oil Can Boyd is not a Hall of Famer. He's not even close. If he didn't take so many drugs, would things have been different for him? He thinks he might have won twice as many games in his career if it weren't for all those drug-addled sleepless nights.

The game is full of stories like Boyd's, the drug of choice changing with each passing generation. Some players had their careers destroyed by drugs. Others had Hall of Fame numbers because of them. History—specifically those who guard the entrance to history's front door—is ill-equipped to determine the difference between addiction and cheating, recreation and performance-enhancing.