When the Dominican Winter League is in session, business booms at
Farmacia Livia in Santo Domingo. The pharmacy, located about 100
yards from the capital's main stadium, Estadio Quisqueya, is a
regular stop for baseball players shopping for steroids. Wally
Montilla, a 32-year-old pharmacy student who works at Livia,
estimates the store sold twice as many steroids during Winter
League ball as it did the rest of the year.
Buying steroids in many parts of Latin America is no different
from buying aspirin in the U.S. Steroids are prominently
displayed and sold over the counter, affording Latin players home
for the off-season and Americans playing winter ball easy access
to steroids for weeks and months. During the regular season,
ballplayers are known to make day trips into Mexico for
restocking purposes, according to a minor league outfielder who
asked not to be named. "I've heard of a few guys getting together
on an off day and going to Mexico for steroids," the outfielder
says. "Or someone might be making a run and other guys might
place an order."
SI reporters traveled to Santo Domingo and San Pedro de Macoris
in the Dominican Republic, and Tijuana, Mexico, where at every
stop they easily purchased steroids. They bought Anabolex,
Deca-Durabolin, Testoprim-D, Testoviron Depot and Winstrol-V,
which is labeled as an anabolic steroid for use in dogs, cats and
horses and warns that it is "not to be administered to horses
that are to be slaughtered for use in food."
No fewer than 50 pharmacies are clustered in a six-block radius
in Tijuana, 18 miles south of San Diego. At one of them a clerk
named Emmanuel sold SI packages of Deca and Testoprim-D, which he
said was the most popular testosterone product among
weightlifters, bodybuilders, college students, baseball players
and other athletes who frequent the store.
Transporting steroids into the U.S. is illegal. Emmanuel
recommended to an SI reporter that he throw away the packaging
and syringes and conceal the vials on his person while driving
back across the border into the U.S.
Stopping ballplayers or steroid suppliers with vials concealed
inside their pants is not a high priority for U.S. Customs
inspectors on alert for terrorists and weapons of mass
destruction. Recreational drugs, including cocaine, amphetamines
and marijuana, also rank as a higher priority than steroids.
Still, customs agents in 2000, the last year for which statistics
are available, did make 8,724 seizures involving steroids with a
street value of $38 million. That represented a 46% increase in
seizures from the previous year. --T.V.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK PHARMACY CHAIN In Tijuana rows of drug stores sell steroids and other performance enhancers over the counter.