Alex Rodriguez's specifics of what banned substances he ingested, and how he obtained them, served to reinforce the fact that steroid use among athletes remains a black-market endeavor.
Rodriguez said he took a drug he pronounced as "bowl-ee" what steroid expert Dr. Gary Wadler assumed was steroid slang -- probably spelled "boli" -- for either Primabolan, which was reported to have triggered Rodriguez's 2003 positive test, or Dianabol, better known as methandrostenolone.
It was methandrostenolone, said Wadler, the World Anti-Doping Agency member based in Manhasset, that showed up in at least three of the 2003 "survey" tests done by Major League Baseball.
Rodriguez also admitted to using an off-the-shelf product known as Ripped Fuel, which contained ephedra, the adrenaline-like stimulant cited in the 2003 death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. At the time, baseball did not test for amphetamines and banned them after the 2005 season.
Rodriguez, the son of Dominican Republic natives who lived as a young child in the Dominican and has family roots there, told reporters that he obtained the steroid from an unnamed cousin in the Dominican Republic. Many steroids prohibited for human use by the FDA are available in Latin America.
Rodriguez said he took "boli" via injection, adding to the mystery, because Wadler said that Dianabol is "fundamentally an oral preparation, though, on underground Web sites, there are injectible forms. So it could be Dianabol, or it could be Primabolan."
Both an injectable Dianabol and Primabolan appear to be animal steroids, and it was the widespread use of animal steroids by aspiring major leaguers in the Dominican that triggered a 2005 protest by a Hispanic advocacy group outside the Manhattan offices of baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Bearing two coffins, to represent the deaths of two teenage Dominican players that year, Hispanics Across America president Fernando Mateo claimed that baseball had "closed their eyes" to the problem of young players using cheap and widely available steroids bought in Dominican pet stores and endangering their lives to get bigger and stronger.
When baseball began testing in the Dominican Republic in 2003, two years after it initiated an anti-doping program in the U.S.-based minor leagues, there was a positive rate of 11 percent among 894 tests conducted, mostly among teenage prospects.