Ex-baseball player retracts comments on stimulant use

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- Retired South Korean baseball All-Star Lee Sung-yong on Tuesday retracted a comment he made earlier on a talk show about taking stimulants during his career, saying he only lied about the substance use to make the program more entertaining.

Lee claimed on an Internet baseball talk show Monday that he had used a stimulating substance during one Korean Series, the championship final in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). The former first baseman discussed how his focus had sharpened and he began to see the ball better at the plate. Lee, who played 18 years in the league, is now a cable television analyst.

Less than 24 hours later, Lee retracted the statement, saying he had only heard about the effects of the substance from foreign players who had consumed the drug. He added that he deliberately exaggerated the part about taking the drug to make the show more entertaining for the viewers.

Lee claimed he has never taken any substance to enhance his play, and apologized for making such thoughtless comments.

Lee, 42, retired with a .281 career batting average in 2,001 games with 162 home runs and 857 RBIs. He is one of only six KBO players to have appeared in more than 2,000 games.

Lee played in six Korean series, the last one coming in 2004 for the Hyundai Unicorns, which defeated the Samsung Lions for the title. The KBO began testing for illegal substances in 2007.

A doping official at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) said, based on Lee's words only, it is impossible to tell which particular substance Lee was referring to on the talk show.

Lee may have been discussing amphetamine, better known as "greenie" in baseball vernacular. Greenies are known to have been widely used by Major League Baseball (MLB) players for decades. In his classic tell-all book "Ball Four," published in 1970, former big league pitcher Jim Bouton detailed the use of greenies as a cure for a hangover and fatigue.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2003 removed caffeine and pseudoephedrine, a form of stimulant, from its list of banned and restricted substances. The WADA monitored pseudoephedrine but put it back on the banned list in 2010.

When the WADA first removed pseudoephedrine from the banned list, sports scientists widely criticized the move, saying it would only encourage abuse of the freely available stimulant.

The Korea Anti-Doping Agency (KADA) also follows the WADA's banned list.

The KBO said it has no information on drug use in the league prior to 2007 and it probably won't investigate a retired player without hard evidence of drug use during his career.

No active KBO player has tested positive for illegal drugs. One former KBO pitcher, Daniel Rios, tested positive for steroids while playing for the Yakult Swallows in Japan in 2008, one year after winning the KBO MVP for the Doosan Bears.

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