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Ex-baseball pro pushed steroids on young players

July 05,2019
A retired 35-year-old baseball player was arrested on allegations he illegally purchased and sold steroids to young athletes at his private baseball academy in Seoul.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said Wednesday that the suspect allegedly purchased steroids and other human growth hormone substances from the black market and sold them to seven of his students for a year.

The ministry only identified the suspect by his surname - Lee - his age and the fact that he formerly played for the KBO. Yet local media and baseball organizations pointed to Lee Yeo-sang, who started his professional baseball career in 2007 with the Samsung Lions, then went on to play for the Hanwha Eagles and Lotte Giants before retiring in 2017. He started his academy the same year in Jamsil, Songpa District, southern Seoul.

The ministry said Lee sold his students steroids and various other supplements over the past year, cashing in on about 160 million won ($136,780) through the scheme. Lee is known to have separately received nearly 3 million won in monthly lesson fees from each student.

According to the ministry, which said it first picked up the case last month after receiving a tip-off from an unidentified source, Lee’s students did not know they were receiving steroids. It appears Lee told the young players the drugs were “medicine” that would boost their physical strength and enable them to go on playing for the KBO like he did.

The academy was attended by students from elementary school to high school, and the ministry believes seven of them took banned drugs, though it was unclear whether all seven took steroids. Two tested positive in a recent doping test organized by the Korea Anti-Doping Agency (KADA), while the results for five others have yet to be determined, the ministry said in a press release.

It is unknown how old the two athletes are, but under KADA regulations, anyone who administered a banned drug is prohibited from playing for any school or professional team for the next four years. Steroids are legal in Korea, but only with a prescription. The ministry did not explain whether Lee’s students who tested positive would face any criminal charges. The ministry said it was unavailable for media inquiries when the Korea JoongAng Daily called on Thursday.

Lee denied his students took steroids during recent questioning by the ministry, saying he purchased the drugs for his own use and that his students tested positive because they had been receiving “skin treatment,” which the ministry doesn’t believe.

A ministry official said “loads” of steroids were found in Lee’s academy when members of the ministry’s investigation team raided it. The drug in question is stanozolol, an androgen and anabolic steroid medication. The drug was first banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1974.

The father of a youth baseball player who purchased steroids from Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday that Lee told his students that the “medicine was so good that all professional players used to secretly share it among themselves.”

BY RHEE ESTHER, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]