Jonathan Papelbon's admission last week that he was regularly injected with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) known as Toradol during his time with the Red Sox has left Pandora's Box slightly ajar in regards to the extent of the legal NSAID's use in the Boston clubhouse.
Three sources, including former Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling, have attested that a former Red Sox trainer and physical therapist frequently injected players with the drug for six seasons, which may have been in violation of Massachusetts state law, report Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Mike Reinold, an athletic trainer and physical therapist for the Red Sox who was fired after last season, used Toradol to treat players, mostly Boston's pitchers, Schilling and three other sources said...
The Massachusetts board of Allied Health Professionals, which regulates trainers in the state, has disciplined multiple trainers in recent years for injecting patients, regardless of the drug administered.
"It is the board's position that athletic trainers are prohibited from using injectables," said Amie Breton, director of communications for the Massachusetts' Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations.
Major League Baseball already launched an investigation into the actions of Reinold in 2012, and found that the trainer did indeed inject players with the drug between 2006-2011. There are conflicting reports about whether Reinold's authorization from a team doctor prevented the league from taking any disciplinary action at the conclusion of the investigation. As a result of that investigation, MLB sent out a league-wide memorandum prior to last season prohibiting trainers from injecting Toradol.
Reinold, 35, began his tenure with the Red Sox in 2006 as an assistant athletic trainer and was promoted to head trainer in 2009. He then moved on to become the team's physical therapist between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He released the following statement no the matter, denying any wrongdoing:
"Every medical treatment I provided was under the direction, authority and knowledge of a team physician and appropriately documented. Any suggestion to the contrary would be false."
Officials in Massachusetts have yet to open an investigation into Reinold's tenure with the Red Sox, and will not do so unless someone files a formal complaint to the appropriate board.
If a complaint is filed, it remains to be seen whether any legal recourse can be had against Reinold. The statutes of state law discussing the allowed practices of athletic trainers are a bit nebulous, and have no explicit language prohibiting injections, per Passan.
Though he has taken essentially all of the flak thus far, Reinold was not alone in his potential breach of state law.
Schilling, for his part, admitted to receiving an injection of Toradol prior to "almost every single game" for the last decade of his career, but none at the hands of Reinold. While Schilling was never directly injected by Reinold, however, he and the two other sources did often see the trainer in question inject other players in a secluded area of the clubhouse.
Toradol injections are completely legal in baseball so long as they are carried out at the behest of a physician -- as is the pill version of the drug -- but one would be remiss to say that they do not enhance, or at least hold steady, performance. In sharing a story about his start on April 7, 2002, against the Milwaukee Brewers, Schilling -- who was then playing for the D'Backs -- demonstrates the powerful effect that a drug like Toradol can have on a player's ability:
"I slept on a pillow wrong," he said. "I woke up at 5:30 [a.m.]. I couldn't move my head. I went to the ballpark at 6:30 for a 1:30 [p.m.] game. Worked for four hours on it. I literally couldn't move my head. I went to the bullpen and started throwing and I didn't think there was any way I could pitch.
"Then the Toradol kicked in. I threw a one-hitter and struck out 17."
I don't know about you, but going from not being able to move one's head to throwing a 17-strikeout one-hitter does not seem like a natural occurrence.
In the Papelbon article from earlier this week, it was reported that Red Sox starters were regularly injected with the drug prior to their starts. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Clay Buchholz have all admitted to using the drug, which gives greater credence to Papelbon and Schilling's claims.
Once again, Toradol is a legal drug, both in baseball and in general. But it comes with very high risks -- gastrointestinal bleeding, anyone? -- has obvious performance-enhancing effects (see: above), and is not supposed to be used without the direct supervision of a physician.
What this all comes down to, in the end, is deciding where the line should be drawn with regards to drugs that can enhance performance in more subtle ways like numbing and/or pain-killing. Should all NSAIDs -- like Advil and Aleve -- be banned? Or just ones like Toradol? What about legal steroid injections like cortisone?
Thus far, this story has yet to gain much steam in the mainstream media for whatever reason. Let's hope these new developments -- like the fact the Schilling was injected with the drug more than 300 times in his career -- make people take a bit more notice.