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It’s a quiet Saturday morning in March. Ichiro Suzuki, a larger-than-life figure in Seattle and all of baseball, sits at home pouring the anabolic steroid known as “The Cream” over his corn flakes. “Switched from milk after my rookie year” he says, through his translator and close friend, Allen Turner. “Ya know, for my health.” Turner sits silent during our interview, eating his own corn flakes doused in steroids. “We do everything together,” he says. So when Ichiro started juicing, so did Turner. “I started taking PEDs in 2003,” says Turner. “I learned Mandarin in six hours.”
Suzuki, who retired after a two-game Japanese farewell tour at age 45, attributes his success and longevity in the game to one thing: “Just a whole bunch of ‘roids.” When he arrived in America in 2002, he felt a great deal of pressure to perform right away. Some assistance came in the form of a familiar face.
“Palmeiro was on the Rangers my rookie year,” Suzuki says, “They came to town, and we met for ice cream. Instead of rainbow sprinkles, Raffy put testosterone flakes on his vanilla bean—said I should try it.” Turner also recalls the meeting vividly: “I got rocky road.”
After starting a basic steroid regimen, Ichiro finished his rookie season with a .350 batting average, 242 hits, and eight colossal dingers. “Unbelievable raw power,” said former manager Lou Piniella, in between shots of Jack Daniels. “Shiatsu might’ve been the best hitter I’ve ever seen.” In 2003, Ichiro followed his incredible rookie campaign with a just-as-impressive sophomore season, smashing another eight home runs. But it wasn’t enough.
“I really got into the regimen during the offseason before 2004,” says Suzuki. “I knew I could do better.” Showing off coded journals and spreadsheets he and Turner had created, there’s a noticeable spike in his intake after the 2003 season. “Beaver tooth extract, concentrated elephant tusk, and tears of peacock: That’s what I lived on.” He seems lost in thought for a moment. “I didn’t eat a single meal that winter,” he adds. “Just so many roids.”
The result showed on the field. Ichiro erupted for 13 round-trippers that season and the fame became addicting. “Everyone knew when I came to the plate, that I could possibly send one deep.” But the surge in power came at a cost. “The roid rage got pretty bad,” acknowledges Turner. “Ichiro went four for five one game in Boston, but only hit singles. That night while we played Monopoly, he was just ruthless.” Ichiro sinks low into his steroid-soaked corn flakes as Turner recounts that night. He murmurs almost inaudibly “I was buying up every property. No mercy.”
As the years wore on, Ichiro claims to have found a balance in his regimen. He acknowledges that he may have gone overboard early on, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped using. He’s watched other elite power hitters and pitchers get caught, as the likes of Starling Marte, Stephen Wright, and Dee Gordon were slapped with suspensions. “I knew for years that Dee was using. Stand him next to Mark McGwire and tell me if you can see a difference.”
The rampant use begs the question of how Suzuki managed to avoid detection all these years. A wry smile comes to his face as I ask him how he’s stayed out of trouble. Turner answers for him. “He’s been approached dozens of times for testing, and each time we inform the tester that such a practice is against traditional Japanese customs.” Turner laughs and shakes his head. “That response terrifies white people.”
Ultimately, the future Hall of Famer is unapologetic about his steroid use. “At the end of the day, you can’t take my 117 homers out of the record books,” says Suzuki. “I just hope I inspire the next generation to take the easy way whenever possible.”
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)