by Sam Levin
Update: Albert Pujols has threatened to sue Jack Clark over the latter's on-air allegations of steroid use involving Pujols' longtime friend and trainer Chris Mihlfeld.
Late yesterday, Pujols issued a statement through his agency, MVP Sports Group, saying that he's been tested hundreds of times throughout his career and never once tested positive.
In the wee hours of this morning, the Post-Dispatch reported that insideSTL "has terminated its relationship with Jack Clark and Kevin Slaten." InsideSTL had employed Clark and Kevin Slaten to co-host a sports-talk show on WGNU (920 AM) -- a program that debuted only a week ago.
Mihlfeld has repeatedly denied allegations that he was involved in supplying athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.
Here's Pujols' full statement, followed by our original coverage.
I've said time and time again that I would never take, or even consider taking, anything illegal. I've been tested hundreds of times throughout my career and never once have I tested positive. It is irresponsible and reckless for Jack Clark to have falsely accused me of using PED's. My faith in Jesus Christ, and my respect for this game are too important to me. I would never be able to look my wife or kids in the eye if I had done what this man is accusing me of.
I know people are tired of athletes saying they are innocent, asking for the public to believe in them, only to have their sins exposed later down the road. But I am not one of those athletes, and I will not stand to have my name and my family's name, dragged through the mud.
I am currently in the process of taking legal action against Jack Clark and his employers at WGNU 920AM. I am going to send a message that you cannot act in a reckless manner, like they have, and get away with it. If I have to be the athlete to carry the torch and pave the way for other innocent players to see that you can do something about it, I am proud to be that person. I have five young children and I take being a role model very seriously. The last thing I want is for the fans, and especially the kids out there, to question my reputation and character.
Original post, August 9, 6:09 p.m.: Earlier, we published a short item on the steroid rumor that has everyone buzzing today: Albert Pujols definitely used performance-enhancing drugs, according to former Cardinals slugger Jack Clark.
Clark made the comments on-air with his new co-host Kevin Slaten at WGNU (920 AM), saying, "I know for a fact he was [using steroids]." His proof, he claims, is a conversation he had many years ago with Chris Mihlfeld, Pujols' trainer.
But why is Clark leveling these accusations now? More specifically, why didn't he make these allegations in 2006, when reports about Mihlfeld got national attention?
Daily RFT left a message this afternoon for Clark (who we profiled in 2005 and whose radio career we've followed). We'll update if we hear back. As we noted in our earlier post, Pujols' rep has not offered a comment, but Mihlfeld has issued a strongly worded statement denying the claims, saying, in part, "I would bet my life on it and probably drop dead on the spot if I found out he has." (A Cardinals spokesman also did not have a comment).
With the accusations emerging this week, it's a good time to revisit RFT's 2006 feature, "Oblique Strain," our in-depth look at Mihlfeld, the Kansas City-based trainer and close friend of Pujols.
At the time, as our story chronicled, Mihlfeld was linked to the steroids witch-hunt after a juicy rumor from a blogger quickly spread into the mainstream media.
An excerpt from writer Ben Paynter's feature on the origins of Mihlfeld's relationship with Pujols:
In 1994 Maple Woods Community College hired Mihlfeld to help clean up what he calls a "renegade" team short on talent and discipline. Mihlfeld created for his team a seven-days-a-week fitness routine that could make up for anyone's shortcomings.
He had developed an intuition about athletes' bodies. He could visualize a hitter's points of weakness through the arc of his swing, identifying a bad back or weak legs, or lack of fast-twitch muscle fiber. He also understood the standard baseball body that pro scouts like to see: lean, broad-shouldered, with big biceps and thick legs.
In 1998 Mihlfeld's team won the junior college World Series. That success helped the coach land one of the most coveted local prospects: Albert Pujols. In his senior year at Fort Osage High School in Independence, Pujols was so feared by rival teams that he had been walked 55 times in 88 at-bats. Major-league scouts weren't sure what he was capable of and recommended he spend a year with somebody who could help him improve. Pujols called Mihlfeld. "I didn't recruit Albert," Mihlfeld recalls. "He came to me."
In 2003, the Royals hired Mihlfeld as the team's strength and condition coordinator, but he stayed only for a season before opening his own company to help athletes in strength training.
See also: - Jack Clark Ends TV Commentary on Cardinals "Poopy" Season - Albert Pujols Is "Bitter" About The Way Cardinals Handled His Departure - Kevin Slaten Leaves Insane Broadcasting, Will Co-Host New Show With Jack Clark
One of his early clients was former Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley, who in 2006 admitted to federal investigators that he'd used amphetamines, steroids and human growth hormone. Deadspin.com reported at the time that the trainer whom Grimsley claimed had referred him to a source for speed was Chris Mihlfeld.
The sports blog admitted then that "its credibility was an eight on a ten scale," but mainstream news reports, notably a dispatch from Keith Olbermann, essentially stated Mihlfeld's involvement as fact.
"There's such a fuzzy line between reporting a story and creating it as far as blogs. I think in this instance they created it," then-Kansas City Star reporter Wright Thompson said at the time.
Mihlfeld told Paynter, "It was them reporting, 'Our sources confirm it's Mihlfeld.' It was bullshit.... Someone needs to be held accountable. For certain folks in the media, this needs to be a lesson that they can't be so reckless."
As the feature noted, the accusations had a serious impact on Mihlfeld's life, forcing him to stay away from the Cardinals' and Royals' clubhouses and engendering hate mail addressed to his family.
Here's an excerpt of what Pujols said of Mihlfeld at the time:
He'll call me and say, 'You're jumping on the ball,' whatever. The way he works, it's all about establishing a relationship with the player... And the main thing is, he used to play baseball. He knows what it takes to get a player ready. It's not about getting big and strong. It's about getting smart with your workouts to make sure you stay healthy all year....
...I know the guy and I know he's innocent. I just wish the stupid people who wrote whatever they did about the guy, they should have found out the facts before they wrote their stupid article. But that's just how the media is and that's something you can't control.
So why didn't Clark say anything back then?
We'll let you know if we hear back from him. In the meantime, you can check out our full 2006 coverage here.