Eagles' Washburn still confronting steroid nightmare

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Eagles' Washburn still confronting steroid nightmare

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Posted: 11:12 a.m.

By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

The article appeared in the Oct. 24, 1988, issue of Sports Illustrated under the headline, The Nightmare of Steroids.

It was the shocking and compelling story of University of South Carolina defensive lineman Tommy Chaikins deterioration from a healthy, well-adjusted college freshman to a suicidal junior suffering from depression, liver damage, severe headaches, mysterious tumors and a litany of other mental and physical ailments.

All because of human growth hormones and steroids, Chaikin wrote in the piece, co-penned by SIs Rick Telander.

Chaikin alleged that several South Carolina coaches not only looked the other way when their players began using steroids and suffering severe consequences but also encouraged their use and even provided money so some players could buy HGH and steroids.

Among the coaches singled out by Chaikin?

Gamecocks defensive line coach Jim Washburn.

The same guy the Eagles hired last month as their new defensive line coach.

When that article came out in Sports Illustrated, Washburn said softly on Wednesday, that rocked my world.

It rocked his world, nearly drove him into poverty, and ended his coaching career for a while.

Chaikin made some pretty serious allegations about Washburn and three other South Carolina coaches, accusing them of placing their desire to win ahead of the physical and mental welfare of the young men they were responsible for.

I feel sorry for them because they have so little compassion, but I don't hate them, Chaikin wrote. I'm not out to get them that's not the point of this article. I just want people to know that steroids change you in many ways, and that the psychological changes are the most drastic of all. I've seen so many players become brutal and mindless from steroid use. Look what happened to me.

I love football, but I am worried about the course it is on right now. Most coaches are hypocrites. They don't really care about their players. They only care about winning, and that's because of the pressures put on them I understand that. But once you start using people as commodities, you've lost your integrity. And it's hard to get that back.

After a federal investigation, a grand jury indicted Washburn and three other South Carolina coaches on charges of distributing steroids. Washburn eventually agreed to a plea bargain in which he was sentenced to serve three months in a halfway house and three years of probation.

Wednesday, in his first meeting with the Philadelphia media, Washburn spoke about the incident at length.

I did a stupid thing a long time ago, and Ive paid for it ever since, and I got sentenced to prison, Washburn said. Let down my family. It was stupid. Stupid thing. Ive paid for it ever since. I guess Ill pay for it the rest of my life. I guess Ill never take another job and not have somebody bring it up. Thats life.

Washburn, 61, was 39 when the SI article came out. He was a rising, highly regarded young coach with a nationally ranked program.

He lost all of it.

Washburn found himself out of work with three kids and a wife to support. And no football program in the country would go near him.

It was a hardship, he said. I just took my family through unneeded things, but we came out good. Would you go out and change things? Yeah, I wouldnt have done the dumb thing I did. But I just wonder if his kids Jeremiah and Brady Washburn and Jessica, I dont know if theyd be the same people they are.

We got to be poor for a while. And couldnt buy new shoes for a while and things like that, and I thought that was good looking back. You make good things happen out of bad things, I suppose.

My familys better for it, honestly. We didnt file for bankruptcy, but we were close. They got to see what hard times were like, which is great. Make a lot of money now, but people dont know that we went through a time where I drove a truck and hauled hog feed and mowed grass on the side after Id been a big-time college coach at South Carolina.

Did a dumb thing.

Nearly out of money, his coaching career in shambles, his family desperate, Washburn turned to his faith.

Got down on my knees every night, I said just give me one more chance and I promise I wont screw up, he said. I kept screwing up anyway.

Not really.

Washburn finally found his way back into football in 1990, resurfacing as head coach of the Arena Leagues Charlotte Barons. He spent two years as a position coach with the London Monarchs of the World League and then a year back in the Arena League with a different Charlotte franchise, the Rage.

It wasnt until 1994 six years after the Sports Illustrated article appeared that Washburn got another college job. Danny Ford hired Washburn at Arkansas. He stayed there until 1997, when Jeff Fisher brought him to the then-Houston Oilers.

Washburn stayed with the Oilers and Tennessee Titans franchise for 14 years before joining Eagles head coach Andy Reid in Philly.

Its a miracle, Washburn said. When I was sentenced it was 10 years to the month later, and I was standing on the Georgia Dome field before a game logo in the middle said Super Bowl XXXIV.

God. I went from driving a truck to Super Bowl XXXIV in 10 years. Golly, its a miracle, thank you Lord. I dont ever go out on the field without saying, appreciate it, Lord, you know, for giving me the chance.

Washburn seems genuinely thrilled to be joining the Eagles after a decade and a half with the Titans.

I just felt like I needed a change, he said. Everybody needs a change at some point.

Washburn said hes never lived in a city before and plans to get an apartment in Center City with his wife and make the most of his new life in Philadelphia.

My wife and I, Sandy, were going to get an apartment downtown, he said. Weve never been downtown before. Weve all lived out in the country, ya know, and thatll be cool. My wife loves politics. She loves art and plays. Its nice that you can get on the train and go to New York, she loves D.C. Its going to be cool for us. Empty nesters, obviously. Going to be fun. Looking forward to it. I like it here.

Eagles fans will love Washburn. Hes got the same brutally honest, self-deprecating, down-home, country personality as Charlie Manuel. Unfortunately, because Reid does not allow his position coaches to speak with the media, we may never hear from Washburn again.

So fans will have to settle for having a first-rate defensive line coach for the first time in a few years.

He paid a steep price for his mistakes, and its made him a better person, and the Eagles are lucky to have him.

Coming down to the last stretch of my career and I want this to be the best, he said. I mean it. Bottom of my heart. Im going to try the best I can. That might not be good enough, but Im going to give it everything Ive got, I promise you that. Because this teams close. You guys might not believe that, but I really believe that.
Related: New mantra for Eagles' D: Keep it simple Colts' Saturday knows Mudd will improve Birds' O-line
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

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NBA Playoffs: Westbrook, Thunder push Warriors to brink of elimination

BOX SCORE

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Suddenly, these Golden State Warriors who have been compared all season to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s are on the brink of elimination.

Russell Westbrook had 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Warriors 118-94 on Tuesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State, which won a league record 73 games in the regular season, lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

The Warriors must win Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland to keep their season alive.

"We all have to bounce back," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "The good news is, we go home. Obviously we play well at home. The idea now is to go home and get one win. Do that, and we put some pressure on them and we'll see what happens."

Klay Thompson led Golden State with 26 points, but two-time league MVP Stephen Curry was limited to 19 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Curry's shooting performance was so uncharacteristic that reporters asked if he was hurt.

"He's not injured," Kerr said. "He's coming back from the knee, but he's not injured. He just had a lousy night. It happens, even to the best players in the world."

The Warriors lost consecutive playoff games by at least 20 points for the first time since Games 2 and 3 of the 1972 Western Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. Golden State's Draymond Green, who was fined for kicking Steven Adams in the groin in Game 3, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and six turnovers.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City got a boost from an unlikely source. Andre Roberson, a player the Warriors have ignored at times during the series, scored a career-high 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Durant added 26 points and 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points and seven rebounds.

As for Westbrook, it was his first triple-double of the playoffs after posting 18 in the regular season. It was his fifth career playoff triple-double.

"I play every game like it's my last, regardless of who's in front of me," he said. "That's my job, and my job is to worry about my team, and that's all I do."

The Thunder know they have to close. Nine teams have rallied from 3-1 deficits to win.

"I think we're in a good place, but like I said, this game is over," Westbrook said. "We've got to move on to the next game. Every game is different."

The Thunder led 30-26 at the end of the first quarter, then gained control in the second. In the most unlikely of connections, Adams threw a bullet pass to Roberson near the basket for a dunk that gave the Thunder a 56-43 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half.

Oklahoma City finished with a flurry and led 72-53 at halftime. The Thunder matched the most points they have scored in a first half in franchise playoff history, a mark they set the previous game against the Warriors. It also matched the most points Golden State has allowed in a half this season for the second straight game.

Westbrook had 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds in the first half, and Durant had 18 points and six boards.

Thompson tried to keep the Warriors in it, scoring 19 points in just over seven minutes to start the third quarter. But the Thunder maintained their composure, led 94-82 at the end of the period and remained in control in the fourth.

"This is a tough situation to be in, but the series isn't over," Curry said.

Quotable
Kerr, on the pressure of trying to win a title after setting the regular-season wins record: "We had a tremendous regular season, our guys competed every single night and did something no one has ever done and they're proud of that. But in the playoffs, everybody starts 0-0. So there's no extra pressure, whether you're talking about defending our title or trying to back up the regular season."

Stat lines
According to Thunder Public Relations, the last team to score 72 or more points in the first half of two straight playoff games was the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers.

Tip-ins
Warriors: Curry went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, and made just 1 of 4 3-point attempts. ... Thompson committed his third foul with 7:55 left in the second quarter, and C Andrew Bogut committed his third about two minutes later. ... Curry made a 3-pointer for his 48th consecutive playoff game, extending his NBA record. ... The Warriors were 12-0 this season the game after a loss.

Thunder: Westbrook had five points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. ... Oklahoma City forced 13 turnovers in the first half. ... The Thunder improved to 19-0 this season when Westbrook gets a triple-double. ... The Thunder outrebounded the Warriors 56-40 and outscored them 31-19 from the free throw line.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

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NHL Playoffs: Penguins fight off Lightning to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins made good on Evgeni Malkin's pledge to force Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-3.

Game 7 is Thursday night, with the Penguins hoping to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009 and the Lightning looking to advance to the Cup Final for the second straight year.

"I just told them to embrace the moment. It's a great opportunity for us. These are the type of circumstances to where you have an opportunity to write your own story," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

"They had a certain mindset going into this tonight: `We're going to leave it all out there and do everything we can to bring this back to Pittsburgh,'" Sullivan added. "And, certainly that's what they did."

Malkin was the most demonstrative of the players expressing confidence the Penguins could take the series back to Pittsburgh, saying he believed in himself, his teammates and that they could return home for a seventh game "for sure."

Crosby stepped up with his third game-winning goal of the series. The Penguins captain assisted on Kessel's 5-on-3 power-play goal in the opening period and later skated around Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman into the clear before sending a wrist shot between goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy's legs for a 3-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.

"We know the circumstances. It makes you go out there with a mindset of playing desperate," Crosby said. "I think we had confidence in the whole group. I think everyone played great.

"Everyone contributed in their own way. In a big game like this you, don't do anything special, just do your job. I think that's gotten us this far."

Rookie goaltender Matt Murray returned to the lineup after being replaced as the starter for Game 5 by Marc-Andre Fleury, but his 10th playoff victory did not come without a bit of suspense.

Brian Boyle scored twice in the third period for Tampa Bay, with one of the goals bouncing off Kessel before getting past Murray, who finished with 28 saves. The second score drew the Lightning within one goal with 7:17 remaining.

Instead of flinching, the young goalie who turns 22 on Wednesday retained his composure down the stretch to help the Penguins avoid relinquishing a third-period lead for the second straight game.

"I just think it's part of his DNA. He has a calming influence. He doesn't get rattled if he lets a goal in. He continues to compete," Sullivan said.

"That's usually an attribute that takes years to acquire. And to have it at such a young age is impressive. I think one of his biggest strengths is just his ability to stay in the moment."

Rust's breakaway goal at 17:52 of the third gave Pittsburgh breathing room, and Bonino added an empty-netter to finish it off.

"We had a great chance tonight and just tip-toed around a little bit," Boyle said. "We were tentative and weren't aggressive."

Kessel's goal was his team-leading ninth of the playoffs. Crosby had the primary assist, his first point since delivering game-winners in Games 2 and 3, and Malkin also had an assist to extend his point streak to four games after a slow start in the series.

The Lightning had an apparent goal by Jonathan Drouin waived off a little more than five minutes into the game, when Sullivan successfully challenged that the young Tampa Bay winger was offside on the play before tapping in a rebound off Ondrej Palat's shot that bounced off Murray's pads.

Sullivan announced the decision to go back to Murray following Tuesday's morning skate.

Murray started the first four games of the series. Fleury replaced him during the third period of Game 4, then made his first start in nearly two months in Game 5, which Tampa Bay won 4-3 in overtime.

Before Game 5, Fleury had not started a game since March 31, when he suffered a concussion.

Tampa Bay entered the game determined to not come out flat in Game 6 of the conference final for the second straight year.

The Lightning beat the New York Rangers on the road to go up 3-2 in that series, but were badly outplayed at home the next game and had to return to Madison Square Garden to finish the series.

Now, they'll have to win on the road again to make the third Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.

"I know we can. I've got confidence in this group. We believe we can do that," Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan said. "We've had success on the road in the playoffs. We've had success in their building already. It's going to be a good one."

Notes
The Penguins were 1 for 3 on the power play and are 4 for 19 in the series. The Lightning were 0 for 1, dropping to 2 for 12. ... Malkin was penalized in the first period for slashing Tampa Bay Bay's Ryan Callahan in what appeared to be retaliation for the Lightning forward whacking him across the wrist with his stick. ... Murray improved to 4-0 following a loss. He's 10-4 overall in the playoffs.

Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

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Best of MLB: Jackie Bradley Jr. extends hitting streak to 28 games

BOSTON -- David Price scattered five hits over seven innings and Jackie Bradley Jr. had a pair of hits to extend his streak to 28 games as the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 8-3 on Tuesday night.

David Ortiz had a two-run double and a two-run single, and Dustin Pedroia added three hits to help Boston win its third straight game. Price (7-1) allowed three runs, walking one and striking out six to earn his third consecutive win.

Colorado lost for the fifth time in six games.

Jorge De La Rosa (1-4) made his first start after spending almost a month on the disabled list with a left groin strain. He gave up two runs in the first, two more in the second and left with one out in the fourth with two on and one run already in (see full recap).

Polanco, Pirates crush Diamondbacks
PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco hit a three-run homer and drove in a career-best five runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates rolled by the Arizona Diamondbacks 12-1 on Tuesday night.

Polanco's shot to the concourse in right-center field off Shelby Miller (1-6) in the first inning gave Pittsburgh an early boost. Francisco Liriano (4-3) scattered two hits in 5 2/3 innings and added an RBI single as the Pirates improved to 6-2 during a 10-game homestand.

After a short adjustment period, Polanco has thrived batting third in the lineup, hitting .317 (20 of 63) with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 15 games. The Pirates spread their 17 hits among 11 batters.

Miller's recent recovery from a miserable start with the Diamondbacks took a step backward. Less than a year removed from an All-Star appearance with Atlanta, Miller's ERA ballooned to 7.09 after surrendering six runs in five innings (see full recap).

Strasburg strikes out 11 in Nationals' win
WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg remained unbeaten with an 11-strikeout performance, and the Washington Nationals hit three of their season-high five home runs off struggling Matt Harvey in a 7-4 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.

Strasburg (8-0) gave up two runs and four hits over 6 2/3 innings in defeating Harvey and the Mets for the second time in six days. Strasburg has five games this season with at least 10 strikeouts and 26 over his seven-year career.

Harvey (3-7) stumbled through a third straight ineffective start, allowing five runs and eight hits over five rocky innings. The right-hander has yielded 16 earned runs and 31 hits over his last three outings.

Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon hit successive solo shots to put Washington ahead in the fourth inning, and Daniel Murphy added a two-run drive off his former teammate in the fifth for a 5-1 lead (see full recap).