Murray Chass’ “I know Mike Piazza did steroids because he had back acne” crusade has its charms, but sadly, it does not have much medical science on its side.
We know this, because Howard Megdal did some shoe leather reporting on the matter and was told by multiple dermatologists that (a) back acne is common; (b) it’s even more common in athletes who wear equipment like catcher’s gear; (c) there are multiple skin issues that affect backs that a lay person may confuse for acne; and (d) as many as half of all steroids users don’t have back acne anyway, so the correlation Chass is so hot for doesn’t work even if Piazza took steroids seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Money quotes:
All the dermatologists agreed on one thing: a lay person viewing Piazza’s back in a clubhouse setting isn’t a reasonable standard for diagnosing back acne, let alone asserting a connection between that problem and steroid use.
“I would say that conclusion is not fair,” Dr. Schweiger said.
“I would say no,” Dr. Davis said.
And Dr. Goldwasser, after a long pause, described Chass’s conclusion as “presumptuous. That’s the word I would use.” When asked if that was a polite word for the word she would use, Goldwasser laughed and said, “You could say that.”
So even if Chass is right about Piazza taking steroids, he’s just guessing. But we knew that already, did we not?