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February 9, 2009

Prospectus Today

Stupid Media Tricks

by Joe Sheehan

And so it continues. Per Selena Roberts and David Epstein of Sports Illustrated, Alex Rodriguez was one of 104 players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. In that year, every player in Major League Baseball was tested, presumably anonymously, in an effort to learn the depth of the PED problem in baseball and weigh the need for a program that would mix random testing with penalties for use.

This is a big story, in the sense that it involves a famous person, a bad act, and America's true favorite pastime of tearing down people of achievement. It allows the media to rend their garments over baseball's lack of purity on the issue of PEDs, substances which only began to affect the sport in the mid-1990s, which made a mockery of the record book all by themselves, and the rampant use of which makes baseball unique in American sports. It also provides a new way to pick on Alex Rodriguez, who-whatever he did in 2003-is probably the hardest-working baseball player to ever become a national punch line.

While it's a big story, however, it's not a big deal. See, we already know that baseball players great and small were using PEDs. That was the only thing of substance we learned from the Mitchell Book Report on Game of Shadows, Plus Assorted Information From Weasels the Government Shook Down For Us: the 89 players cited by name in the report as having been directly connected to PED usage were a cross-section of the baseball world, pitchers and hitters, stars and scrubs, "no!" and "who?" With a minimum of sources, and the players themselves refusing to participate, 89 players were reasonably connected to purchases, and presumably usage. We had the 2003 survey testing, which set a baseline number of "5-7 percent" of players, a figure we now know to be the high end. Throw in the players who may have stopped using prior to '03 due to attention paid to the issue, and those whose use went undetected because their drugs were just that good, and you can comfortably say that some double-digit percentage of players were using PEDs up through 2003. Great baseball players used PEDs to be better, and until 2004, no one tried very hard to stop them from doing so. Some people continue to be surprised that highly competitive young men fighting for fame, honor, and a cut of $6 billion would do everything they could to beat the guy next to them, which is a pretty good way to make the Olympic team in Naive.

The price tag on proving Barry Bonds' purported use, all in, is approaching nine figures when you account for the time and effort of a couple of intrepid reporters with little regard for the law, an IRS agent, and the combined resources of just about every governmental entity this side of the Department of the Interior. Mark McGwire was named in a book, called before Congress, and labeled a fraud for telling the truth-just not the truth the witch-hunters wanted to hear. Roger Clemens is living out the adage that you should never wrestle with a pig.

Knowing Alex Rodriguez used PEDs, in the context of those names, isn't information that changes anything. A great baseball player did bad things with the implicit approval-hell, arguably explicit approval-of his peers and his employers. It's cheating, yes, which would be a problem if we hadn't been celebrating cheating in baseball since the days when guys would go first to third over the pitcher's mound. You can argue that it's different in degree, though the widely accepted use of PEDs by peers and superiors, and the use of amphetamines before them, is a strong point against that case. What is clear is that it's not different enough, in degree, to warrant the kind of histrionics we're reading and hearing over this. It's not different enough to turn Alex Rodriguez into a piata.

Of course, the screaming is about the screamers. The loudest voices on the evils of steroids in baseball are in the media, and there's probably a dissertation in that notion, because for all that we have to hear about how greedy, evil players have ruined baseball by taking these substances (and then playing well, according to this selective interpretation; no one's ripping Chris Donnels these days), the reason we're talking about this in 2009 is that so many "reporters"-scare quotes earned-went ostrich in 1999. We hear every year around awards time that the people closest to the game know the game better than anyone, because they're in the clubhouse every day, and they talk to everyone, and they have a perspective that outsiders can't possibly understand. For those same people to do a collective Captain Renault, which they've been doing since beating up players for this transgression became acceptable, is shameful. Take your pick: they missed the story, or they were too chicken-shit to report it. In either case, the piling-on now is disgusting.

In the same way that the reporters who vote for the Hall of Fame are going to take their embarrassment out on Mark McGwire, and probably Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro behind him, and god knows who to follow, they should punish themselves as well. I propose that for as long as a clearly qualified Hall of Famer remains on the ballot solely because of steroid allegations-or for that matter, proven use-there should be no J.G. Taylor Spink Award given out to writers. If we're going to allow failures during the "Steroid Era" to affect eligibility for honors, let's make sure we catch everyone who acted shamefully.

We shouldn't know that Rodriguez tested positive. Flash back to 2002, and the negotiations over a Collective Bargaining Agreement in which the MLBPA was beaten to a pulp in the public eye. It was management's first win in a long time, and in that win, they got the players to agree to a plan that would determine the extent of PED use within the game, and trigger a testing program if a problem showed itself. The 2003 testing was designed as a survey-test every single player in the game, and if at least five percent of the tests turn up positive, switch to a program of random testing that would include counseling and then punishments for failing tests. (This program, which seemed to deter use immediately, was later modified for no good reason when Congress again decided to grandstand on the issue.)

The players agreed to be tested in 2003 on the condition that the testing be anonymous and no individual results would be tabulated. This was the necessary step to determine the breadth of the game's PED problem, and the solution was one of the few elegant elements of that 2003 CBA. However-and this is the crucial issue of this story-the 2003 testing was not anonymous. For reasons that the MLBPA and the testers have yet to explain, the samples were labeled in a manner that allowed the results to be traced to individuals. It wasn't anything like "TEX13," but whatever the method, there was a link from the sample to the player for the lab's use. When federal agents raided two labs (Quest and Comprehensive Drug Testing) in November of 2004 as part of the BALCO investigation, they collected enough information to connect the positive tests to the players involved.

The failure was in not destroying the materials involved-samples, results, and documentation-once they'd served their purpose. Once the survey testing showed more than five percent positives, the new testing regime was put into place for 2004, and the 2003 tests were no longer needed. Destroying the materials does require a specific request to the labs, and it appears that no one at MLB or the MLBPA made that request, which is where they failed. It does appear that those entities were unaware that the tests weren't anonymous; the mistake was in allowing the materials to exist long after they were needed, long enough for them to be discovered. Once the government had the information, of course, it was just a matter of time before that information would be leaked. It is inevitable that we'll have the other 103 names in time, and just as inevitable that while all 104 will have done the same thing, only the successful ones will be treated harshly.

I don't really care that Alex Rodriguez used steroids. There was a time, not very long ago, that I thought the issue of PEDs in baseball was overblown because use was overstated. Now, I think that use was common, with some significant number of players regularly using steroids in an effort to become better at that craft, and a larger number at least trying them out for a period of time. I remain skeptical that PED use is connected to performance in a way that warps the game, a conclusion supported by the evidence that proven use is mixed among hitters and pitchers, among good players and fringe ones, among the strong and the skinny. The establishment of a testing program with penalties does appear to have been a deterrent, as evidenced by the drop from 104 positives in 2003 to fewer than that number in total in the five years since.

What interests me is the process, and the abuses we've seen. In 2002, the players agreed to anonymous testing in an effort to eradicate a problem, part of a process that created the first CBA arrived at without a work stoppage in decades. This should have been an absolute good. Instead, because of a failure of the MLBPA to tend to details, an out-of-control investigation and prosecution led by an IRS agent, and the government's inability to protect the sanctity of information, 104 players will have their promised anonymity taken away with nothing given in return.

It's not enough to say, "Tough, they cheated." Even cheaters have rights to see their agreements honored, and these 104 men have been violated by their representatives and their government, complicit with a media that repeatedly asks the easy questions and takes on the soft targets while avoiding the real work of uncovering not just names, but truth. The story is bigger than Alex Rodriguez. It's more interesting than Alex Rodriguez. It has more depth and more nuance than the failure of one man to play by the rules.

Tell that story, in a measured voice that embraces complexity, and I'll listen. Until then, it's all just screaming.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Alex Rodriguez,  The Who,  2003,  The Process,  PED,  PEDs

139 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Jack G

Joe, I know BP is in now but please never join the BBWAA. You're more fun this way. Keep throwing fire, those self-righteous drama queens deserve to feel the heat way more than they ever do

Feb 09, 2009 11:41 AM
rating: 4

I really wish that Selena Roberts wasn't connected with this. Her politically correct slanting of the NY Times coverage of the Duke Lacrosse team scandal was so reprehensible I'd hoped to forget her for good. Another great name in journalism, Jon Heyman at SI, says that the samples only still existed, according to his sources, because Gene Orza was on some quixotic quest to prove that the failure rate on the "anonymous" tests only exceeded 5% due to false positives.

Feb 09, 2009 11:42 AM
rating: 3

Hear, hear, Joe.

Feb 09, 2009 11:44 AM
rating: 0
Ryan V.

I think this may be the first article I've read on the steroids "issue" that has really captured the tone of how I'm feeling about all of this (setting aside that my true reaction to the story is a gaping *yawn*...). The year is 2009, not 2003. If you aren't willing to write a mea culpa for not saying anything prior to 2003, just shut the hell up.

Feb 09, 2009 11:45 AM
rating: -2
Richard Bergstrom

On ESPN, Alex Rodriguez admits to using PEDs for a three year period. He also indicates that Orza did contact him:

Rodriguez said he was told by Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the MLB Players' Association, that he might, or might not, have tested positive in the 2003 survey. A source told ESPN on Saturday that Rodriguez knew he had failed the test.

"I had never heard anything since," he said. "Whatever I was experimenting with in Texas might have been OK."


Feb 09, 2009 11:52 AM
rating: 1

Great article. I must say that I wholeheartedly agree. I am no fan of Alex Rodriguez, but I am totally against this brand of selective prosecution.

Feb 09, 2009 12:00 PM
rating: 2

Should Orza and perhaps Fehr resign?

Feb 09, 2009 12:05 PM
rating: 3
Richard Bergstrom

As has been said before, the problem with PEDs wasn't the players as much as the system(s). The union did some fishy stuff, but meanwhile, owners and GMs also appeared to be complicit as mentioned in the Mitchell Report. That's what you get for taking a bunch of 20-something year old kids, making them believe they are god-like celebrities, have them work year round so that baseball becomes their sole reason for existence, then tossing them a few million bucks so they can get in trouble. In the grand scheme of things, though steroids are an issue, I get more miffed at all the DUIs in baseball. If I made the league minimum, I could afford to take a cab to and from a bar on a daily basis.

Feb 09, 2009 12:06 PM
rating: 1
Christopher Towers

This is why a BP subscription is worth the price. This is the most level headed article I've read since the news broke on Friday.

Feb 09, 2009 12:15 PM
rating: 2

This is the first interesting commentary I've read. All the other coverage is trite, predictible and, to borrow a basketball term, fake hustle.

But Michael Phelps is grateful.

Feb 09, 2009 12:18 PM
rating: 4

Joe! I miss you. Please write about baseball more. I will pay you!

Feb 09, 2009 12:18 PM
rating: 2

Thank you. It is rare to get some level-headed perspective in the middle of all of this nonsense (what you rightfully call screaming).

I wish your 'colleagues' in the print media could share this perspective. Perhaps years from now when they have disqualified an entire generation of elite players from the HOF maybe others will have learned to appreciate the importance of subtlety and nuance.

Feb 09, 2009 12:21 PM
rating: 2

Excellent article. It touches everything mentioned in the furor to Will's Unfiltered article & fills in the hand-waving with facts.

Thank you Joe for distilling this issue down to 1700 well-reasoned words.

Feb 09, 2009 12:26 PM
rating: 1

hey, fine, MLBPA is negligent and the media sucks, but you are going to far down that path of letting bygones be bygones. The fact is, the steroid scandal is a scandal because it punished honest players and rewarded cheaters. Until you or anyone else can show that the overwhelming majority of players were using, your complaints about this are excessive. This is the exact reason that Frank Thomas was the ONLY player to go and talk to Mitchell willingly, because he knew that he was being screwed by steroid users. Defending them screws Thomas. Sanctioning cheating punishes the honest. This is why it is offensive. Your story here loses sight of that.

Feb 09, 2009 12:32 PM
rating: 13

thanks. the first common sense reply. one doesn't have to be a hater or a screecher to see that Sheehan's article is shallow naysaying for the sake of being a naysayer. yes, we'd all love for this to go away (and I absolutely agree Bonds has been unfairly singled out). but cheating gets to the heart of the integrity of sport so, like it or not, it's not just a big story it's a pretty big deal.

I'll just add a few random comments:

-"... and America's true favorite pastime of tearing down people of achievement."
Somehow I suspect you've never lived in another country, or less you wouldn't say such silly things that reflect an insular, belly-button focused xenophobia. there's nothing unique to the U.S. here.

-"Some people continue to be surprised that highly competitive young men fighting for fame, honor, and a cut of $6 billion would do everything they could to beat the guy next to them, which is a pretty good way to make the Olympic team in Naive."
Sanctimonious much? I'd appreciate a quote to support this dissertation in smugness, as I've yet to hear anyone say they're surprised that athletes use steroids to get an edge. If you don't have a quote, perhaps you should join the Olympic team in Smug?

-..."There was a time, not very long ago, that I thought the issue of PEDs in baseball was overblown because use was overstated. Now, I think that use was common, with some significant number of players regularly using steroids in an effort to become better at that craft, and a larger number at least trying them out for a period of time. I remain skeptical that PED use is connected to performance in a way that warps the game, a conclusion supported by the evidence that proven use is mixed among hitters and pitchers, among good players and fringe ones, among the strong and the skinny. The establishment of a testing program with penalties does appear to have been a deterrent, as evidenced by the drop from 104 positives in 2003 to fewer than that number in total in the five years since."
This is so illogical it is astonishing. Please explain how a random mixture of PED users means there's no effect on competitiveness. One, the idea that this mix is perfectly distributed among various teams is, simply, absurd. Two, the competitive harm is most clear versus those who used and those who didn't cheat. The reason why bringing this to light is a positive is that it keeps cheaters from profiting over those who play by the rules. The question is not a mix between pitchers and hitters as Sheehan poses it. Unless you think the point of the game is a nice balance between league OPS values. The point is that on a team level a non-controlled random distribution of users inevitably helped some teams over others. The cheaters had a better chance to win. The point is that on an individual level some players -- the clean players -- were disadvantaged because they played by the rules.

Snort all you want and take a smug, superior attitude. But at least make a coherent, logical argument when you do so rather than repeat in a high screech the same platitudes BP has been pushing for years.

Feb 09, 2009 16:04 PM
rating: 3

Talk about "tunnel vision". You appear more blinded than most fundamentalists.

"(and I absolutely agree Bonds has been unfairly singled out)". Are you serious? Bonds flat out openly, willingly and knowingly lied to a Grand Jury. Roger Clemens did the same in front of Congress. Both committed serious offenses against this nation and both are being persecuted to the extent of the law, but yet in your shallow minded eyes Bonds is somehow "singled out"?

"Somehow I suspect you've never lived in another country". As if having lived outside of this country you somehow are impervious to just how gluttonously evil our society has become. This is the reason the "Sally Jesse Rafael" and "Ricky Lake" TV shows succeeded. Americans want to see failure at it's highest level, and they'll pay any price for it.

"One, the idea that this mix is perfectly distributed among various teams is, simply, absurd." You "spin" more than Fox News. The article above clearly states that "proven" use is mixed between Hitters and Pitchers, not "perfectly distributed" amongst teams. Though I will admit that the outcome of the NL West the year Bonds "led" them to the WS does assist with your point. There is no way in my mind that the Giants even make the playoffs without Bonds juiced up performance. Regardless, this is one outcome of one season and saying that steroids had a larger "affect on competitiveness" is hardly proven in my eyes.

"The point is that on an individual level some players -- the clean players -- were disadvantaged because they played by the rules." Stamped, agreed on and approved. Yet that's not the subject of the original article. The way I read it, Joe is merely calling out those like Geoff Baker who claim this is the "Worst sports scandals of all-time" when in reality these type of "writers" very clearly should have picked up on "something" 10/15 years earlier when the evidence pointed to "something fishy".

Take the blinders off and read the article for what it is, not what you want it to be.

Feb 09, 2009 22:02 PM
rating: -2
BP staff member Derek Jacques
BP staff

Both committed serious offenses against this nation and both are being persecuted to the extent of the law, but yet in your shallow minded eyes Bonds is somehow "singled out"?

Not taking sides, just pointing out the Freudian slip.

Feb 10, 2009 07:54 AM

That's just outright embarrassing. Funny as hell, but embarrassing.

Feb 10, 2009 11:11 AM
rating: 0

I have no idea what most of this is saying, nor what the references to fundamentalists and Sally Jesse Rafael and Fox news have to do with anything.

I do get a kick, though, out of being called a fundamentalist by someone who talks about "just how gluttonously evil our society has become." Now that's some good fundamentalist language! And that's not to mention the stuff about Bonds and his "serious offenses against this nation" -- wow! (what, did he commit treason?) I'm of the position that steroids is a real issue and that Sheehan's article both lacks logic in dismissing it as an issue and exaggerates the media hysteria, but I will certainly admit that the venom directed at Bonds was excessive. How one can both agree with Sheehan and also engage in hysterics at Bonds....puzzles me.

Feb 11, 2009 07:21 AM
rating: 0
Dr. Dave

The cheaters had a better chance to win.

This is the part there's still no actual evidence for, with the possible exception of being able to keep good players in the lineup more. There's still no credible data showing that anabolic steroids or HGH help you hit or field (or pitch) better. "B-b-b-but look at his head!" is not analysis.

If you want to crusade against cheaters who really did get an edge from their cheating, go after Gaylord Perry. If you want to crusade against players who threatened the integrity of the game, go after Gary Sheffield.

Feb 10, 2009 11:50 AM
rating: -1

I understand, and agree with, your point regarding Perry and Sheffield Dr. Dave, but I disagree with your underlying sentiment that PED's don't necessarily improve your performance. My point is the evidence doesn't exist simply because we don't know who took what and for how long, not because their numbers don't show it. Right? Granted this is a bit of conjecture but how else can we explain the statistical anomalies seen with guys like Brady Anderson, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, etc.?

Feb 10, 2009 15:30 PM
rating: 1
Dr. Dave

You're assuming your conclusion -- namely, that there is a "statistical anomaly" to be explained, and that steroids explain it adequately. That's not science.

(My favorite version of this is the circular argument -- we know Sammy Sosa was on steroids because of how many HR he hit, and we know steroids increase HR because look what they did for Sammy...)

Feb 11, 2009 14:19 PM
rating: 0
Dr. Dave

I disagree with your underlying sentiment that PED's don't necessarily improve your performance.

It's called a "null hypothesis" -- you assume no effect, until you have actual compelling evidence of an effect. There isn't any such evidence. It's the "clutch hitting" debate all over again. Everyone "just knows" that using anabolic steroids to bulk up will cause you to hit lots more HR.

Even without data on who used, we can make predictions about what patterns we would expect to see in the data if a large subset of players were using a cheat that boosted HR ability significantly. So far, the people who have actually looked at the data using methods that wouldn't get you laughed out of a peer-reviewed journal have failed to find any such patterns.

Feb 11, 2009 14:28 PM
rating: 0
Matt L.

Joe -- where are you getting the nine figure cost estimate for the Bonds persecution? The article below suggests $55MM (which is staggering/shocking/bewildering in of itself) for the taxpayer-funded portion of this; not sure there's enough private sector costs to bump that up over $100MM.


Feb 09, 2009 12:35 PM
rating: 1
Vinegar Bend

Joe remains a voice of reason.

Now that ARod is talking, I would love to hear him expound on what the actual effects of steroids were for him.
By speaking candidly, he might be able to reduce the amount of speculative nonsense being bandied about in the media regarding the impact of steroids. Or maybe he would just make it worse.

Feb 09, 2009 12:43 PM
rating: -1

Thanks for the thoughtful article, Joe. Two questions:

1) Was it legal for the government to leak this information? If it's confidentiality was guaranteed in the CBA, I'd think there's cause for a lawsuit here.

2) Why were federal investigators raiding the very labs used by MLB for these tests? Did MLB conduct these tests in labs that were actually involved in the illicit drug trade? Or did the government raid these labs specifically to recover confidential information?

Feb 09, 2009 12:47 PM
rating: 1
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff

1) The government isn't a party to the CBA. They have no obligation to abide by its constructs.

2) The labs were raided as part of the BALCO investigation, as the feds wanted access to materials related to players who were part of that mess. That they uncovered the 2003 results was merely serendipitous, I think. Will will hopefully correct me if I'm wrong.

Feb 09, 2009 12:54 PM
BP staff member Derek Jacques
BP staff

Joe's partly right on both counts.

1) Although the government isn't bound by the 2002 Joint Drug Agreements' confidentiality provision, they are bound by a court order that held the information the Feds got from the the Quest raid under seal, as the MLBPA is still challenging the government's right to raid the labs, and to seize information relating to anyone but the 10 BALCO-related players for whose tests the feds had a warrant.

2) The authorities' seizure of the non-BALCO 2003 tests was a little more than "serendipitous." A search warrant is supposed to be very specific, limiting the authorities to only searching for and/or seizing specific items they have probable cause to believe may be evidence of a crime. The IRS search warrant related to baseball players connected to BALCO, and since BALCO was allegedly dealing in PEDs, they had probable cause to think that MLB's survey testing of the players in question would turn up evidence that the players in question were using steroids, possibly sold to them by BALCO. The Feds should have only grabbed the results of those ten players, but they instead wound up seizing the test results for all the more than 1,000 players tested. This was convenient, since they'd requested all the results in a subpoena that the two laboratories were fighting at the time the IRS raided their offices. It's a long story that's still pending appeal.

Feb 09, 2009 14:18 PM

Joe makes a good point that the ladies auxiliary (to use M. Lewis' term for baseball writers) really botched this story, pre-Verducci's SI piece. But I can't accept that Clemens is some kind of victim, as Joe suggests. Sorry, I have trouble rooting for meatheads. I'm human.

Feb 09, 2009 12:51 PM
rating: 5

I think the real problem here is getting lost in all the discussions about cheating and not cheating. The issue here is that these players broke the law, not just once but multiple times. Possession of a controlled substance with or without the intent to deliver is a felony and in most states carries a serious penalty.

The implication here is very serious and very far reaching, going way beyond record books. It appears that the only business in the United States with an exemption to federal antitrust statutes has been acting as a large scale, organized, prescription drug ring. To make matters worse it appears that that there may have been an organized conspiracy on the part of management, ownership, and the members of the players union to cover it up. There are possible federal tax evasion, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, drug trafficking across state lines, and perjury indictments that could result from this.

Had this happened in some local neighborhood I guarantee you that there would be some people going to jail, probably for a long time. ARod shouldn't be worried about his HOF candidacy, he should be worried about going to jail.

Feb 09, 2009 12:57 PM
rating: 5
Matt L.

I feel that if the feds or state authorities wanted to pursue non-perjury criminal cases against particular athletes for possession, they would have done so by now. It seems that the main targets have been those in charge of production and/or distribution of the controlled substances, and that probably makes sense from an enforcement standpoint. While the government could presumably look to toll any statute of limitations under some ongoing conspiracy theory, my guess is that the ship has sailed (or will soon sail) for prosecution of individual players where we are looking at use in the period up to 2003 due to expiration of statutes of limitations and problems of proof.

Also, not to nitpick, but baseball is not the only industry in the U.S. with an antitrust exemption. It does arguably have the only judicially-created antitrust exemption and arguably has a broader exemption than other industries, but there are a number of statutory exemptions that apply more or less across an entire industry or to certain aspects of industry -- including the insurance business, ocean shipping, agriculture and fishing cooperatives, certain aspects of the newspaper business, certain aspects of the wholesale power industry, etc.

Feb 09, 2009 13:29 PM
rating: 1
Christopher Towers

I believe Primobolan would not have been illegal to possess in the United States until January 20, 2005, when the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 went into effect.

Feb 09, 2009 13:43 PM
rating: 1
James Martin Cole

The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 made it illegal, I think.

Feb 09, 2009 14:07 PM
rating: 0

Nevertheless, in terms of baseball history, going to jail is less of a black eye than 'CHEATER!!' Not that going to prison because you made a choice with steroids is in any way less silly than treating ped use as cheating on the level of changing the nature of the performed acts, but people do care more about the baseball side of the matter.

Feb 09, 2009 14:36 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Derek Jacques
BP staff


I understand your concerns and don't want to trivialize them, but there are three issues with what you're saying. First, while the possession of various controlled substances without a proper prescription is a crime, use typically isn't, and evidence of past use is seldom sufficient to sustain a possession charge. In addition, we can't assume that every positive test resulted from illegal possession: there are a number of jurisdictions where steroids banned in the U.S. are sold over the counter--you can't know where a user obtained and possessed drugs based on a test. Add in issues of statutes of limitations and the way this evidence was seized, and it's extremely unlikely that Alex Rodriguez should be worried about going to jail.

Second, if you're worried about the "drug ring" implications of these steroid revelations, you might be relieved to know that none of this is new. Amphetamines have long been controlled substances, and ballplayers have openly and notoriously used them for decades. Very few people objected to this illegal activity at the time it was publicized in the early '70s, no action was taken against the practice when the league cracked down on the abuse of recreational drugs in the 1980s, and the whole issue was specifically omitted from the Mitchell Report. Were you screaming for Pete Rose and other Phillies linked to amphetamines to be jailed in the early 80s? Were you calling for Jim Bouton to go to jail after reading Ball Four?

Finally, you can't divorce the "cheating" aspect of PED use to its illegality, because the people who make the laws haven't. The controlled substance schedule most steroids are now on used to be reserved for drugs that had major risk of physical addiction. Congress put anabolic steroids--which medically don't fit that description--on that schedule largely because of its abuse in sports (and to get headlines on the sports pages).

Feb 09, 2009 17:54 PM

I'm not sure calling this a "large scale, prescription drug ring" is appropriate. A hundred or a few hundred people using steroids is not a "drug ring," in my opinion.

I don't want to trivialize the fact that these guys broke the law, but there are larger and more dangerous drug rings in most high schools.

I used to work out in my town in a very popular local gym. This was about 3-4 years ago. At the time, if I wanted anabolic steroids, I knew exactly where to get them and I knew exactly who was using them. If I counted the number of users in the gym and then speculated on the main guy's other outside customers, the number would easily surpass the 104 in mlb's random drug test. And yet, despite my opposition to using these drugs, I never would have referred to this as a large scale/organized drug ring.

Feb 10, 2009 04:15 AM
rating: 1


You hit the nail on the head, but not in the way you intend: "...highly competitive young men fighting for fame, honor, and a cut of $6 billion would do everything they could to beat the guy next to them..."

This is why steroid use remains troubling to those of us who share your disdain for the shrill and self-righteous tone of PED reporting in the media. It puts pressure on players, particularly those on the fringe of a major league roster, to do something dangerous to their health.

Just as the media and many baseball fans overreact by turning this into a good-vs.-evil issue, BP's take on PEDs consistently goes too far the other way. In addition to wondering about the health issue, I wonder about the effect of PEDs on modern statistics, and think it's reasonable to debate whether users should have their statistics and records stand. Yes, no one is writing in outrage about Chris Donnels or Guillermo Mota, but that doesn't dismiss these other legitimate concerns.

Feb 09, 2009 12:59 PM
rating: 11

"It puts pressure on players, particularly those on the fringe of a major league roster, to do something dangerous to their health."

Exactly. It's against the law and taking steroids can do very bad things to your health, having been linked to heart disease, liver damage, body abnormalities, increased aggression and violence, and possible symptoms of addiction. The connections between the illegal distribution of drugs and (semi-)organized crime should be considered as well.

While the media may be late to the story and complicit in MLB's cover-ups, it's clearly an important story.

Feel free to be sick of it, but recognize that news should not be entertainment. Feel free to complain that 1950s ballplayers got off scot-free; that's no reason to continue to let current ballplayers off the hook. Feel free to be angry with the hypocrisy, but recognize that all of these stories are chickens coming home to roost for a business that turned a blind eye to illegal drug use at least as far back to the 1950s with greenies.

Feb 09, 2009 13:24 PM
rating: 1
Fresh Hops

Not all PEDs are illegal. Some of them are actually yet to be approved by the FDA for medical use (and hence don't fall under perscription drug laws) and aren't scheduled by the DEA (and hence don't fall under the same laws as, for example, marijuana.) This situation is more complex than that the actions are simply illegal. Besides, it's not the sort of crime for which one goes to a maximum security prison, under ordinary circumstances. Baseball players who break more serious laws are widely tollerated, so don't pretend like the legal issue here settles the case.

Feb 09, 2009 13:42 PM
rating: 2

"Besides, it's not the sort of crime for which one goes to a maximum security prison, under ordinary circumstances. Baseball players who break more serious laws are widely tollerated, so don't pretend like the legal issue here settles the case."

I care about crimes for which one doesn't go to maximum prison. I'm not responsible for the fact that athletes who break more serious laws are coddled. I don't coddle them, nor do I particularly care to root for players who violate DUI or assault laws, for example. In addition, since this article brought up the costs on the case against Bonds for perjury... perjury is a very significant crime, especially when committed by someone who is rich and powerful and thus helps set expectations for criminal proceedings for society as a whole. Perjury is DEFINITELY something for which I would not forgive Clemens.

Just because someone someone argues that the use of PEDs is a significant issue, it does not logically follow that I support every inanity that's in the mainstream media.

Feb 09, 2009 14:52 PM
rating: -1
Fresh Hops

I don't think BP has ever downplayed the concerns about health, although (as with all drug abuse) this is a point on which far too few media sources are willing to be candid. I wonder how serious the health concerns really are.

However, the health argument cuts two ways. Pitchers have a 100% injury rate if they're good enough to stick around that long. How many of these crippling injuries could be prevented if pitchers were allowed to take steroids under the watch of a physician? This is question that, so far as I know, no one in the media will even touch. It's somehow out of the question: we can't have players taking steroids either to prevent injury or to assist in rehab. I'm not saying it is a good idea; I'm saying no one is even willing to take the question seriously. And that seems wrong to me.

Feb 09, 2009 13:29 PM
rating: 5

To further this, normal people can and do get prescriptions from legitimate, qualified physicians for steroids to help them with a smoother, stronger recovery from major injuries (e.g. major knee surgeries). Amateur and Professional athletes are denied this exact same treatment for the exact same injury purely to preserve the "purity of the game".

Feb 09, 2009 14:29 PM
rating: 2

A good point. It's far worse with hockey and football, however. That blood sport quality is one of the things that makes me uneasy with being a football fan. Shoulder and arm injuries strike me as being different: pitchers can still walk and think, as opposed to football players, who recent brain studies suggest may suffer dozens of concussions over their careers.

Feb 09, 2009 15:01 PM
rating: 0

And it gets even more complicated in that some steroids ARE allowed (and are used) on a regular basis...

How many players have been able to play through pain because of a quick-fix cortisone injection from the trainer? Who exactly is making the distinction between "useful" and "too strong".

[Will - Is there a cap on the number of cortisone injections that a player can receive, or is it only limited medically?]

Feb 10, 2009 02:00 AM
rating: 1

I'm glad we're all hitting on the more complex issues surrounding this. Philosofool's point about the media not even touching the possible benefits of steroids is very valid.

And people seem to get that we take POTENT steroids on a daily basis. The issue of anabolic steroids is definitely more dangerous, but what about things like cortisone and prednisone? Prednisone is extremely potent. The issue is complex and the major media outlets are only focusing on one angle: do we hate the cheaters or do we forgive them?

Feb 10, 2009 04:51 AM
rating: 1

> I propose that for as long as a clearly qualified Hall of
> Famer remains on the ballot solely because of steroid
> allegations—or for that matter, proven use—there should
> be no J.G. Taylor Spink Award given out to writers. If
> we're going to allow failures during the "Steroid Era" to
> affect eligibility for honors, let's make sure we catch
> everyone who acted shamefully.

Best. Lines. Ever.

Feb 09, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: 5

Joe - Your point about the Spink award is absolutely phenomenal and one I had not considered.

Feb 09, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: 4
Fresh Hops

Thanks Joe. This really needed to be said.

The story that's being published has no right to be published.

Another thing that's not being said that needs to be is that this seriously jeopardizes the integrity of testing in baseball in the future. We can be certain that during the next CBA, there's going to be a lot of scrutiny of the drug testing policy in MLB. Lots of players will RIGHTFULLY object that they have not been given adequate assurance that their test data will be properly dealt with after the test; that data may include private medical information in no way related to PEDs, information player won't want available to the public.

Feb 09, 2009 13:02 PM
rating: 0
Jason D

Thanks for the great article. Now do me a favor and go kick Olney in the nuts.

Feb 09, 2009 13:07 PM
rating: 0

Love your baseball analysis but I can't agree with your (and most of BP's) position on the PED issue. I do agree that the writers who unreservedly applauded McGwire and Sosa should stop this hand-wringing. But, on the other hand, there is no justification for using steroids to cheat your fellow players out of a job, either. You say "Some people continue to be surprised that highly competitive young men fighting for fame, honor, and a cut of $6 billion would do everything they could to beat the guy next to them" but fail to realize that the edge they're trying to get is ILLEGAL AND UNFAIR.

I don't have a solution to the mess. I also know that condoning A-Rod's (or Paul Byrd's, for that matter) behavior isn't right either. And if it takes "weasels" to get the dirty laundry out there, so be it.

Feb 09, 2009 13:13 PM
rating: 5

I agree with VORPie and disagree with Sheehan on this - we don't need to have congressional hearings on PEDs, and there might need to be legal ramifications to whomever leaked this information given that it was supposed to be confidential, and Orza's behavior, if true, is probably cause for resignation. However, A-Rod and the 103 other players cheated in a way that baseball has determined is outside the spirit of acceptable methods, and also might cause bodily harm to both himself and other athletes attempting to emulate him.** We presume an equal basis for comparison here on BP, which is why we have park factors and league factors and adjustments based on strength of schedule, etc. The PED adjustment, while unknown, could be huge. The ethical ramifications are questionable but should be up to the individual fan to determine. Ignoring this based assuming that players aren't doing it or aren't gaining advantage from it or that it's the same as stealing signs or that we didn't care about Ty Cobb being a racist violent a$$hole seems questionable at best.

**I will note that A-Rod admitting steroid use probably increases steroid usage among teenagers on the margin, using the increased usage of andro as an example

Feb 09, 2009 13:42 PM
rating: 2

Joe recognizes that it is unfair and, in some circumstances, illegal.

As a not so quick aside, remember McGwire was caught with some variety of supplement in his locker years ago that was on the MLB allowed list and available over the counter. The item is no longer MLB approved, but I don't think it is illegal. Some substances are not MLB approved, but remain lawfully attainable. Also, bear in mind, some substances that are illegal in the US and not allowed by MLB are legally obtainable in other countries. If you are concerned a player broke the law, make sure you pay attention to the substance identified by the posititive test and the laws regulating that substance.

Anyway, the point is that players and teams have tried to cheat in the past and have tried to skirt the law. Players have produced forged documents to lie about their ages. Players have doctored the balls and bats. Teams have used video cameras to steal signs (the NFL, for some reason, frowns on this more than baseball, but makes up for it by not caring as much about steroids). The point is (as I take it from reading Joe's articles), Joe doesn't believe steroid use has affected the integrity of the game any more than these other violations and that the present witch hunt is media driven hypocrasy.

I would disagree, at least to say that I think the witch hunt is fan driven, not media driven. I think the media has had their collective heads in the sand for thirty years, whether it was steroids, greenies, or some other medicinal effort at an advantage. Plenty of clubhouse antics are published, but these were not because the media that saw them knew the activities were were wrong and did not want to get ostracized from the clubhouse by the team(s) they covered (which would require usage to be commonplace in the locker room). I don't think the league, the teams, the players, or the media realized fans would react so differently to steroids than they have to corked bats and scuffed balls. The media wouldn't bother if no one cared. Congress wouldn't bother if no one cared (Arlen Spectre tried and failed to get Congressional involvement in the NFL Patriots' spygate - stealing signs doesn't resonate the same way). It may not even be a majority of the fans, but, for whatever the reason, enough baseball fans care about steroid use that A-Rod is a story and Rodney Harrison is not. Arnold can be elected governor, but McGwire cannot enter the Hall.

Feb 09, 2009 15:07 PM
rating: 3

Amen, brother.

You and Neyer are the only sane ones out there today.

The amount of pure screeching over this is totally reprehensible.

Bill Madden proposed the Yankees cut A-Rod and eat the entire contract for God's sake.

Feb 09, 2009 13:16 PM
rating: 0

Is there any statistical analysis concluding that steroids likely enhanced the performance of any particular player or players generally, and if so to what extent? It is not enough to say that the effects of steroids varied from player to player, or that steroids were used by batters and pitchers. To judge great player(s) against his peers and predecessors, we need to know how to normalize his/their performance.

Feb 09, 2009 13:22 PM
rating: 0
Dr. Dave

Eric Walker's site

Feb 10, 2009 12:01 PM
rating: 0

I applaud you. I wish we could find such integrity in the realm of national and international journalism. Thank You Joe.

Feb 09, 2009 13:30 PM
rating: -3

There are many things I like about this article, but there are a couple things that bother me:

1) Regardless of whether steroids actually enhance a player's ability, taking steroids is conclusive evidence of a willingness to cheat, and that is not something that should be brushed aside,

2) For me personally, ARod's positive test and the negative reaction to it is at least due in part to the fact that a lot of people were looking forward to ARod eventually breaking Barry's record so that a "clean" player could be the home run king and we could put the steroid era behind us. Now that he has tested positive, the validity of an entire generation of players will forever be called into question. As a fan, you can't be happy about that.

Feb 09, 2009 13:34 PM
rating: 11
Fresh Hops

Regarding (1), we're far less harsh on players that doctor bats and balls than we are on steroid users, and doctored balls and bats have a demonstrable performance enhancing effect.

Our standards regarding steroids are different, but I'm not sure the standard makes sense, except that we have a very anti-drug culture.

Feb 09, 2009 17:45 PM
rating: 1

I'm no lawyer, but if your assertion that the MLBPA could (and should) have ordered the test results destroyed but did not, it seems that ARod (and any other player who has been "exposed [does Bonds fall into this group?]) could sue them for millions for negilgence resulting in very real economic injury.

Feb 09, 2009 13:35 PM
rating: 1

I've conducted drug testing in my profession and I know that, if I were to allow unauthorized the release of private information on those tested through willful or negligent conduct I'd be facing serious, and possibly expensive, penalties.

Feb 09, 2009 14:14 PM
rating: 3

Fantastic article Joe, and thank you for for such excellent reporting.

I know Will is working getting answers, but I'm curious as to the reason to have a list of exactly who tested positive anyhow. Why should MLB have even compiled such a list that had any information linking directly back to a player, unless there was some sort of appeal pending? It does not seem necessary to know who was using PEDs in the 2003 CBA, but only to establish the baseline level of PED use for future testing considerations. Whoever linked all the names back to the positive samples has really done unnecessary harm in my opinion - no matter how many intermediate steps they took. For example, let's say they had a list correlating each player with a sample ID number, and another list with the sample ID numbers and the results of the tests - it would not be hard to put these together and figure out who tested positive. But there is no reason to know exactly who tested positive - just the number of people that tested positive. In other words, there should have been no records to be seized, because there was no reason they needed to exist after the 2003 CBA.

Maybe I'm just insane here, but that really seems bizarre. I can buy that it's just a long string of coincidences and that the feds got lucky getting a complete list that told them who tested positive - I just think it's insane that such a list existed in the first place.

Feb 09, 2009 13:38 PM
rating: -2
Matt L.

As noted by another commenter above, Jon Heyman at SI has a story up (link below) that Gene Orza resisted destroying the list because he wanted to prove there were enough false positives to keep the percentage of players testing positive below 5% so that new testing and penalties would not kick in the following year. I imagine the only way you could actually prove false positives would be to know the identities of the players and get them re-tested or use other means to have them clear their names.


Feb 09, 2009 15:04 PM
rating: 1

Thanks for that link - I hadn't heard Orza's reasoning before.

But it seems to me that players could have been given anonymous identifiers here instead of using actual identifying information. The union really screwed up either way.

Feb 10, 2009 04:56 AM
rating: 0

Excellent piece.

Feb 09, 2009 13:42 PM
rating: 0

This whole PED's thing gives me heartburn. Every article, including this one, has a sanctimonious "holier-than-thou" tone to it. And from the prima facie evidence PED's didn't seem to help most of the players who used the stuff. Only Barry Bonds's late age performance is beyond all reckoning.

This has gotten surreal. We have the Media (see article above) calling out the Media. We have the Union members calling out the Union leadership. We have Federal Prosecutors spending tens of millions of dollar to prosecute a man (Bonds) who is no danger to society. We have a man (Orza) who helped negotiate the confidentiality of the 2003 tests being almost the first to violate its principles.

Maybe we should all come to our senses and reach some moral compromise on this issue. I think we should use 2003 as a moral dividing line. Any PED's usage that happened before that date is to be ignored. No going back prior to that date and conducting a witch hunt. That's when MLB and MLBPA established there was a problem and began to seriously test for it.

Otherwise for the sake of records and HoF balloting we may just as well write off the 1990's as if they didn't happen. No matter who you are or what you assert any and all performance in the 1990's will be ignored. Sure some guys were clean, but who were they and can you prove it??

Feb 09, 2009 13:49 PM
rating: 7

People should just stop worrying about the raw statistics. Some eras inflate hitting numbers just as some deflate, the same way ballparks do. How a player compares to his peers will always be the metric we should use when looking over someones career. Part of me believes that if Bonds was clean but took a bunch of legal supplements, had some new medical surgery to repair a bum knee, and had lasex surgery, people would be ragging on him because Hank Aaron or Babe Ruth never had those things available to them.

The blame should have always been on MLB itself. It knew everything that was going on and tried to hide it. When it did come out, they decided to villify their own players. Does anyone believe there's really more steroids in baseball than football? Why not take a page out the NFL's PR department and learn to bury these things.

Does anyone care what other names come out? Can we blame anyone for taking them when everyone else was doing them and MLB was pretty much urging you to. What happens in Ken Griffey is on that list? Or Derek Jeter? What happens if Cal Ripken comes out and says he tried something? I don't want anymore names or fake apologies when your name comes out. No one should be shocked by this news. When you first heard Santa was fake, were you really that shook up over the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too.

This was the steroid era. It is what it is. Can we just play ball? Please.

Feb 09, 2009 13:56 PM
rating: 2

The problem with this is that in other eras, such as the 1930s in the AL, statistics were inflated across the entire league. The problem with the steroid era is that there were players who were helped by the use of steroids and others who didn't use them. How do we compare Frank Thomas records to his contemporaries, assuming he was clean? We don't know who did use and who didn't. How many MVP Awards did Barry Bonds steal? Should those who finished second behind him get the award, like those who finished second behind Olympic cheaters would? Since we don't know who did the drugs, we can't compare players to their peers, let alone to any other historical group. That BP has consistently downplayed the importance of the added strength gained through steroid usage is a joke. I can only assume this has something to do with how much damage the unknown nature of the raw data of this era does to statistical analysis of the players involved. Before they talk about others sticking their heads in the sand, they might want to check where theirs have been.

Feb 09, 2009 20:11 PM
rating: -1

"The loudest voices on the evils of steroids in baseball are in the media..."
Just because we don't have microphones doesn't mean we're not screaming. When you continue to suggest that nobody but the media think this is an important story that's worth reporting you're guilty of the same oversimplification that you deride.
You don't speak for me.

Feb 09, 2009 14:00 PM
rating: 8

Very well put, Joe. I am in almost total agreement. I've been reading BP writers since very close to the beginning, and when I think the its voice of judicious rationality now plays a role in national discussions of baseball it gives me hope.

I'd like to raise an issue or two for some of the other commenters here. Their opinion may differ from mine, but they have been civil and laid out their position fairly clearly. Here is where I part ways.

Our ethics and morality, and the law are two different things. The law may flow from our ethical position, but they are not commensurate. The law is an attempt to justly enforce an ethical common ground. Nothing more, and nothing less. (Let's lay tyranny of the majority aside.)

You may deplore the actions of players, owners, mlbpa, and various others.I suggest, however, that it is a mistake to conflate a private monitoring exercise with government enforcement. Private concerns are not allowed to enforce criminal law for the benefit of the government. They may report crimes, and provide evidence and testimony, but that is as far as it goes.

MLB does have an antitrust exemption, but that does not make it a government entity, or even a quasi-government entity. The hand of government has typically been light on MLB, and certainly has never extended so far as to require a completely separate criminal code for those participating in the sport, which is in essence what has been suggested.

Asking for prosecution of a largely unconnected series of possible (it may be the steroids were legally obtained, or were not a scheduled substance) offenses on a six year old matter on what is typically NOT a felony offense, or even a federal issue is totally at odds with existing criminal procedure.

Add in the fact that the leaked evidence would almost certainly be inadmissible in such a prosecution, should it be possible, and your legal case evaporates.

Be outraged all you like, but do not think the law has a role to play here, except in providing a possible cause of action for the players and their union against a host of parties.

Feb 09, 2009 14:03 PM
rating: 0

Let's just put the stats aside.

In my town a mother of 3 was convicted of falsifying a prescription for Vicodin and Oxycontin, possessing the drugs, and selling a few to afford more. She did 5 years in jail and lost custody of her children. The people she sold to were all charged with possession and were also charged and convicted. Why exactly do these (ball players) overpaid babies supposed to be given a free pass? In the eyes of the law they are both similar crimes with similar punishments.

Why exactly are we proposing that grown men who are guilty of using, possessing, and in some cases distributing an illegal drug (right or wrong isn't the issue), along with obstruction of justice, perjury, and possible conspiracy just go back to playing ball and forget the whole thing? How is that fair to the rest of us who have to play by the rules or go to jail?

Feb 09, 2009 14:10 PM
rating: 1

As others have pointed out above, it's not exactly clear what players used what drugs and they they used them. It's possible (probable) that some of the substances being used weren't actually illegal at the time of their use and possession. I also doubt that any of these baseball players actually forged a prescription to get their PEDs. They probably got some doctor to write a legit prescription for it, or just bought it through a lab or vendor because the things weren't actually illegal.

I have to agree with Mr. Sheehan and a lot of the other commenters here that, frankly, the hand-wrining and hair-shirtting about PEDs is really overdone. Just walking into GNC in the mall will reveal walls of substances wich would have been HUGE performance enhancers back in the 50s and 60s. For $15 a month I can join a gym that has equipment and trainers which would have been bleeding edge to players in the 70s. Improvements in fitness training, medical recovery techniques, and the establishment of the "professional" baseball player have done more to make the changes seen in baseball the past couple decades then all the steroids Jose Canseco could sneak across the border in an 18-wheeler.

Feb 09, 2009 14:34 PM
rating: -1

Because, frankly, falsifying a prescription is a worse crime than the actual use of the drug.

Feb 10, 2009 05:06 AM
rating: 0
Nate W.

I'm not interested in adding anything to the conversation. All I want to do is say thanks for the article Joe. Articles like this, along with Will's article on Thursday, are the reason I continue to renew my subscription each year.

Feb 09, 2009 14:19 PM
rating: 0

Wonderful article, I loved how you framed the argument.

Feb 09, 2009 14:24 PM
rating: -1
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A person agrees to take a drug test as a condition of the collective bargaining agreement with his employer with the pledge of anonymity and that the samples will be destroyed once the survey is completed. A Federal Judge orders that all of the samples be taken into the custody of the Federal Government for purposes of pursuing evidence regarding ten people under investigation for crimes other than himself. A Federal Judge further orders that all of the information relating to the tests be sealed. Nevertheless, the information - under control of the government - is released to the public to the embarrassment of the person.

Just keep that in mind when the Obama administration goes forward with their plans to create an electronic database of all of our medical records.

Feb 09, 2009 14:32 PM
rating: -16
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Say you're not a fraud, A-Rod!

(No? Mock tears not convincing?)

Feb 09, 2009 14:37 PM
rating: -8

why is no one talking about the frequent use of cortisone among professional athletes? players regularly get these injections to get back on the field, why arent these illegal? also what about players receiving I.V.'s in the locker room at halftime or during innings? arent these also performance enhancing. this whole steroids thing is an absolute joke

Feb 09, 2009 14:44 PM
rating: 2

We've been through these PED/MLB stories so many times that everyone's reaction is utterly predictable, right down this article. Apparently I'm in the minority but this didn't strike me as anything new - it's basically the standard PED Media Outrage article that has been appearing on BP for the last 5-7 years. Different names, different details, same shrillness.

Feb 09, 2009 14:44 PM
rating: 1

Who has been busted carrying steroids in MLB? You cannot be punished for a "status crime", that is, being a drug user. Possession, distribution or dui offense, or in your case, falsifying a prescription for a controlled substance, are all crimes. Having taken the illegal drug is not.

Should the government (which government - federal, state or local?) launch a sting operation and try to catch people abusing steroids, or selling them? Maybe. Usually steroids are not considered such a big fish, like marijuana is not considered as big a deal as heroin.

But the law is the law. Write your congressman, tell the governor, the district attorney, the US attorney, that you want them to clean up those steroids that are - what exactly? Well, harming people somehow, if only by bad example.

But you aren't going to make a case for prosecuting a drug offense that happened 6 years ago. Would you think the mother in your example should be prosecuted for that crime if it happened six years ago? And if law enforcement was never involved, but some cops found some old bottles in someone's desk drawer, six years after the prescription was filled, and traced it back to her? That case simply couldn't be made.

You seem to be confusing anger and jealousy over the celebrity status and pay of athletes with a case that could actually be made to stand up in court.

Should the law apply to all, equally? Sure. But is every drug user, or dealer caught and prosecuted? Obviously not. People involved with drugs want to be circumspect, so they are difficult to catch in the act. Athletes have lots of money, friends and admirers, and that makes them that much harder to catch than other folk. But so do movie stars, CEOs, musicians and several other types of people. It's not fair, but its reality, and having those things is not of itself illegal.

But in my experience prosecutors LOVE celebrity cases, not the reverse. Jamal Lewis, the star football player went to jail over a drug related cell phone call. If some ambitious prosecutor could make a big MLB case, they would. They've spent millions and millions and untold hours to get Barry Bonds and all they have is a perjury charge. That's it.

The cases you want can't be made, and guess what? I'm glad government's powers to investigate people is limited, even if those people are rich "babies".

Feb 09, 2009 14:45 PM
rating: 2

I really must echo the sentiments of mglick0718 and sabocat. The pressure to use PEDs when millions of dollars are on the line is immense. I certainly agree that MLB and MLBPA bear the responsibility of setting up a system that discourages the use of PEDs, and it's obvious that they have previously failed in this responsibility. That said, players who used PEDs are far from blameless, and as fans I think we have every right to be more disappointed by stars who helped create a culture that put pressure on others to use PEDs.

Somewhere there must be a response to the steroid scandal that lies between Skip Bayless and Joe Sheehan.

Feb 09, 2009 14:48 PM
rating: 6

The degree to which performance enhancement from PEDs are held to be illegitimate is not a clear cut question as some believe. Suppose we have a safe substance with common accessibility, and potency on par with any anabolic steroid, but that it is a cutting edge thing and some guys use it and some do not, due to differing networking. What would the rationale be for baseball to restrict its use, if at all. Players do things that both improve performance, and does so with efficiency. Should we value an ethics of hardwork in such a manner that we refuse to adjust to the reality of a new technology. Advantages of this form are widespread in society, yet they pass without remark save from radical quarters. I find any moral indignation towards people finding quick shortcuts more than a little hollow, given the uneven treatment.

Imagine however a different approach to this chemical. It is marketed and legitimized, as a performance booster that makes you successful. We have Barry Bonds doing advertisements on it, and A-Rod making endorsements after games. Is it difficult to imagine such a turn of events, given that we have a perfectly safe and legitimized substance? Of course, there will be great choruses of lament from all quarters over the 'ethical implications', by which they mean a perversion of the ideal athletic themes of natural talent. The most heated sentiment generated will be one of historical comparison, not on performance, but on talent. That we watch sports to see amazing talent, to worship talent is the main reason why people feel that players, for perfectly understandable practical reasons, help themselves is such a moral wrong, because they mess up our little obsession with competition and natural hierarchy.

The regulation of steroids from a moral standpoint will never succeed on that sentiment alone. That sentiment may lead to commercial regulations to preserve the viability of a competition in providing such "pure" performances, but that endeavor is far short of a moral outcry. The current justification of steroids regulation is not a performance issue, it is a safety issue, and later turned into a pr issue to placate a public morality that is terrible at best. Although I do feel that steroids should be phased out of sports because of legitimate safety and perverse incentive and competition issues, it must be understood that this phasing out is in the service of the players, not to placate a 'spirit of the game' that remains riddled with hypocrisy and ignorance.

Feb 09, 2009 14:55 PM
rating: -1

The first line is a bit misleading, I am not arguing that taking steroids in MLB in 2003 etc is ok, but the type of energetic reactions are misguided. People do wrong things all the time, but reactions are of varying degrees. There is something particularly irritating when I see people treating steroid use so seriously as to write off entire careers, all in a reflexive second.

Feb 10, 2009 08:56 AM
rating: 0

"Does anyone believe there's really more steroids in baseball than football? Why not take a page out the NFL's PR department and learn to bury these things."

"...and the rampant use of (PEDS) which makes baseball unique in American sports."

Joe, great job.

Will someone please explain why the NFL does not have a PED problem? Can a player become a 350 pound behemoth simply by lifting weights, eating properly and taking legal supplements?

Feb 09, 2009 14:56 PM
rating: 0
Vinegar Bend

anyone care to lay odds that Derek Jeter is on that list of 103 positives? Now THAT would be a interesting news story to see unfold. I almost hope it's true.

Feb 09, 2009 15:43 PM
rating: 0

Actually I was thinking the same thing.

I'm waiting for a player everyone loves to be named on one of these things. How will people react if someone along the lines of Jeter/Griffey/Maddux/Moyer gets named? Not that I strongly suspect any of these guys, but it's only a matter of time until a more well-liked player than Arod/Bonds gets named.

Feb 10, 2009 05:31 AM
rating: 0
Dr. Dave

My personal fantasy is that Cal Ripken gets outed at some point. After all, there's a lot more evidence that anabolic steroids could help you sustain a consecutive games played streak than that they could help you hit more home runs...

Feb 10, 2009 12:08 PM
rating: 0

Passionate, biting, emphatic... all words I would use to describe this article.

Levelheaded... not so much.

Look, on a scale of 1-10, BP's commentary on PED's (and virtually every entities' handling of it) has got to be a 9 as far as turning a blind eye. For such a loyal reader of BP, this is the only area I am shocked in its response.

Reading about this, I have yet to find a single article that has failed to mention that the tests were supposed to be anonymous, or giving a "tough, he cheated" spin to the positive test. The people I have talked to have all been quite balanced in their disdain for PED use as well as the shady nature of the government's actions. I've seen many articles suggest that MLB at least tacitly encourage this, and point out that it looks like Jose Canseco might be right more than once thought. Maybe Yahoo and ESPN and the San Jose Mercury News have been outstanding in their coverage, but I don't see this media/public failure that Joe rails against.

"I don't really care that Alex Rodriguez used steroids. There was a time, not very long ago, that I thought the issue of PEDs in baseball was overblown because use was overstated. Now, I think that use was common, with some significant number of players regularly using steroids in an effort to become better at that craft, and a larger number at least trying them out for a period of time. I remain skeptical that PED use is connected to performance in a way that warps the game, a conclusion supported by the evidence that proven use is mixed among hitters and pitchers, among good players and fringe ones, among the strong and the skinny."

So... it was overblown when it it wasn't used as much as thought, now its overblown because it was actually quite common? When would it not be overblown, then? And the best evidence for PED use not warping the game is that a wide variety of players tried it? I'm sorry, isn't that evidence to suggest IT DOES work? I'm not saying it does, but jeez, how can it be dismissed so flippantly?

As far whether we "should" know this info, that is very relevant in a court of law, but absolutely irrelevant in the court of public opinion. No one is saying Wheaties should wait until Michael Phelps is actually charged with a crime to drop him as a spokesman. There is a picture of him smoking weed, end of story (and maybe I don't care, but Wheaties does, and its their money). Maybe some don't care that A-Rod used drugs, and because of the circumstances he will face zero legal liability. But some do when deciding whether to purchase a #3 Yankees jersey.

I'm sorry, I'm starting to ramble. Its just that, reading this article and most of the accompanying comments, I wonder if the near-unison agreement is due to self selectiveness of the readership or a more dangerous Animal Farm-like chanting. Taking the extreme position in opposition to another extreme position is usually not the right position.

Feb 09, 2009 15:57 PM
rating: 9

sorry, typo, meant #13 jersey

Feb 09, 2009 15:59 PM
rating: 0

well, the most glaring hysterical behavior comes from reactionaries who scream "cheater!!11" etc, so a levelheaded response to the entire situation should address these shriekers first, as is proper.

and please quantify what "it works" means please.

Feb 10, 2009 08:20 AM
rating: -1

Joe, I share your frustration at the leak of supposedly anonymous testing data, and I would support the harshest penalties possible for those responsible for the leak. I don't feel, however, that it in any way exonerates Alex Rodriguez. He evaluated the risks, he made choices, he made literally hundreds of millions of dollars from those choices, but his reputation is now ruined for his cheating and his lies. It's a harsh consequence, but he knew the possible consequences of his actions, even if he didn't know how the information might someday be leaked.

Will, great sidebar. I just reviewed much of what you and Joe have written regarding steroids at BP over the past several years--your words certainly stand the test of time.

Feb 09, 2009 16:06 PM
rating: 1

Blame the Media!

I'm curious Joe how you think a reporter should have blown open the story of steroids in baseball. Take me back to 1998 and explain the mechanics of that for me. And also walk me through why you think a reporter would choose to look the other way, if he had the story. Let me guess ... your "chicken-shit" reporters are too scared of losing their access or their relationships with the players, right? Your argument isn't only illogical, it's downright silly.

You don't think any scribe wouldn't love to be the one to bust McGwire or Sosa in '98? If so you have a poor recollection of that time, and little understanding of a reporter's mindset, which is to be expected.

Feb 09, 2009 16:19 PM
rating: -1
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Ask that guy in St Louis who asked about McGwire's andro. Not exactly well received. Ask Tom Boswell, who brought up the issue about Canseco way back. There's a bibliography in the Mitchell Report (which I had to re-read today, hours of my life I'll never get back!) that shows the before and after of articles regarding steroids.

Now, I'm not as harsh as Joe. I think the media just went along, which makes them a bit complicit, but I think I would have been just as weak. Doesn't make it right, just makes it so. I know the names of some players using PEDs, but if they pass the test, they pass the test. I probably introduced people to the next drug last week in talking about SARMs, though it would have gotten out eventually. Am I complicit?

Feb 09, 2009 17:01 PM


You are not complicit if you are not participating in the players using PEDs and you do not think it is a story that should be told. I think where the media (which feels like one big, hulking entity in this article, as opposed to thousands of independently thinking individuals moving in various directions) gets Joe's goat is that they had to be aware of players using PEDs, ignored it, and then reported the acts years later with shock and disappointment. The shock seems misrepresented. If, later on, you write about PED usage and protect some players while standing in judgment of others, you will be misrepresenting the truth. Frankly, I think you need to read every article you write about PED usage and wonder if the knowledge you withhold on the subject you are covering is affecting your ability to produce an honest report.

The issue here is not complicity so much as journalistic integrity. The shock and disappointment of some members of the 'media' is disingenuous and dishonest.

With regard to the second round of 240, is it possible Orza was challenging the test processes/results of certain samples taken. If certain locales (e.g., Texas) produced significantly more than 5-7% seen elsewhere, perhaps a request was made to run the tests again. Or may the positives were tested a second time against enough of a 'clean' population so that the retest did not implicate anyone. Perhaps they were making some type of effort to get under the threshold.

Feb 10, 2009 09:19 AM
rating: 0


A decent article but look in the mirror.

BP would not exist as a business, be it not for the obsession that many baseball fans have with stats and performance. If fans weren't obsessed with this stuff and baseball was simply qualitatively viewed like ballet, than 95% of BP would be irrelevant. So you feed at the trough, even more so, than the writers that you deride.

This is all about the records and the integrity of the HR numbers. That's why the NFL gets a "ho hum" pass on PEDs.

A-Rod does matter, iust as much as Bonds, McGwire, Clemens and other mega icons who have put up mega-stats. Now inflated stats, that should be asterisked.

Thank you Seneca Roberts for "outing" another star.

Feb 09, 2009 16:36 PM
rating: -3
James Martin Cole

There's a couple things about this that kind of bug me.

First of all, the idea that there are "immense pressures" for people to use steroids because there are millions of dollars at stake. That's not an excuse for other criminal actions, so I don't see how it can be an excuse for this. If I go out and commit a crime so that I can live more comfortably, "I really wanted the money" wouldn't be an acceptable answer. There are all sorts of professions and situations where breaking the law can be beneficial. I don't see how baseball is any different. In fact, since baseball has been granted an anti-trust exception and even the worst major leaguers make much more than the vast majority of anyone else in the world, it's probably a worse excuse for major leaguers than it is for regular people.

Second, I don't understand all of the hand-wringing about the private lists being released. The only reason the tests were anonymous in the first place was because the players union (and by extension, the players) were fighting as hard as they could to make testing impossible. The use of illegal drugs to gain an unfair advantage was very widespread (apparently 104 players in the majors at the VERY least), and the players didn't want their dirty secrets to be exposed.

I find this to be a difficult position with which to sympathize. To me, it seems like a lot of people are arguing for the players' rights to use illegal drugs to gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding players in secret. Mandatory drug testing was long overdue in 2003, and I don't really buy that mandatory drug testing needed to be collectively bargained with a corrupt for a publicly backed institution with a drug problem. A-Rod is going to make half a billion dollars in his career. There is considerable sentiment on this website that someone who may end up a billionaire in his lifetime if he makes wise investments should sue someone who is presumably a low- or mid-level government employee. Because that person, who will not make 1% of what A-Rod makes in his lifetime, told the truth about someone who lied to the people who pay to watch him play a game.

I'm not suggesting the person who leaked this is some kind of a hero, but A-Rod, and the rest of the major leaguers who took steroids or know people who did, have been part of a massive cover-up designed to defraud the people who support their lifestyles. It's fine to not care about the use of steroids in baseball. But it's also fine *to* care about the use of steroids in baseball.

I, for one, want to try to figure out what went wrong, and how to make sense of the last few decades of baseball. I'd like to know which of the athletes tried to gain an unfair advantage by using illegal drugs that are banned in international athletics. I realize I'll never know anything, but I want to get as many pieces of the puzzle as possible. I keep hearing people who comment on this site and who write for this site say "we need to turn the page" or "you'll never know anything for sure." To me, that attitude is antithetical to the reasoned, inquisitive approach that Baseball Prospectus, Sabermetrics, and democratic and intellectually curious people in general purport to stand for.

I said this in the unfiltered thread, but it bears repeating. Just because you can't know everything doesn't mean you shouldn't know anything. To quote the (brilliant) David Foster Wallace "There are babies in that bathwater, dude."

Feb 09, 2009 16:50 PM
rating: 6

Cole: "I, for one, want to try to figure out what went wrong, and how to make sense of the last few decades of baseball."

How many (or few) are a "few decades"?

Here’s an excerpt/synopsis I found from a San Francisco Chronicle article (have not yet located the full article itself):

“The San Francisco Chronicle, in a May 3rd 2005 article quoted former Major League pitcher Tom House of the Atlanta Braves as saying that steroids were rampant in the game in the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s.

“House, perhaps best known for catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run ball in 1974 in the Atlanta Braves bullpen, said he and several teammates used amphetamines, human growth hormone and ‘whatever steroid’ they could find in order to keep up with the competition.

“”I pretty much popped everything cold turkey’, House said. “We were doing steroids they wouldn’t give to horses. That was the ’60s when nobody knew. The good thing is, we know now. There’s a lot more research and understanding.”

“House, 58, estimated that six or seven pitchers per team were at least experimenting with steroids or human growth hormone. He said players talked about losing to opponents using more effective drugs.

“”We didn’t get beat, we got out-milligrammed”, he said. “And when you found out what they were taking, you started taking them”.”

Goes on to say that it's likely that Hank Aaron himself was "juiced" in '69 -- '73.

Feb 10, 2009 06:32 AM
rating: 1
James Martin Cole

For few decades, I mean back to about the seventies, maybe earlier.

I was watching the original "The Longest Yard" (from 1974) and was struck by the number of references to steroids in that film. So it certainly wouldn't surprise me to find out they were widespread in baseball at that time.

House has had it in for Aaron for a while, though. I've heard him carp over not getting paid for the 715th homerun ball, which I guess he caught in the bullpen, and then gave to Aaron.

Feb 10, 2009 07:50 AM
rating: 0

"House has had it in for Aaron for a while, though. I've heard him carp over not getting paid for the 715th homerun ball, which I guess he caught in the bullpen, and then gave to Aaron."

Didn't know that -- thanks.

Feb 10, 2009 11:42 AM
rating: 0

All we keep doing is bringing up the past. Nothing good will come of it. So what if the 103 names are released. Now we know 103 more guilty players and we still can't assume anyone that's not on that list is innocent. Maybe they didn't test positive, maybe they just started later, either way it doesn't clear anyone.

The players used PEDs illegally and profited. Now someone has these test results which should be illegal to publish and are making a profit from it 5 years later... We have a pretty good idea what has gone on in baseball for 20 years or whatever, I don't think anything else will shock people.

100 years ago people wanted more homeruns and they juiced the balls. Now they just juiced the players instead. Let's just put the focus on keeping the game as clean as possible from here on out. Spring is getting closer and pitchers and catchers are reporting soon. This should be a time to celebrate the game.

Feb 09, 2009 16:52 PM
rating: 1
BP staff member hmanchak
BP staff

Nice Claude Raines reference!

"I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Feb 09, 2009 16:53 PM
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Ok, I have one answer --- the extra tests *were* part of the agreed to process. According to documents in the Mitchell Report, there was a second round of 240 tests. I'm not sure what purpose they served or why that number, but it's not a "B sample" as I speculated.

There is a more interesting issue that came up -- Rodriguez admits to testing positive for primobolan. However, in their documents given to Congress in 2005, which I detail here ...


... primobolan is *not* one of the substances they say anyone tested positive for during the 2003 survey. Anyone have ideas on this?

Feb 09, 2009 16:55 PM

I just re-read the JDA & am having trouble with the 104-name list coming out on 2 counts: (I've included a link to the JDA below)

1. It appears that Section 7D deals with confidentiality between MLB and the government... If you connect that to the statement made by Selig/others after the Mitchell Report was released:

"Friday's agreement also ensures there will never be another Mitchell Report, as both sides agreed to keep players' names private until discipline is imposed in any future probe."

and the rest of Selig's statements make me question how/why this evidence was held back from the Mitchell report.

2. Wasn't amnesty given to all previous 'failed tests' (which is why the suspensions of Gibbons, Guillen, Roberts, etc. were commuted at the beginning of 2008)?

Is it possible that the JDA expired on Dec. 19, 2008 (and that's why we're hearing about all this now)? [page 16 of Section 18]

Here's the JDA (Joint Drug Agreement) document I was reading from:

Feb 10, 2009 02:25 AM
rating: 0
Vinegar Bend

Primo Bolan.
I believe that was the Italian rock press's reaction to T.Rex's second album.

Feb 09, 2009 17:12 PM
rating: 3
Vinegar Bend

Everybody should check out Doug Glanville's recently posted column at NYTimes.com.

Feb 09, 2009 17:22 PM
rating: 0
Matt Kory

What is the url?

Feb 10, 2009 05:49 AM
rating: 0
Matt L.


Feb 10, 2009 07:58 AM
rating: 0

These comments got me thinking about the child's perspective on the issue. I know, I know, the media likes to go for easy indignation with the "Poor Billy used to be a Barry Bonds fan" crap. But that doesn't mean it's not a significant angle. I'd guess that anyone who reads BP is old enough and intelligent enough to understand the legal and performance implications of PED use. But not every kid can. And besides, they haven't yet become as cynical as most of the posters here (myself included). As an adult, I couldn't care less about A-Rod. But if you had told when I was ten, for example, that Rickey Henderson used drugs that helped him cheat, I would have been crushed. I do think that players have responsibility for their image. The players were kids once, they know how they felt about their heroes, so they can't just shrug off being a role model like Bonds does.

Feb 09, 2009 17:58 PM
rating: 1

Thanks Joe.

And Will too.

I'm glad someone else writes how I feel better than I can articulate it.

4 days until pitchers and catchers.

Feb 09, 2009 18:14 PM
rating: 0


I love BP, but I have to say I knew this article before I even read it. I don't think you've ever written this much at once. As the old saying goes "the house is on fire, but you're worried about the color of the fire truck."

I can't understand why you say that you don't care the ARod used steroids. I can't understand why the flawed process is what captivates your attention. Is the process full of holes? Of course. Were mistakes made? Absolutely.

But lets look at the actual news. ARod's decision to use steroids. Forget about the performance argument. Forget that its cheating. Steroids are by-and-large illegal, both to possess, distribute, and to use unless you have very specific circumstances. ARod also lied about it, point-blank. And now, after being caught, he's finally taking responsibility. I suppose I should applaud him for that, since some athletes in recent news have shown no accountability for anything.

But if you want us to ignore the screamers, then don't write 1,000 words about them. We already know you don't like mainstream media screamers. We already know that you think that baseball's processes are flawed. Your article is eloquently written as always, but I've read it all before.

Its ok to write about the event that they're screaming about. Just because everyone else screaming irrationally about something doesn't dilute its significance.

I don't care about the screamers either, but I do care about showing accountability for your actions. Baseball players cheated for years, and used illegal drugs for years. Non-athletes who use drugs often end up in prison; why should athletes be treated like they got caught cheating on a test? They should be held accountable (if at all possible) like the rest of us, not forgotten about so that the game can "heal itself" and move on.

You might disagree, but I'm glad that ARod has been caught and forced to take responsibility for his actions, even if the methods that caught him were questionable.

Keep up the good work, but this is one user who's hoping you'll spend more time analyzing the issues within the game of baseball, and less time analyzing the screamers who write about it.

Feb 09, 2009 19:13 PM
rating: 8

I wonder about someone like Hall of Famer Peter Gammons.

Surely, he knew plenty all along and had enough power to fear nothing.


Feb 09, 2009 19:14 PM
rating: -1

I expect he'll release a statement that goes something like:

"Everything they're saying is true. I've been in on it for years. I got a prostate the size of a honeydew... and a head full of bad memories. It's time to set things straight.

I got two words for you, sugar...
'Zip disk'!"

Or something like that. :)

Feb 10, 2009 02:32 AM
rating: -1

You are an excellent writer and an interesting voice Joe, but your perspective on this issue is as one-sided, shrill and illogical as those who you assualt in this piece. You say "the reason we're talking about this in 2009 is that so many "reporters"—scare quotes earned—went ostrich in 1999." I think you should name names here. Which writers knew about players taking steriods in 1999, had evidence to back up their beliefs and "went ostrich" in order to maintain access?

Feb 09, 2009 19:33 PM
rating: 3

For a well-reasoned, appropriate response to this, check out Doug Glanville's op-ed in the NY Times, which highlights the privacy issues while not ignoring the icon at the heart of the story.

Also see Rob Neyer's blog for his response to the interview itself. I think both of those touch on the issues involved better than this particular article.

Feb 09, 2009 20:05 PM
rating: 1

Excellent article Joe, I am amazed at some of the reaction by some of the readers though. Illegal really? not even relevant and not exactly true. leaking the names from sealed court records, now that is illegal and current, get upset about that. It is great to have the MLB network, they can hand-wring 24 hours a day now!

Feb 09, 2009 21:08 PM
rating: 0

I think it is possible to be upset about multiple things in this situation. Caring that the law was broken does not mean I have to ignore the fact that one of my favorite players cheated (regardless of how that information was obtained). By that same token, I don't think A-Rod should go to jail, I don't even think he should be suspended. But I do think he deserves to lose endorsements, that he deserves the loss in revenue from jersey sales, and he deserves every last boo bird he receives in every ball park he visits. For those purposes, this information is very relevant (even if it was only "partly" true that steroids were illegal, whatever that means).

Feb 09, 2009 21:48 PM
rating: 2

I believe that you should step back, and review the moral fiber that encloses your ethics.

Feb 10, 2009 03:26 AM
rating: 1

People are not stupid just because they disagree with you, Joe.

Feb 10, 2009 05:42 AM
rating: 0

From Bizofbaseball.com (http://bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2943:mlbpa-releases-statement-explaining-why-qsurvey-testq-results-were-not-destroyed&catid=38:performance-enhancing-drugs-peds&Itemid=49):

MLBPA Releases Statement Explaining Why "Survey Test" Results Were Not Destroyed

“We are issuing this statement today to respond to two questions that have been raised in the last few days in connection with reports about Alex Rodriguez and the 2003 MLB testing program. First, it has been asked why the results from our 2003 survey tests were not destroyed before they were seized by the government in the spring of 2004. The short answer is that in November, 2003, before that could take place, a grand jury subpoena for program records was issued.

“In mid-November 2003, the 2003 survey test results were tabulated and finalized. The MLBPA first received results on Tuesday, November 11.

Those results were finalized on Thursday, November 13, and the players were advised by a memo dated Friday, November 14. Promptly thereafter, the first steps were taken to begin the process of destruction of the testing materials and records, as contemplated by the Basic Agreement. On November 19, however, we learned that the government had issued a subpoena. Upon learning this, we concluded, of course, that it would be improper to proceed with the destruction of the materials. The fact that such a subpoena issued in November 2003 has been part of the public record for more than two years. See, U.S. v. CDT, 473 F3d at 920 (2006), and 513 F3d at 1090 (2008) (both opinions have now been vacated). Other subpoenas followed, including one for all test results.

“Over the next several months we attempted to negotiate a resolution of the matter with the United States Attorneys Office for the Northern District of California. During that time we pledged to the government attorneys that the materials would not be destroyed. When the government attorneys refused to withdraw its subpoena for all 2003 test results, we decided to ask a judge to determine to what the government was entitled. See, 473 F3d at 944, and 513 F3d at 1118. On the same day we were filing our papers with the court, the government attorneys obtained a search warrant and they began seizing materials the following day. Pursuant to that search warrant which named only 10 individuals, the government seized records for every baseball player tested under our program, in addition to many records related to testing in other sports, and even records for other (non-sport) business entities.

“Later in 2004 three federal district judges in three different judicial districts ruled that the government’s seizures were unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment and ordered the government to return all the materials seized (except for those related to the 10 players listed in the original search warrant). The government appealed and the matter is still pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

On December 18, 2008, the case was reargued before an en banc panel of Ninth Circuit judges.

“The second question that has been raised in recent days is whether Gene Orza or any other MLBPA official was engaged in improper “tipping” of players about 2004 tests. As we have said before, there was no improper tipping of players. Any allegations that Gene Orza or any other MLBPA official acted improperly are wrong. This issue was raised last year by Chairman Waxman of the House Government Reform Committee following the issuance of the Mitchell Report, and last July I sent him a ten-page letter clarifying the record on this subject. The letter is a pubic document (http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20080703114405.pdf). In that letter, I describe certain privileged conversations MLBPA attorneys conducted in September 2004 with members whose names appeared on certain government lists. It should be noted that the Commissioner’s Office was aware that such conversations were taking place, and in fact those conversations were conducted pursuant to an agreement between the MLBPA and the Commissioner.”

Feb 10, 2009 06:22 AM
rating: 0

This is just a spectacular article. I have noticed that ESPN.com is now posting certain prospectus articles and i hope that you push this one to make it over.

The rampant hypocracy surging through Major League Baseball and most of the American sports media is stunning, not too mention the disgrace that is Curt Schilling. Was the emergency surgery or massive amounts of painkillers that he received during the 2004 playoffs any different than the ped's that other players have used over the years? Really Curt Schilling is just fortunate that some medicines have been banned while others of equal danger and almost certainly of more consequence have been arbitrarily allowed. Of course Schilling could never have competed at a professional level without his drugs so why should he be allowed to point fingers over the less effective drugs used by his colleagues.

If the MLBPA brings charges -- and they should -- against Major League Baseball and the United States Government for the mishandling of the 2003 testing, will Curt Schilling break ranks? Like Sheehan has written here, there is so much of interest surrounding this issue and none of it is being reported. Someone please explain to the Baseball Writers of America that, just as there colleagues who write about the war, they are not reporting, they are fear mongering, and when all is said and done, it is their profession that is being ruined, not that of Alex Rodriguez.

Feb 10, 2009 06:24 AM
rating: -1

You're missing the point. I agree that certain banned performance enhancing drugs are possibly in the same harm/benefit category as some of the accepted drugs, surgeries and painkillers that MLB players are allowed to take advantage of.

The rules may be arbitrary, but nonetheless they are the RULES. Based on the evidence we have, Curt Schilling did everything he was *permitted* to do by MLB to compete and I admire him for that. Players like Arod who have tested positive for banned substances may not have done anything different in your eyes, but to MLB they knowingly cheated according to the *rules* at that time. Comparing the actions of Schilling to Arod are completely off-base.

Feb 11, 2009 09:56 AM
rating: 0

The more time passes, the more it looks like Jose Canseco was closer to the truth than anyone really wanted to know.

As for ARod... I'm not particularly surprised. I'm disappointed, but I'm pretty numb to it at this point.

Someone above mentioned Jeter. That would sting a bit... as would, say, Mariano. But I don't think I could claim surprise.

Feb 10, 2009 06:45 AM
rating: 0


This site is why I am not bothered by steroid use at all. Please check it out.

Feb 10, 2009 07:05 AM
rating: 0
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Arod 52 HR per year 2001-2003. Arod 41 HR per year every other year (even throwing out his 23 HR clunker). Not even park effects can explain it.

Every athlete on the planet, in every sport, in every country uses steroids for strength and speed gains but yet---baseball is immune to its effects. But of course.

This article is entitled "stupid media tricks" and blames traditional media for not 'seeing' Roids in the clubhouse, and yet this site (BP) and others continue to act as if Roids has no impact on the game. Tell that to Carlos Delgado---robbed by A-Roid of the 2003 AL MVP.

Everybody...every fan...every website...every "media" is guilty of the fraud. It's like Democrats blaming Republicans or vice versa; all are crooked.

Feb 10, 2009 08:14 AM
rating: -4

A-Rod actually hit fewer HRs (47) in 2003, the year he flunked the test, than in 2001 and 2002.

A-Rod hit more HRs in 2005 (48) and 2007 (54) than he did in 2003, the year he flunked the test; and he did that in a park much harder on RH hitters than Arlington.

A-Rod's season HR totals since he arrived in NY: 36, 48, 35, 54, 35.

Random variance and park effects very adequately explain A-Rod's season HR totals.

If you're going to use stats to back up your position, do it right. Otherwise, you're a cheater, too.

Feb 10, 2009 10:58 AM
rating: 0
Dr. Dave

Both of you are wrong to use total HR, rather than rate, as a measure of HR ability.

If you plot these numbers:
Age HR freq
19 3.4%
20 5.4%
21 3.6%
22 5.6%
23 7.4%
24 6.2%
25 7.2%
26 7.9%
27 6.6%
28 5.2%
29 6.7%
30 5.2%

...you get a less-noisy-than-most curve that is reasonably typical, and shows no identifiable "steroid effect". 2003 is the year labelled "27".

...and this STILL isn't right, because you would need to normalize it for league HR rate, and then (if you think steroids are ubiquitous) you'd need to find a control group that you could be pretty sure was 'clean', and then...

I'll listen to the media on the subject of PEDs when they have performed (or at least understood) such a study.

Feb 10, 2009 12:43 PM
rating: 0

"Not even park effects can explain it."

Well, not by themselves, but it's pretty easily explained by career shape, ballparks, and the occasional injury impacting his seasonal stats.

Break it down by parks:

96-98, Ages 20-22: 101 HRs / 1874 ABs, Kingdome HR PF 1.09
Total HR/AB: .0539, Park Adj.: .0494

1999, Age 23: 42 HRs / 502 ABs, Kingdome/Safeco HR PF 1.08*
Total HR/AB: .0837, Park Adj.: .0775

2000, Age 24: 41 HRs / 554 ABs, Safeco HR PF 0.94
Total HR/AB: .0740, Park Adj.: .0787

01-03, Ages 25-27: 156 HRs / 1863 ABs, Ballpark HR PF 1.10
Total HR/AB: .0837, Park Adj.: .0761

04-08, Ages 28-32: 208 HRs / 2871 ABs, YS2 HR PF 1.07
Total HR/AB: .0724, Park Adj.: .0677

I couldn't get historical HR PF data for years before 2001 easily, so I used a spreadsheet posted in 2008 at http://seamheads.com/blog/2008/06/10/truer-park-factors/. The value used for Kingdome/Safeco in 1999 is an estimate (starred above).

If you use the numbers posted for 2001 and beyond at ESPN.com, the mean HR PF for 2001-2003 in TEX was 1.18 and the mean HR PF for 2004-2008 in NYY was 1.08. This gives a park-adjusted HR/AB of .0709 in TEX and .0670 in NYY. One really notable thing from the year-by-year data is that the HR PF in Yankee Stadium in 2004 was .776, a far outlier that corresponds with Rodriguez's anomalous .06 HR/AB 2004 season. If you throw out that season, his totals in pinstripes move closer to his previously established norms. Unfortunately, however, these can't be compared with the Kingdome or Safeco data.

Mostly the tale told by his statistics is that he reached his potential at a young age and but for an odd off-year here or there has more or less maintained it. You would be hard-pressed to find his steroid years just by looking at the historical record.

Feb 10, 2009 12:37 PM
rating: 0

there is a basic moral rift between those who are seriously upset by steroid usage and those who see it on the level of pot. to form an overall judgment of the entire situation, both sides of the rift should be examined, with their basic motivation laid bare.

personally i cannot manage to be captivated by the "cheater!!" chorus. would someone make actual arguments, in proper form, to justify both the particular forms of reaction and their magnitude.

Feb 10, 2009 08:47 AM
rating: 0

Many were unhappy when Copernicus observed that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Still, unhappiness with the facts did not diminish their intrinsic worth. How much of this "PED use was rampant and therefore affected all of the competitors the same" argument is just wishing away the bad news?

The reality is that PED use did happen, and it affected the game. We cannot go back and undo that central truth. I agree with Mr. Sheehan, though, that the sportswriters who lionized Sosa and McGwire for "saving the game" must have turned a blind eye to the abuses occurring in their midst. Those folks deserve no plaudits for their newfound wisdom now.

But here is what people are missing in this discussion: professional sports test for drugs for all the wrong reasons.

Look at the NFL. Do they care about guys with fifteen concussions because Merril Hoge cannot abide the sound of his own children? Or do they care about putting Humpty Dumpty back up on the wall, where he may be admired for a fee?

Is this testing being done because MLB cares whether A-Rod gets cancer at age 45? Is it because they are worried that Mark McGwire will have renal failure some time when his days in the sun have long past? No.

They are testing because the league thinks the public wants to believe in the fairy tale of the hero pure of heart.

McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and A-Rod made the sport millions. Hallowed records fell. Owners saw their investments multiply. But that wasn't good enough. Lancelot wasn't good enough, the heroes needed to be Percival the Pure.

So they league thought they could run some half-assed testing, proclaim themselves clean, and keep the gravy train rolling. Well, it didn't work out that way.

And it didn't have to be this way. What was the point of a press release to announce confidential testing? Why did there need to be a Mitchell Report? If players health, if the sanctity of the game was in jeopardy, why not cleanse your dirty laundry in private?

If players are violating criminal laws, then let the police and the courts deal with them. Why go out of your way to publicly sully your own people?

Preacher Bud thought they would burn a few witches so the congregation would know the rest of the choir was chaste.

Well, bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Turns out the forest is full of witches.

Can you blame the congregation for gathering round the pyre to see who goes up in flames next?

Feb 10, 2009 09:03 AM
rating: 1

"I remain skeptical that PED use is connected to performance in a way that warps the game..."

Yep, only 18 of the past 38 MVP's have been implicated in PED stories.

And the top 6 all-time single season HR totals are owned by PED users.

And 4 of the top 5 single-season walks totals.

And the top 3 single season OPS+ marks of all time.

And 3 of the top 5 single-season SLG%'s of all time.

And the guy that won the most Cy Young awards ever, and the all-time HR leader.

Yep, move along folks. Stats guy says there's nothing to see here...

Feb 10, 2009 09:39 AM
rating: 4
Vinegar Bend

I would love to read a column by Sheehan wherein he discusses the issue of PEDs in baseball without digressing into a commentary on the media. I share his disgust for those who anoint themselves the moral guardians and have no idea about what they write, but that doesn't mean Sheehan himself cannot take a position that expresses his views on the ethics of PED usage and testing. His view would be welcomed because it would likely be circumspect and based on reason and facts.

I know he expressed views on this back when PED testing was being negotiated, but we know more about it now than we did in 2003. We know of more players who used, we know how the statistics changed. Is testing justified still? Do known users deserve our contempt? If the media is overreacting, then what is the proper reaction?

Feb 10, 2009 10:01 AM
rating: 6

The MSM doesn't report news - it creates stories to make money off an ignorant public.

Politicians don't address issues - they exploit them to grandstand for the ignorant electorate.

Any truth or reason attached to, or resulting from, these processes is purely incidental, and entirely unintended.

This is why a multi-millionaire ballplayer is being made an example of, while you never hear amything about how our own government subsidizes the most dangerous drug of all (http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/30).

This "story" has nothing to do with baseball, and everything to do with money. Otherwise, you wouldn't have heard about it.

Feb 10, 2009 11:40 AM
rating: -1

I don't get it; who is making money off of this "incident?"

Feb 10, 2009 13:22 PM
rating: 0

I just have to agree with bccurls (posted above). I knew the jist of this before I read it. I don't watch the "mainstream" sports shows so I cannot comment on what they are saying. But, based on the comments, I can guess.

PEDs are horrible problem in all competitive sports, and need an extremely rigorous, and, if needbe,invasive, response.

My assumptions:
PED's work, or they would not take them. Not just baseball but all competitive sports.

Without rigorous testing, players/athletes face a horrible dilemma: pass on marginal gains that could be gained by taking PEDs or take PEDs and gain some uncertain but potentially large amount. Imagine the difference between being a minor-leaguer and major leaguer. Or the difference between slightly above replacement level to substantially above. These are life-changing economic differences.

And network effects make it worse: if you think everyone else is staying clean, incentives for staying clean improve. If you think everyone else is cheating, incentives for cheating improve.

The only way to combat this is to have incredibly invasive procedures. I have heard that requiring blood tests is too much inconvenience or invasion of privacy. Why? What about the Olympics freezing urine and blood samples for future testing with penalties assessed if they are able to find currently illegal substances with improved testing processes. Sounds good to me.

I have not tracked the details, but my perception is that MLBPA has been pretty resistent to drug testing, at one point arguing it like a negotiating chip. BP has generally voiced concerns over privacy in drug tests. That position seems unconscionable to me. The only way to break the dilemma for players is impose the most effective drug testing possible. It won't cure all, but it will certainly help.

Feb 10, 2009 14:45 PM
rating: 0

The people making money off of the story are the people selling the story -- newspapers, websites, etc.

It's not exactly legal to violate a court ordered seal; there has got to be one pissed off federal judge out there, and it is generally not a good idea to piss off a federal judge.

How do you prove whether or not steroids help you hit a baseball? No idea. Steroids help you gain muscle mass in part by making it much easier to recover from workouts, so you can work out more. So it should be possible through a careful workout regimen to gain some ability to build the kind of muscle mass that makes it easier to swing a baseball bat, faster. Presumably bat speed helps you hit baseballs and to hit them farther, or people wouldn't swing so hard. So, it should be POSSIBLE for steroids to help a player who works out a lot to be able to hit a baseball or to hit it farther -- converting FB to HR -- but it doesn't guarantee success in any respect.

Some baseball writers have admitted that they should have done more to investigate the issue years ago, ie Buster Olney, others are just trying to make money.

Feb 10, 2009 14:46 PM
rating: -1

Again your writing reminds me of why I need to renew my subscription, and why I will shake my head when I do it. This article had the best and worst of BP: a wonderfully well-thought and researched article, written in a coherent and flowing manner. And vernacular that would rival most political debates with regard to dismissiveness, derisiveness, and arrogance.

Years ago, Jonah Keri was kind enough to engage me in conversation regarding my concerns over BP subtitling a book "Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong." Since then, I have come to realize that, like that book, BP is full of wonderful content that is wrapped in elitist language and presentation. I will continue to read and enjoy, but I wonder if Jonah Keri's humility left with him, and if that was a good thing for the retention of future readers who may not know the game as well as you all, but want to. Would they feel welcome?


Feb 10, 2009 17:37 PM
rating: 2


BP's sanguine approach to PED's seems more based on reflexive contrarianism than hard-headed analysis. Of course the mainstream media are illogical and hysterical in their treatment of Rodriguez--that's what they do!--but that doesn't mean steroids aren't a problem. On this subject I detect an unusual degree of intellectual sloppiness among BP writers.

For example, you say:

I remain skeptical that PED use is connected to performance in a way that warps the game, a conclusion supported by the evidence that proven use is mixed among hitters and pitchers, among good players and fringe ones, among the strong and the skinny

Hey, it's always good to be skeptical, but your reasoning here is uncharacteristically fallacious. Observing that a range of players used PEDs tells one almost nothing about their effect, except I suppose that PEDs don't turn everyone into Barry Bonds. For all you know, though, the fringe players who used PEDs would be minor leaguers if not for their use. You should be more intellectually honest and simply say you don't know what the effects of PEDs are. (Some of the case studies we have--Canseco!--suggest that PEDs could have significant effects, but those are just case studies, and I would acknowledge they are problematic.)

My first love is professional cycling, where PEDs are a huge and perhaps insoluble problem. The evidence that some PEDs significantly improve performance *in that sport* is pretty clear. The efforts to curb PED use in cycling have gone far beyond anything else in sport, but the desire to improve performance through enhancements, and the difficulty of detecting PEDs in a responsible, fair way, have made the effort quite frustrating. If you can't stop pros from using PEDs, you are going to have even more trouble wiping it out at the much more numerous, lower ranks of the sport. Even if the standard PEDs, when used correctly, have relatively limited side effects, people don't always use the drugs correctly, and anyway, they will try just about anything, not just the standard PEDs. In cycling this means people regularly die from PEDs, especially at the low-pro level. Can you be certain that something similar won't happen in baseball? (Not among the major leaguers, but in the minors and among the much larger ranks of hopeful amateurs.) I think this is a far more serious topic than you admit, and so I find your sanguine, sometimes flip tone unappealing.


Feb 10, 2009 18:08 PM
rating: 2

I like everything you wrote and the way you wrote it. So thank you. But not all of what's going on slides so easily onto the pile of righteous crap you describe. Tejada has just admitted lying to Congress and has already coppe+d a plea. And my wife is beating the crap out of me because kids got take-away messages that are truly revolting, and she's got a point.

After the cat was out of the bag, for whatever reason, cupidity, stupidity, bad judgement, whatever, there were issues of honesty that had to be dealt with and hell to pay if they weren't addressed. That payment is coming due.

I'll leave you with the same thought as the last you - and we - went round about this. A collection of ballplayers, one playing by the rules and the other not, having to share confines as tight as a clubhouse is nothing more than a disaster waiting to happen.

This had to be reined in - not stopped, it can't be - but sideboards defined and kept in place. That it was so poorly done by the owners, the players association, Congress, what have you, and that it offered up such an easy target for the lazy and the righteous in the newsroom is the real disaster. The whole think stinks to high heaven.

Feb 10, 2009 19:09 PM
rating: 2

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Cole. I also sometimes get the feeling that people want "to turn the page" on the steroid issue only because they want mainstream media to stop ranting about it. To do that would be a disservice to every player who's played the game drug-free.

This article seems to focus somewhat on protecting the guilty. I would've expected baseball purists like BP to be more concerned with defending the innocents, the players that have been robbed of countless dollars (not to mention careers) by having to face their competitors on an uneven playing field.

It seems the only steroid-type articles I see from BP are in response to a mainstream article or event regarding steroids. I could be mistaken, but I don't remember seeing many BP articles written about steroids in baseball, only retorts written in response to specific events like ARod's admission and the media frenzy surrounding it.

Does BP care about steroid use in baseball? Maybe.

Do they care who used steroids in baseball during the past 15 years? Doesn't sound like it.

Do they care about how steroid use in baseball is documented by the mainstream media? Sure looks like it.

Lastly, if my son ends up taking steroids one day while playing high school football, and I find out about it via some news article in the local paper, I can surely say that I won't care how I found out about it. My focus will be on my son and his steroid usage, not the process by which it was discovered.

I don't understand why BP doesn't seem to care more about finding out the complete truth concerning the use of illegal drugs in the sport they all love the most. I'm sure they do care, but sometimes it just doesn't show nearly as much as their disdain for the media, Congress, and anyone else who thinks that the widespread, decades-long use of illegal drugs within the country's biggest sport is a topic actually deserving of serious scrutiny.

When a commercial airliner crashes, it can take years before the events are reconstructed and the cause determined. Illegal drug use in baseball is a complex subject, involving thousands of individuals, spanning tens of years. It will take time to find out the complete truth.

Feb 10, 2009 20:45 PM
rating: 1

"There was a time, not very long ago, that I thought the issue of PEDs in baseball was overblown because use was overstated. Now, I think that use was common, with some significant number of players regularly using steroids in an effort to become better at that craft, and a larger number at least trying them out for a period of time."

Joe, might it be that the only reason you changed your mind is the number of players identified through the work of the very sources (SF writers, prosecutors, congressional hearings, Mitchell Report, disgruntled girlffriends and relatives) that you have ridiculed?

BP likes to think that it has done a lot to advance the understanding of steroids, but they have done virtually nothing to advance the identification of users, and in fact have sought to 'turn the page' to minimize such identification by riduling those who seek to do so. Great synopsis of BP postion in the previous post by BCCURLS.

"I remain skeptical that PED use is connected to performance in a way that warps the game..."

While a steroid pitcher (Clemens) firing a fastball to a steroid hitter (MCGuire) might be a wash on a given day comparing their performance to non-steroid players (Fred McGriff or Don Mattingly) ultimately leaves the clean player outside the Hall looking in. The post by AIRSTEVE01 was a good summary.

To clean up baseball

1. Bud needs to use the ARod mess (and Orza / union complicity)to leverage the union to reopen drug testing to close some of the loopholes.

2. Include blood testing to address HGH and other possible PEDS.

3. Store blood samples for future testing for new designer steroids. Perhaps it might be impossible to retroactively convict someone for using a new designer steroid, but you could certainly ask a player if he used it, and confirm whether he is a liar or not. At the least it would provide an incentive for players to think twice before trying a new designed steroid designed to beat the system.

Feb 11, 2009 09:55 AM
rating: 1
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