While I’m at work on a story I hope to have for you soon on what’s happening in baseball now when it comes to performance enhancers, the government and, to some extent, MLB, is still stuck in the past. 2003, to be exact, when MLB first had sanctioned, anonymous survey testing.
Except it wasn’t, and that’s going to be a big deal.
The New York Times explains that a retest of Barry Bonds 2003 sample showed “signs of anabolic steroids” (which for all intents and purposes means it tested positive for either or both of THG or excess testosterone), but it does a poor job explaining why Bonds’ test didn’t get flagged as positive.
Simple. THG wasn’t known at the time. Drug testing works like a mug book on Law & Order. The witness flips through a book, and when they see the face, they point. If the picture isn’t there, they won’t find it. Drug tests look for drugs they know and have the chemical profile for. (It’s more technical than this, but that’s the basic metaphor.) Since THG was unknown and no test existed, it wasn’t found. Once it was known, the profile was added and it was easily detected.
What’s more interesting is that the master list of players who tested positive is in the possession of the IRS, seized as part of a raid on Comprehensive Drug Testing. I won’t get into the constitutional or legal issues here, but with some of the evidence about to be unsealed heading into Bonds’ trial, that list may well come public. Whether it’s 96 or 103—the number varies depending on your source—there are going to be names that weren’t included in the Mitchell Report, which was not given access to that seized ‘master list.’ If not unsealed, well, nothing else in this case has stayed secret long.
We’ve seen the government’s playbook on this in two previous trials, plus pleas to many in the BALCO case. It’s unlikely that Barry Bonds is facing more time in jail than Marion Jones, but in the meantime, the page that baseball hoped was turned by the Mitchell Report just got pissed on.