Now What? (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday December 18, 2007 9:21AM; Updated: Tuesday December 18, 2007 9:21AM
Here are examples, most of which are identified in the Mitchell Report, showing why baseball needs to turn over the testing to independent experts.
1. Some players were able to get notification well in advance of their test dates -- early enough so that they could, in theory, get or stay clean. In 2004, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Greg Anderson, then the personal trainer for Barry Bonds, learned that Bonds would be tested in late May or early June. The San Francisco Giants slugger was tested on May 28 and again on June 4. Moreover, that September, according to the Mitchell Report, an unidentified ex-major leaguer was tipped off by players' association chief operating officer Gene Orza that he would be tested within two weeks. (Orza declined to be interviewed by Mitchell.)
2. No drug tests took place in the 2004, '05 and '06 postseasons.
3. No drug tests occurred in the off-seasons following the 2004 and '05 seasons. When baseball did act after '06, it conducted only 68 tests -- involving fewer than 6% of the players -- and in those cases players had been afforded advance notice of between 24 and 72 hours.
4. Teams were given 24-hour advance notice of in-season tests. (Selig, who previously had the authority to end this practice, said only after the release of the Mitchell Report that he would do so.)
5. Baseball destroys virtually all drug-testing data, even data from which player identification has been removed. Retaining test information is important, Tygart says, to establish a baseline and pattern of information to detect so-called designer steroids. Such data aided in identifying a previously unfamiliar steroid, norbolethone, in the otherwise negative samples of cyclist Tammy Thomas in 2002.
6. Baseball does not publish a full accounting of test results, which would name the substances that triggered positive results.
Mitchell addressed most of these concerns in his recommendations, calling for a more independent and transparent program and better off-season testing. Selig was quick to endorse the recommendations whole cloth, saying, "There is nothing in his recommendations, frankly, that I could even begin to disagree with."
To change the program, owners and players would have to reopen the collective bargaining agreement (which runs through 2011) and find common ground on the new terms. There is precedent for this: In '05, in the wake of congressional hearings on steroid use, the owners and the players modified the CBA by adding HGH and 17 other compounds to the banned list and strengthening penalties for positive tests.
Trouble is, the Mitchell Report may drive owners and players further apart rather than closer together. And with Selig giving Mitchell's recommendations a blanket endorsement so quickly, he put public pressure squarely on union director Donald Fehr, who was far more wary of Mitchell's investigation. (A mere two known active players, Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas and New York Yankees first baseman-DH Jason Giambi, cooperated with the investigation, and Giambi did so only under threat of disciplinary action following his admission of steroid use in a May 2007 newspaper article.)