Ever since BALCo, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammny Sosa, Roger Clemons et al we have all thought that we knew that “everyone” was using illegally and that there was a mythical list of players who tested positive. Today, that is not so clear.
David Ortiz, Big Pappi, was outed by the New York Times which is in the strange situation of being both a part owner of the Red Sox and the hometown paper for the Yankees.
At a press conference today during which Ortiz denied buying or using steroids, we learned, for the first time, from the Player’s Union more about the list.
“I definitely was a little bit careless back in those days when I was buying supplements and vitamins over the counter — legal supplements, legal vitamins over the counter — but I never buy steroids or used steroids,” said Ortiz, who revealed he had been tested 15 times and two more times in the World Baseball Classic since 2003 with no positive result.
While the government list is alleged to have 104 names on it, the Harvard-educated Weiner [from the Player’s Union} said there could be no more than a maximum of 96 positive tests or no fewer than 83 positive tests, based on the 5 percent threshold of players who needed to test positive in the 2003 testing, which triggered a stiff performance-enhancing policy by Major League Baseball and the union.
Weiner reiterated that no one at the union or the commissioner’s office knew specifically who had tested positive, but that players were notified in August or September of 2004 that they were on the government list. Weiner said no further information was given. Ortiz confirmed that he was never informed of a positive test.
Weiner explained in detail the testing process.
“Part of survey testing in 2003 was that every test consisted of a pair of collections. Every single player — the first sample was taken at random — he didn’t know it was coming — and the second one — and I wasn’t there — but David Ortiz was probably told by the collectors not to take any supplements and it would be collected again roughly seven days later. Those two collections together constituted a single test. Every single player who was tested in 2003 had that paired test and when I say there were other players who were tested twice, they would have had two paired collections because every test was paired.”
Weiner said it was done this way by the doping agency in an effort to determine which players were taking hard steroids and which were testing positive for supplements. Weiner also explained that in 2003, many supplements that were later banned were legal to use. He cited androstenedione. I asked Ortiz whether he had taken andro, made famous by Mark McGwire, and Ortiz couldn’t answer whether he had.
Weiner said that if a player tested positive in one collection and negative in another, the final result of that test would be negative.
While the general feeling is that the union has not explained things well during the process, Weiner pointed out that the same things he’s outlined in his statement before today’s press conference were the same points he made in a letter to Congressmen Tom Davis and Henry Waxman and in a separate letter to Sen. George Mitchell. He said the letter to the congressmen were public knowledge, but conceded that perhaps the message didn’t get out as well as he’d hoped.
Weiner was also asked to reconcile the difference between the union’s involvement with Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, who elected to reveal what he took, as opposed to Ortiz, who said he never took steroids and may be guilty of taking supplements that he didn’t know contained banned substances.
“We talked to each of the players involved in this and again each player made his own determination as to what he wanted to say,” Weiner said. “The fact we decided to issue our statement today was a function of the fact the message had not been gotten out about the unfairness in which this story has been reported. We would have issued that statement no matter who the player and where ever in the country he was. The fact that David decided to make a statement is what drove me to come here. It would be wrong to suggest that our view is any different with any of our players.”
Are you as confused as I am? David Ortiz may have used some illegal substances back in 2003 that were in some vitamins and other supplements he admits he took but didn’t know everything that was in them. No one knows if he is on “The List” because he test positive because maybe he isn’t really on “The List”. The only thing we really know is that he has been test 15 times since with negative results.
Baseball needs to figure out how to handle this situation. It isn’t enough to say that different players want to handle it differently. I know there is a court order about “The List”. Major League Baseball, the Courts, and Congress need to resolve this situation right now. I would propose an amnesty for all players who actually tested positive in 2003 and stiff penalties for anyone who tests positive now. Do what Pappi suggested and suspend for a year. This does not include players like Bonds and Clemens for whom there appears to be evidence of useage. If there is evidence, they get punished, if for nothing else for lying to Congress and law enforcement. If no evidence is ever found, they get amnesty, too. Something has to happen or the players on “The List” will be forever tained and left with no defense.
Of course, this will do nothing about things players may be taking now that are not currently illegal and for which a test is developed in a few years. I guess that’s a question for another day.