Baseball Scores, But Game Suspended

A guest article by Charles S. Farrell from the DRSEA Informer

Volume II, Issue 19: A Publication For Your Reading Enjoyment

DRSEAlogoMajor League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association got a split decision recently when a U.S. federal court of appeals ruled that federal agents went too far in seizing urine samples, drug testing-records and other evidence in a raid in connection with baseball’s 2003 survey on drug testing. But a federal appeals judge said that the potential steroid evidence cannot be destroyed by the Major League Baseball Players Association pending an appeal, meaning that the 104 players who tested positive in the survey still risk potential exposure. Several players’ names have already been leaked from the survey that was intended to remain anonymous, including Alex Rodriquez, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, all Dominicans.

Federal prosecutors asked for the stay until they decide whether to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the evidence is crucial to the potential appeal.

Federal agents were armed with a search warrant in 2004 that allowed them to seize the urine samples involved in the so-called BALCO case; agents also took computers that included the records of the 104 players and other information. Prosecutors had argued that they were entitled to the records because the information was in “plain view” during the search, but the appeals court decision established new guidelines for the in-plain-sight argument, barring the practice in computer searches. The decision could set new precedent in such cases, which makes the prospect of Supreme Court review even more intriguing. The appeals court basically said that the government does not have a right to records of people not the target of a search warrant just because those records are on a computer taken during a criminal investigation. Since most business records are currently kept on computer, the ruling could apply to just about every American.

For baseball, if the decision is upheld, it could spell the end to a nightmare. Baseball has been slowly twisting at the end of a rope as players’ names have been leaked from the list of those who tested positive in the survey. The MLBPA has asked for an investigation of the leak, but, to date, none has been launched.

Is it just me, or is it a scary thought that the U.S. Supreme Court may actually take ultimate jurisdiction of this case? When I was growing up, I had considered a career in law, inspired by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the High Court’s impact on social change in America. This is the same court that decided Plessy v. Ferguson, that legalized segregation. The same court the decided Brown v. BOE, that ended segregation. The same court that decided Rowe v. Wade, legalizing abortion. The Court of Justice Marshall, for God sake!

And now that Court could ultimately decide the fate of vials of urine.

Front of Supreme Court Building

Meanwhile, the reason for drug testing in the first place continues to be born out, particularly in the Dominican Republic.

As of this week, there were 68 drug suspensions at the minor league level for the 2009 season. Last year there were a total of 66 suspensions, so baseball has broken a dubious record. The suspensions are effective at the start of next season.

Of those 68 players, 31 are in the Dominican Summer League. Forty-five DSL players were suspended for drug use a year ago, leaving some to surmise that steroid use is going down, but those who are familiar with drug testing will tell you not to be fooled.

As laboratories work to perfect drug testing, there are chemists feverishly at work developing ways to avoid detection, and they are also working on the next generation of performance-enhancing drugs, many of which are probably being used by players even as we speak. I think the only way to end the use of PEDs is to develop harsher penalties for those who do get caught, to the point others will have to ask themselves: “Is it worth it?” Obviously we haven’t reached that point yet, and the fact that 45 percent of those caught doping this year are Dominican says volumes about the risks these players will take to have a career in baseball.

And then there is Damian Arredondo. Back in July, the young Dominican prospect who claimed to be a 16-year-old had his contract voided by the Yankees after it was discovered he had misrepresented his age and identity. He forfeited an $850,000 signing bonus. More recently, he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

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