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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Baseball Is Given Evidence of Player Receiving Drugs

Although baseball has come forth and introduced a somewhat stringent steroid testing policy, it still is meager and incompetent compared to that of other sporting institutions.

Published: October 11, 2007

Major League Baseball has been given documentary evidence by the Albany County district attorney’s office that a player linked in published reports to shipments of performance-enhancing drugs did indeed receive a banned substance, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case.

The district attorney’s office is leading the investigation of Signature Pharmacy, an Orlando, Fla.-based company that illegally provided clients with performance-enhancing drugs. Investigators are expected to provide baseball with evidence about other players in the coming weeks, an official affiliated with baseball said.

The law enforcement official and the baseball official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Baseball officials say they believe they need documentary evidence, thought to be shipping or pharmacy records, to ensure that an arbitrator will uphold whatever disciplinary action they take.

Major League Baseball introduced anonymous testing for steroids in 2003 and has increasingly toughened the policy since.

The periods in which the players are believed to have received drugs range from 2003 to 2006, and baseball plans to use the testing policy in place at the time a player received a shipment as a nonbinding guideline when determining discipline.

The policy in 2004 allowed a player to test positive for steroids once without being publicly identified or suspended, with only counseling being mandated. A second positive test required a suspension, but no major league player in 2004 was publicly identified with a positive test.

In 2005, the policy was toughened and first-time offenders were identified and suspended.

Although there is no reliable test for human growth hormone, the league banned its use before the 2005 season. That year the penalty for a first positive test for steroids was increased to 50 games from 10.

Three players — Jerry Hairston Jr., Gary Matthews Jr. and Rick Ankiel — reportedly received H.G.H. before 2005 and so are unlikely to be disciplined.

However, three other players could face suspensions if baseball can establish their guilt.

Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons reportedly received six shipments of H.G.H. and two shipments of steroids between October 2003 and July 2005.

Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus reportedly received multiple shipments of steroids between September 2003 and May 2004, and Mets reliever Scott Schoeneweis allegedly was sent shipments of steroids between 2003 and 2004.

The identity of the player tied to the documentary evidence, one of the three players linked to the steroid shipments, is not known. None of the three have been publicly linked to a positive test.

Although baseball’s testing policy does not expressly address how a player should be penalized for having received a shipment of a banned substance, the commissioner can suspend the player based on just cause.

The players union can appeal a suspension on a player’s behalf.

Major League Baseball officials contend they can discipline a player more harshly if he is caught violating drug policy outside the testing system that was collectively bargained between the union and the league. The union’s position is that possession is less severe than a positive test; it has indicated it would likely fight harsher penalties.

None of players linked to the shipments are in the playoffs, and baseball will probably not announce any suspensions until after the World Series.

The district attorney’s office said in March that it would provide Major League Baseball and the National Football League with a list of players connected to shipments from the pharmacy. The N.F.L. was given the names of a coach, a player and a team doctor who were tied to shipments.

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