J.C. Romero has been suspended 50 games
for testing positive for a banned substance
by not using a league certified nutritional
supplement (David Zalubowski/AP)
MLB announced today that Phillies reliever J.C. Romero and Yankees pitcher Sergio Mitre, who is currently with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, have each been suspended 50 games for being in violation of MLB’s drug policy after testing positive for banned substance. Both suspensions will begin at the beginning of the season.
Romero had two wins in last year’s World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. He stands to lose $1.25 million in salary due to the suspension.
According to comments by Romero, and confirmed through statement by the MLB Players Association, the two players unknowingly ingested the banned substances through the use of supplements, purchased over the counter in the U.S.
“Mitre and Romero both legally purchased nutritional supplements from national chain stores in the United States,” said Major League Baseball Players Association General Counsel, Michael Weiner. “Nothing on the labels of those supplements indicated that they contained a trace amount of a substance prohibited under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Neither player intentionally ingested this prohibited substance, but the arbitrator nevertheless found, wrongly in our view, that the players’ conduct violated the Program’s ‘no fault or negligence’ standard.”
According to several reports, including Baseball Prospectus colleague, Will Carroll, “Romero tested positive for 6-OXO Extreme.” According to Carroll, “While legal and still available at your local GNC, 6-OXO Extreme has always carried a warning that it could result in positive tests.” Ultimately, the banned substance in the 6-OXO Extreme appears to be androstendione.
Several reports claimed that the supplement that was used by Romero was deemed to be safe by the MLBPA, or that the union for the players knew, in advance of the positive tests, that this supplement contained a banned substance. A second statement released by Weiner said, “Neither is accurate. The Association knew nothing about the particular supplements involved here prior to learning of these positive results.”
“I still cannot see where I did something wrong,” Romero told ESPN.com. “There is nothing that should take away from the rings of my teammates. I didn’t cheat. I tried to follow the rules.”
While Romero, the MLBPA, and presumably, Mitre believe there has been an injustice, the word referenced in the arbitrator's ruling seems to sum it up best: negligence.
All players are informed as to what supplements and their manufacturers are deemed to be “approved” by the league and MLBPA. In fact, the MLBPA provides a link to NFS-approved supplements list on their website. 6-OXO Extreme is not on the certified “safe” list.
Much like the consumer cliché, "Let the buyer beware," Romero should have heeded the saying, “Let the body beware.” The PA has worked diligently to inform players to allow them to make decisions in the best interest of not testing positive for banned substances, but it seems that some players, Romero included, are missing the message.
Romero, or his agent, could have consulted the NFS-approved supplements list. Romero could have consulted the MLBPA to see if he might be in danger of testing positive, should he use the substance.
Or, Romero could have not been negligent.
At this early stage, it seems clear that Romero was not looking actively to use PEDs to gain an advantage. He should not be linked to those that have. However, the testing policy is not designed to account for “innocent intent or bad intent” rulings; it is simply designed to find violations.
The players have been given information to make educated decisions. There may still be room for improvement. But, if there is a lesson to be learned by other players in the league after Tuesday's suspensions it is “better safe than sorry.” Certainly J.C. Romero should have remembered that before using an uncertified nutritional supplement.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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