Alex Rodriguez reportedly tested positive
for steroids as part of MLB's 2003 "survey
UPDATE: Bob Costas will interview Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Selena Roberts live in-studio on MLB Network today at 2:15 p.m. ET. Roberts, who reported this morning on SI.com with David Epstein that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, will discuss the report with Costas in her first interview since breaking the story.
Alex Rodriguez, who at 553 career home runs could be the player to pass Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list, reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003 as part of MLB’s “survey test”, according to a report Saturday by Sports Illustrated on its website.
The report cites four unidentified sources that have knowledge of the unreleased findings of the 2003 tests that Rodriguez tested positive for methenolone, a drug that is now listed as a banned substance in MLB.
As reported by SI.com, when approached by an SI reporter on Thursday at a gym in Miami, Rodriguez declined to discuss his 2003 test results. "You'll have to talk to the union," said Rodriguez. When asked if there was an explanation for his positive test, he said, "I'm not saying anything."
Calls to Donald Fehr, executive director of the MLB Players Association were not returned.
At the time of the survey test, steroids, including methenolone, were not banned by MLB.
The confidential survey test was negotiated as part of the 2003-2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement, a test designed to learn how prevalent steroid use was in Major League Baseball. Players were tested twice during the 2003 season (including spring training but not the postseason). In addition, the Office of the Commissioner had the right to conduct additional survey testing in 2003 in which up to 240 players, selected at random, could be tested. If 5% or more of those tested came up positive for steroids, mandatory testing would take place beginning in 2004. The results were to remain confidential; even a player who tested positive would not be informed. Names were never listed on the testing samples. Rather, a number was assigned with a separate key used by the testing facilities. That year, 1,438 players were tested, and 104 of them, or 7.23%, tested positive for steroids. Mandatory testing was then implemented in 2004.
The intent of survey test was to determine if the 5% threshold was broken, not to assign discipline. Management got their testing program, and the players complied.
The confidential nature of the survey test has been a chief topic of debate in legal circles. Federal agents, as part of the BALCO investigation, seized the results of the survey test from Comprehensive Drug Testing, Inc. in Long Beach, CA and Quest Diagnostics,Inc. in Las Vegas, NV. The two separate locations are relevant in that the test results were not labeled by name, but rather by a code. The code associated to the player name was kept at Quest in Las Vegas, while the testing samples themselves were at Quest in Long Beach.
Beyond the agreement between MLB and the MLBPA that the test results should remain confidential, there are issues surrounding a directory containing the players tested as part of the 2003 survey. Also contained within the directory are the names of many others not involved in MLB’s test. As outlined in the legal case to suppress the use of the seized documents (see United States v Comprehensive Testing):
[A] CDT director finally identified a computer directory containing all of the computer files for CDT's sports drug testing programs. This directory, labeled by its original compiler as the "Tracey" directory, contained numerous subdirectories and hundreds of files. Seeing this, Agent Abboud recommended copying the entire directory for off-site analysis, because of the time and intrusiveness involved in searching the voluminous directory on site. Knowing that the warrant required them to rely upon the advice of a computer analyst-here the advice of Computer Investigative Specialist Agent Joseph Abboud-agents copied the directory and removed the copy for later review at government offices.
The ruling then goes on to say that:
Agent Novitzky reviewed with CDT directors the evidence seized during the search. The documents seized included a twenty-five-page master list of all MLB players tested during the 2003 season and a thirty-four-page list of positive drug testing results for eight of the ten named BALCO players, intermingled with positive results for twenty-six other players.
Questions remain as to whether the Fourth Amendment may have been breached as part of “reasonable search and seizure”. As US v Comprehensive Testing continues:
"[T]he directory contained 2,911 files that had nothing to do with Major League Baseball drug testing, but rather contained test results for numerous other sports entities and business organizations," wrote Judge Sidney R. Thomas in his dissent. "Dr. Jean Joseph of CDT later stated in an affidavit that the directory was easily searched by key word and would have provided the test information about the 10 players in a short period of time."
As for Rodriguez, or any other players that may surface as part of the seized files from Comprehensive Testing, as part of the survey test agreement, the 2003-2006 CBA has the following:
At the conclusion of any Survey Test, and after the results of all tests have been calculated, all test results, including any identifying characteristics, will be destroyed in a process jointly supervised by the Office of the Commissioner and the Association.
For a reasons not yet known, the test results for all the players were never destroyed. Reportedly, the mishandling of paperwork involving the 104 players that tested positive in 2003 prevented the MLBPA from destroying the results of those players, allowing federal investigators to gain access to those records through a search warrant.
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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