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Selig praises new supplement law, J.C. Romero awaits apology

Feb 3, 2010, 4:44 PM EDT

Senators McCain and Dorgan introduced some new legislation today that proposes to more closely regulate the supplement industry in the wake of reports that many products contain designer steroids and other such nasties which aren’t disclosed to the public.  Bud Selig just released a statement on it:

“On behalf of Major League Baseball, I would like to thank Senators
John McCain and Byron Dorgan for their efforts to broaden the Food and
Drug Administration’s regulatory authority over dietary supplements. We
fully support the proposed legislation designed to protect athletes and
consumers from dangerous, mislabeled and tainted over-the-counter
supplements. The continued leadership of Senators McCain and Dorgan has
made an impact on this important issue.”

That’s all good, but if Selig really believed that mislabled and tainted over-the-counter supplements were a problem, why didn’t he buy J.C. Romero’s defense? Romero, you’ll recall, was suspended 50 games for taking something he bought from a GNC store which both he and the MLBPA thought was OK, and contained no evidence that it had bad stuff in it on the label, but turned out to have a banned hormone in it. Baseball didn’t think that got him off the hook and he served his suspension because, according to Major League Baseball, he was “negligent.”

If baseball really thinks guys like Romero were “negligent” then you’d think they’d issue a statement saying that the new law is unnecessary.

UPDATE:  Just had a conversation with someone at Major League Baseball. Their view — which makes a good deal of sense, I’ll admit — is that the drug policy sort of has to take the kind of zero-tolerance approach that was taken in the Romero case, or else enforcement actions are going to be prone to a bunch of “I didn’t know what I was taking” defenses, rendering the policy largely ineffective. Ultimately, the issue is whether a player — despite his intentions — competed in a game with a banned substance in his system. I can see that. Baseball’s drug policy, while having multiple purposes, should probably have “making sure athletes are competing on a level playing field” as its top priority.

But one question I do have is that, if that’s the case, what’s the point of even having an appeals and arbitration process like the one Romero went through in the first place? Why not just a test-positive-no-appeal kind of system? Or at the most an appeals process that only scrutinizes the science of it all, such as whether the test itself was wrongly administered or whether the samples were tainted or what have you?

  1. Darryl - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:56 PM

    Craig, isn’t this just more proof of the old “head-in-the-sand” defense?? Oh sure, the FDA didn’t know any better, but Mr. Romero should have done his homework?????

  2. Craig Calcaterra - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Great point, Darryl. MLB always wants to look tough, but rare has it been that there’s any substance behind its positions.

  3. YX - Feb 3, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Well, it’s the same as trade secret law I guess, which need to show due-diligence in order to be protected. By saying Romero were “negligent”, MLB is saying that he didn’t do enough due-diligence, which may or may not be kosher but at least defensible.

  4. sweeny - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    Great job MLB, the 100+ people who tested positive and we don’t know about get off scott free, and Romero gets a 50 game ban for something innocuous, way to go.

  5. Rays fan - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    “Or at the most an appeals process that only scrutinizes the science of it all, such as whether the test itself was wrongly administered or whether the samples were tainted or what have you?”
    That’s the option that gets my vote.

  6. Ryan - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    CC: I have to agree, MLB’s stance does make sense. I thought it was retarded what happened to Romero last year, but I definitely understand why better now. Why don’t you call back that person in MLB and say “why the hell didn’t you just come out and say that?” I never heard anything like that statement in all the articles after he tested positive.

  7. billyg - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    With MLB sitting on the 100 positive test results, and hoping that reporters don’t start questioning all those players who took PEDS (including some in the HOF), with baseball reporters trying to hound a guide who admitted his mistakes (McGwire), NFL trying to sue for who dat, and stopping players from celebrating, and stopping a NHL advert because it contained nfl players,NBA banning players for making stupid mistakes, sports pretty much suck at the moment.

  8. YANKEES1996 - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:52 PM

    Romero purchased the supplement from a GNC store and used it and tested positive for a substance that was not listed on the container, who is responsible for regulating the manufacturer about putting things in their product that are not listed in the ingredients. Romero got suspended by MLB and really did nothing wrong, what would have happened if the unknown ingredient had made him sick or worse? The legislation presented by Senator McCain and Dorgan is long overdue. The companies that produce these supplements have not had to answer to anyone it sounds like to me, or possibly the FDA is simply asleep at the wheel. The possible answer to this maybe to have MLB teams hire medical personnel that can recommend a supplement to their players that won’t cause the player to fail a test and be suspended. Afterall, the player and the team seem to be the ones that suffer the most in these situations.

  9. The Rabbit - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    JC Romero thought he did his homework when he took the GNC bottle into the clubhouse and asked the trainers about it, checked the posted list of banned substances, and called the Players Union to see if there had been any updates to the list after the last one had been circulated prior to taking it. Everyone he spoke to told him that it was an approved supplement. This was all verified at the hearing….which is why he received the suspension for “negligence” and not, PED abuse.
    MLB offered Romero a lesser suspension in lieu of a hearing but he opted for a hearing because, in his mind, he had no intention to “cheat” and thought that he had proved it. However, in the world of MLB justice, he had his speeding ticket reduced to manslaughter.

  10. Holt - Feb 3, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    I have reservations about the Healthcare Law. Will it cause negative effects on my families standard of living? Will the improvements to healthcare counterbalance the negatives?

  11. Jonny5 - Feb 4, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    Yup, there it is…… And Grease ball Manny gets the same exact punishment when he knowingly took a banned substance. I feel for Romero he got royally screwed!!! Shouldn’t the appeals process allow for handing down a lighter punishment in the case of being completely misled by numerous sources after asking if the substance was ok to use??? As I recall,,,,,,, He asked the GNC store, which said it was a clean supplement, He asked trainers who said it as a clean supplement, and he read the label which never listed any banned substances… Craig! c’mon we all know in a court of law lieniency is given for different intentions even if the outcome is the same…. Why not here with MLB??? Are they that shortsighted to not alloow for different punishment for different cases????

  12. Jeff Chamberlain - Feb 4, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    How was J.C. Romero “negligent?”

  13. Jonny5 - Feb 4, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    I guess because he never majored in chemistry, therefore he never learned how to distinguish the differences of certain chemical additives therefore not being able to properly give an accurate diagnosis of what is contained in his health shakes. Every ball player should major in chemistry if they don’t want to be found negligent. That should pretty much sum it all up for ya…

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