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Does PED use constitute fraud?

Jul 15, 2010, 11:12 AM EDT

Players who used steroids cheated and broke the law. But did they commit fraud too?

Sticking with Buster this morning, he links to an article in which the guy who brought down BALCO — DEA/FDA agent Jeff Novitzky — is reported to be investigating PED use in cycling under a theory that cyclists were not just breaking drug laws but that, because their performance led to sponsorship deals and more money, they were also engaged in fraud.  By implementing a fraud theory I assume Novitzky would be able to widen his net and get warrants for financial information and other things that have little to do with the actual drug use of the athletes involved.

I’ll save my “holy crap, government agents with a thirst for investigative power like Jeff Novitzky has scare the bejesus out of me” rant for another day.  In the meantime, I’m struck by Olney’s thought on the matter:

It’s an interesting line of questioning, and you wonder if any threads
that are pulled lead to inquiries in baseball. A common refrain heard
among some baseball executives over the last five years is that, in
retrospect, some players used drugs to boost their performance in order
to improve their performance and win more money — and prizes. And some
executives have privately asked the same open-ended question: Does that
constitute fraud?

It’s an investigation into the past that baseball probably should keep
an eye on.

Perhaps. But it’s also a string that, if I were a baseball owner or executive, I wouldn’t pull.  Because, yes, there is a totally legitimate argument that baseball players unfairly reaped millions because steroids gave them a bunch of home runs and strikeouts they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.  But if that’s true, there is just as legitimate an argument that baseball owners — all of whom knew steroids were everywhere — reaped billions as a result of the same behavior.

Whether it was merely a black chapter in baseball history or an out-and-out fraud, the Steroid Era was the product of many, many parties working together to make it happen.  To assume that only the players would fall under such a renewed investigation is naive.

  1. Simon DelMonte - Jul 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Can I urge you to do that rant about Novitzky soon?

  2. YankeesfanLen - Jul 15, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    What a stretch! But I suppose some lawyers (no offense) would like them some class-action money out of duping us fans out of an extra $2 per game for higher ticket prices for salaries obtained under false pretenses..
    Sure, I’ll fill out a form for that class-action. It’ll only take 3 hours and two years through the legal system to get my $2 back from that game that Jeff Weaver actually won at the Stadium in 2003.

  3. Jonny5 - Jul 15, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    The steroid era was one big circle Jerk with Players, managers, owners, and MLB all involved. Let it die. It was a way to draw fans, and it worked. Everyone won. Besides the guys who were always clean and had their records smashed.

  4. davidc45629 - Jul 15, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Check out Javy Lopez’ stats (and body) his last year as a Brave, then his stats after he signed with Baltimore. If that isn’t fraud, I don’t know what is.

  5. Craig Calcaterra - Jul 15, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Like the Orioles — home of Palmiero and Belle and Sosa and bunch of other guys like that — had no clue what was going on, they’re the most ignorant team in baseball history.

  6. Greg - Jul 15, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    Craig, you may know more about this given your former line of work, but is it really fraud if the PEDs actually DID give them better performance? I mean sure the PEDs allowed the players to get more money, but given their actual performance, the money was deserved. I just don’t think that the owners could make the case as Olney relates it (that the players boosted performance to win more money from the owners), when given their performance, the returns on the owners’ money were perfectly in line with pay-more, get-more salaries.

  7. The Rabbit - Jul 15, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    There’s nothing original (surprise!) in Jeff Novitzky’s grandstanding.
    There was a class action originated by minor league players who claim they didn’t use PED’s citing breach of contract, fraud, etc. I don’t know the current status of that filing.
    Novitzky is using almost identical verbiage from that case.

  8. willmose - Jul 15, 2010 at 7:57 PM

    How many millions of our taxes dollars have been spent by Jeff Novitzky to put the head of Balco in jail for 3 months?

  9. MVD - Jul 16, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    I’d like to remind that steroid use before 2004, while illegal, technically wasn’t “cheating” as it was not yet against MLB rules.

  10. walk - Jul 16, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Seems to be angling his case towards rico laws. If he can do that all he needs is an accusation of wrong doing in lieu of proof and prison sentences abound.

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