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J.C. Romero settles his lawsuit against supplement manufacturer

Jan 12, 2012, 4:46 PM EST

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J.C. Romero was suspended for 50 games in 2009 following a positive drug test in 2008.  He claimed at the time that the supplement he was taking — which he purchased at a GNC store — was tainted.  And he sued the supplement’s manufacturer and distributor.  The New York Daily News reports that he has settled that lawsuit:

Almost three years after he filed suit against the makers and distributors of a supplement he blamed for his 2008 positive drug test, major league lefty reliever J.C. Romero has reached a settlement in the matter and told the Daily News he believes that “justice is served” and that the resolution “gives closure to the fans in (Philadelphia).”

Romero’s name has come up a lot recently in light of Ryan Braun‘s positive drug test which, like Romero, many believe was the result of some inadvertent act, a tainted drug or a something taken for purposes other than performance enhancement.

Cases like these show the limits of a drug testing program, however. Because sometimes it takes a looooong time to figure out exactly what happened, rendering zero tolerance and summary discipline really problematic. Yet, but their very nature, a testing and discipline programs can’t work if, every time there is a positive test, three years of litigation ensue.

  1. bigharold - Jan 12, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    “Cases like these show the limits of a drug testing program, however.”

    I wold think that it’s the opposite. There was in fact steroids, or at least banned substances, in the supplement so the test in fact worked. If the contention is that the system is bad because Romero was made to pay for the negligence or down write skulduggery others, well I’d think that is unavoidable. At the end of the day, if the players aren’t going to be ultimately held responsible than there can be no effective testing program.

    Somewhere the line needs to be drawn.

    • protius - Jan 12, 2012 at 7:40 PM

      Harold, respectfully, your arguments don’t make much sense. Let’s examine a brief synopsis of the episode that engendered the rules.

      Patrick Arnold, the Balco chemist had devised a way to get illegal, performance enhancing substances into the bodies of athletes, and avoid detection. Clearly, any athlete who took any of Arnold’s concoctions did so knowingly and thus, was doing something that they knew to be wrong. In other words, they were active participants in their own corruption.

      Along comes J.C. Romero, innocently purchasing an over-the-counter, everyday supplement that even grandma can buy, and he’s busted for using P.E.D.’s. Now Harold if you’re going to say that Romero’s situation was “unavoidable”, then I‘d have to say to you, respectfully sir, you didn’t read the article carefully.

      Romero sued GNC because he believed that the situation was absolutely avoidable. He argued that it was GNC’s product, and that they were responsible by force of law for its content, and for informing the public of its content. The same way a restaurant in California is responsible for informing a patron if a meal contains a peanut substance (a common allergen).

      Harold, ask yourself: How could Romero be held responsible for ingesting a substance without prior knowledge? If he was not an active participant, then he was not breaking the rules. In fact, as far as he knew, he wasn’t doing anything wrong at all.

      In sum, you are right: “Somewhere the line needs to be drawn”, but not with the players. The line needs to be drawn with MLB. It’s their rules; they need to enforce them fairly, i.e., with common sense and reason, otherwise Bud Selig is just another Tomás de Torquemada, and the P.E.D. investigation committee is the modern version of the Spanish Inquisition.

      • bigharold - Jan 12, 2012 at 10:11 PM

        “… How could Romero be held responsible for ingesting a substance without prior knowledge?”

        If not the player than who would be held responsible? The scenario you suggest would render each and every positive test subject to a legal and or grievance process that would make a farce of the entire testing process.

        The player IS ultimately responsible for his actions, including what he consumes when it comes to food or supplements, hell if the advertising is to believed Gatorade is a performance enhancing substance, it’s just not illegal or against the rules. The player is responsible because there is no other viable option.

        Protius ask yourself this; How is it that MLB holding the player accountable for substances he ingest, whether knowingly or not being tainted, different or worse than the standard the Olympic athletes are and have been held to for years?

        I’m convinced that Romero didn’t take things knowingly but nevertheless he did and he, at least theoretically, gained an unfair advantage. If he or any other player thinks they were screwed by the product they innocently took, than their beef is with the product manufacture and they should get a good lawyer and sue, .. like Romero.

      • protius - Jan 13, 2012 at 2:33 AM

        Harold, thank you for your thoughtful and measured response.

        You wrote: “If not the player than who would be held responsible?” Well, in the Romero case specifically, it wouldn’t be Romero. In any other case similar to Romero’s, it couldn’t be that ball player either.

        I argue that a ball player should be suspended if, and only if, they knowingly take a banned substance for the purpose of enhancing their performance and giving themselves a competitive edge. In addition, I argue that ball players who inadvertently consume a banned substance, because of the failure of a third party, or parties, to properly label their product, or properly supervise the manufacture of their product according to specification, be held blameless.

        Harold, when you argue that each “player IS ultimately responsible for his actions, including what he consumes when it comes to food or supplements”, you’re saying that every player bears the responsibility to test in a laboratory everything they “consume[s] when it comes to food or supplements”. Is that a reasonable burden to put on a man just because he’s a professional baseball player? I say no. For you to say: “The player is responsible because there is no other viable option”, is to imply that each player is a franchise unto himself, and that would mean chaos.

        You claim that the scenario I suggest gives every player who submits a positive test a grievance process, and that this makes a farce of the entire program. Harold, every player who submits a positive test already has the option to take their case to arbitration (see Ryan Braun); therefore, by your own estimation, the process is already a farce.

        I don’t know enough about the details of the Olympic drug testing program to compare and contrast it with MLB’s current arrangement, so to me, that point is moot. But to suggest that Romero, a relief pitcher, who does not consistently get into games, somehow gained an unfair advantage (he took it for about a month) from a substance whose strength we can only guess at (doses range from 200 to 600mg), and the duration it circulated in his body from the time he took it the night before (once a day, in the evening), until the time he pitched (possibly 24 hrs later, maybe more), is truly a mockery of the drug testing process.

        In law there exists degrees of complicity, e.g., there is manslaughter, second degree murder and first degree murder. Perhaps there should also be degrees of complicity in MLB. Keep in mind, Romero did act responsibly. He claims that two nutritionists (team nutritionists?) cleared him to take the supplement. What more does the MLB Inquisition require players to do to make certain that they are in compliance with the rules? What’s the modern equivalent of burning at the steak?

      • phillysoulfan - Jan 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Protius, you really need to shut up and know what you are talking about. MLB and MLBPA has set this program up in such a way so that what happened to JC should not happen at all. They did this first by making a list of all the banned substances. Second thing they did was agree upon which supplements, that you can get over-the-counter at any GNC Store or similar store, are OK to take. Third thing they did, and you might want to sit down for this. It will blow your mind, they setup a number to call to have a supplement tested to see if there were any banned substances in it. Last thing they did, and this is key, they (meaning the MLB AND MLBPA) that the players THEMSELVES were SOLELY responsible for what THEY put into THEIR BODIES.

        If you don’t believe this, look at the MLPA website.

      • protius - Jan 13, 2012 at 4:25 PM

        Phillysoulfan, to begin with, you really need to get back inside your cage and stop throwing your feces at the zoo keepers. Next, you need to learn to understand what you’re reading. My discussion with Harold is called a text focused argument; in other words, we discuss what is written, and not what is not written. Now, let’s get to your little pile of sh!t.

        I went to the MLBPA web site to check your data. Harold and I are discussing J.C. Romero and his troubles with MLB and GNC. I opened the NSF-Approved Supplements List, and there is no section for GNC; furthermore, I did not see a number to call where a player could have anything tested as you stated I would. I opened both the 2007-2011 Basic Agreement PDF and the Joint Drug Agreement PDF and nowhere did I find any reference to an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA that makes “the players solely responsible for what they put into their bodies”.

        I’m not perfect, I may have missed all five of your points, however, I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt; therefore, if you can tell me and the other readers here how to navigate that web site so that we too can access the information that you refer to, we will all be in your little monkey-ass debt.

      • bigharold - Jan 13, 2012 at 5:07 PM

        Actually I found the agreement, the link for the approved products and the link for the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

        http://www.nsf.org/Certified/BannedSub/Listings.asp

        Go to MLBPA.com, to the menu MLBPA Info and then to the basic agreement.

      • protius - Jan 13, 2012 at 8:34 PM

        Harold, as I said, I went there also, but I didn’t find any of the particulars that Phillysoulfan specifies. Did you?

  2. chaseutley - Jan 12, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    I’m a Phillies fan. And while I appreciate the part about the 2008 WS win being legit, it would be naive to think that any WS winner in the last 20-25 years was completely HGH and steroid free.

    The moral dilemma I struggle with is, Romero took something that was banned. Let’s assume he did so unknowingly.

    Great. If so, integrity intact. Romero is eventually vindicated. Good for him.

    The problem is, he still took a banned supplement. He still got an edge.

    Is it ‘better’? I don’t know. It’s something I’d like to see debated more often. I’m sure hundreds of guys are still beating the system. So is Romero vindicated, or does he just have the moral high ground?

    • genericcommenter - Jan 12, 2012 at 7:53 PM

      You could say someone “got an edge” from Flintstones vitamins, getting a good night’s sleep, genetics, contact lenses, having a good hotel housekeeping staff, regular dental checkups, proper shoe tying technique, strong coffee, grass fed beef, green tea, a strong marriage, any number of things.

      • bigharold - Jan 12, 2012 at 10:23 PM

        True, but Flintstones vitamins, sleeping well, genetics, eye wear, … are against the rules. PEDs are and have been.

        Knowingly taking PEDs would seem to be the issues hear and while it might not seem fair, the player has to be held accountable. Just like the Olympics have been doing for years.

      • bigharold - Jan 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM

        Correction;
        aren’t against the rules. PEDs are and have been.

      • chaseutley - Jan 13, 2012 at 12:08 AM

        Absolutely. A player could “gain an edge” off of any one of those things. The problem is, Flintstones vitamins and grass fed beef aren’t banned substances.

        I’m glad that Romero was ‘vindicated’ here. Go Phillies! But knowingly or unknowingly, he still cheated.

      • protius - Jan 13, 2012 at 3:56 AM

        Chase, you wrote: “I’m glad that Romero was ‘vindicated’ here. Go Phillies! But knowingly or unknowingly, he still cheated.”

        A person who cheats performs one or more purposeful acts to gain an advantage. Gaining an advantage without performing a purposeful act is called dumb luck, or in Philadelphia, having a busted ass.

        I don’t think that anyone can prove that the small amount that Romero took over the short period of time that he took it, gave him any advantage at all. If the purpose of 6-XOX Extreme was to build muscle mass, then I don’t think he could build a whole lotta muscle from August 26, 2008, the day he tested positive, to September 30, 2008, the day he stopped taking the supplement before the playoffs. All together, about thirty four days or so.

    • kellyb9 - Jan 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

      Ever since he stopped taking this stuff, he hasn’t been able to hit the strike zone… coincidence?!?!

  3. illegalblues - Jan 12, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    It is silly to get suspended for taking a over the counter supplement. ANYTHING could be tainted. These are professional athletes, I don’t think they should need a chemistry degree to find out what’s safe and what’s not.

  4. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 12, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Doesn’t MLB/the MLBPA have a list of approved supplements? Stray from that at your peril.

    If there really was a tainted supplement sold over the counter, shouldn’t the FDA be involved?

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 12, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      There is no list, you’d think they would have one though.

  5. Jonny 5 - Jan 12, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    What I don’t like about this the most is he did get a 50 day suspension for his first offense which was by complete accident as he was told by GNC this supplement contained no banned substance and listed no banned substance on it’s ingredients. The same amount of time Manny is looking at for his second offense which is more obviously not an accident. This of course is of no fault by MLB, and judging by these results the best that will come from the Braun case is a lesser suspension through appeals. As I remember JC refused to issue a public apology so he had to serve the whole 50 games.

    • phillysoulfan - Jan 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      I don’t disagree with this but one of the points of a 50 game suspension is to ensure that the players has cycled down from what he took. Manny’s reduced suspension should have never happened and that’s the problem.

  6. tuftsb - Jan 12, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    A 2007 study showed that 25% of all supplements were tainted with illegal substances. Quite frankly, they do not work without the little “extra”.

    And who caused this to happen – Congress. In 1994 they passed DSHEA – the Dietary Supplement Health and Educatrion Act. At the bhest of supplement manufacturers. they weakened the ability to regulate OTC medicines unless there were enough incidents – i.e. – illness and death – reported.

    Who was the person that pushed it through the House – why none other than Rep. Henry Waxman, a finger wagging steroid scold.

    And at the time which state was the largest manufacturer of ephedra products? Why good old Mormon Utah – no coffee for you, but have a jolt via pill! Thanks, Sen Orrin Hatch!

  7. badmamainphilliesjamas - Jan 12, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    This is ultimately the problem with any zero-tolerance policy–while it may provide consistency, it removes reason, judgement and common sense.

  8. kellyb9 - Jan 13, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    In the over the counter drug’s defense, it WAS named ” 6-XOX Extreme”. J.C. should’ve taken something with a more generic name.

  9. phillysoulfan - Jan 13, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    And I just want to point something out here. JC Romero was not vindicated. A jury of his peers did not say “Hey, you know what, JC you were right.” GNC decided it would be more cost effective to settle the suit then to fight it in court.

  10. throwntothelions - Jan 19, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    For those wondering about the Drug Policu pertaining to Romero being suspended this was published on mlb.com .

    “The union has consistently told the players that over-the-counter supplements run the risk of a positive test,” Manfred said. “Every spring, we show the players a video that contains that message. MLB and the Players Association works with a company named NFF that gives players a certified list of supplements that they can rest assured are safe. Mr. Romero elected to use a product that was not on the safe list.

    “Every clubhouse has a poster that contains a Web site and an 800 number where you can call the Center for Drug Free Sport with questions about supplements. Mr. Romero never called that hotline. And if he had called that hotline, he would’ve been told that the product he was using had caused positive test results in other sports.”

    Seems that Romero was guilty by not checking and then not calling.

    For the person who went through the list of drugs and couldn’t find what Romero took, to me it looks like a list of approved supplements (or at least the ones I scanned quickly). Thus it wouldn’t be all that surprising that it wasn’t listed.

    • throwntothelions - Jan 19, 2012 at 7:15 PM

      Sorry forgot the link.

      http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090106&content_id=3733872&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

  11. throwntothelions - Jan 20, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    Jonny S
    Manny got 50 games for 1st offense and 100 for 2nd offense, He promptly retired rather then do the 100 game.

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