The Magnificent 104 - Baseball's Steroid Stars - The Solution
Somewhere out there is a list of 104 major league baseball players who tested positive for steroids in 2003. What should Bud Selig do? What should the Players' Association do? What should the players do? With the release of A-Rod's name to the press, we know that the list is not secure, and eventually all the names will be made public. The question is, should MLB, the Players' Association, and the players, control their own destiny, or simply wait for the next bombshell to go off - and at the most inopportune time?
Amnesty is not needed, and punishment is not an option, as Baseball's collective bargaining agreement did not have penalties for steroid use until 2004. Further, any players taking drug tests in 2003 were promised by agreement with MLB - both from punishment, and from disclosure. Unfortunately, the disclosure aspect was compromised when the Federal Government seized the list of 104 names under a subpoena issued in conjunction with the Balco probe. Further complicating the situation, the list was supposed to be anonymous and have numbered samples only, but the Players' Union did not follow anonymous testing protocol. The list was also supposed to be destroyed after the test, but the Players' Union held onto the samples in the hope of proving a lot of false positives in the testing, and thereby hoping to kill the drug testing initiative being sought by MLB.
It seems the Union did a lot of unethical things to fight the testing. It has now been alleged that the union tipped off A Rod in 2004 to an upcoming drug test. That situation is presently being investigated by MLB. My instincts tell me that the Union is going to be exposed as complicit in a number of ways. Had the Union used numbered samples as agreed to, or had destroyed the samples after the tests as required, then none of this current controversy would have come out. In trying to fight mandatory drug testing, the Union has really injured the reputations and lives of many of its player members.
To refresh memories, here is the announcement of the 2003 tests. "August 30, 2002: MLB and the union unveil Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as an addendum to the new Basic Agreement, which is bargained at the 11th hour just as the players are about to go out on strike. The new policy calls for "Survey Testing" in 2003 to gauge the use of steroids among players on the 40-man rosters of each club. The tests will be anonymous and no one will be punished."
The blame game is something we can all play this season, and the next, and the next, and the next. Blame is not the important issue right now. The issue is what Major League Baseball should do now to put this all behind them? Examining the options, doing nothing does not seem to be in anyone's best interest. The government has the list so we know it is not secure, and it may be used in a trial which may make it fair game to media under the freedom of information act. One name has already been leaked; others will surely follow. And by not disclosing the 104 who tested positive, the rest of Major League Baseball remain under a cloud of suspicion, and top flight players who have never used steroids will be looked at differently and suspiciously as players, fans, media, and the court of public opinion all play the guessing game ... Who used? How did he get so good so quick? Do I believe him?
It seems to me that in order for MLB to put this behind them, everyone needs to all come clean for the good of the game. My suggestions on moving forward would be multi pronged:
- Ask Bud Selig to step down, and bring in a new Commissioner to initiate the following actions and initiatives.
- Go to the 104 players that tested positive and tell them that MLB wants to make an announcement on the results.
- Put out a press release stating that there was a positive test for the following players in 2003.
- Announce that the testing was done at a time when these substances were not subject to penalties in Major league Baseball; that the players have gone through regular testing since 2003 without incident; and that MLB and the players wish to put this era of steroid use behind them for the good of the game.
- Individual players can then make announcements similar to A-Rod, and I believe fans will forgive.
- Make an announcement that rule 4 for voting for eligibility to the Hall of Fame does not and should not give any credence to any positive steroid tests found in the 2003 study, or any steroid use prior to 2003.
- Encourage players to make a series of public service announcements on the subject of steroids.
- Re-introduce to the fans and media the current drug testing policies, practices, and penalties, with as much detail as positive, and encourage the press to ask questions on the testing processes and practices so that the public will understand and appreciate the EVERYONE is being tested on a regular basis, and penalties are stiff.
- For any player that wins a world series or an individual honor (batting average, Cy Young, etc), a mandatory drug test should be done just before announcing such award. For teams playing in the World Series, have a mandatory drug test for every player before the first pitch is thrown in the Series and after the last pitch is thrown.
- Institute a new rule that makes any player who tests positive for steroids during a season to be ineligible for individual awards.