Sports Outside the Beltway

Steroids and Baseball’s Unintended Consequences

Baseball’s get tough steroids policy approved by owners and players before the beginning of last season put into place much tougher punishments for the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. In addition, baseball instituted rules governing the discipline of players who are found guilty, plead guilty or plead no contest on charges related to performance enhancing drugs. With the developing investigation of a Florida Pharmacy that allegedly supplied these drugs to a number of athletes, the conviction clause of MLB’s drug policy may come into play. That presents an interesting new problem for Gary Matthews Jr.

In addition to a 50-game penalty for a first positive test, baseball’s drug policy mandates a suspension from 60 to 80 games following a first conviction for “possession or use of any prohibited substance.”

The clause is triggered when a player is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest. However, Matthews could receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in a possible trial.

“If he has immunity, he’s out of the woods on that clause,” said Brian Hennigan, a former federal prosecutor now with the Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella.

Matthews Jr. may face that more stern penalty. But it is more likely he takes what he knows, offers it to help prosecutors in exchange for a grant of immunity, that keeps him from being charged.

That won’t fly in the court of public opinion, nor will it fly for Arte Moreno. (via Baseball Musings)

“He needs to make a statement to the fans,” Moreno said, clearly still unhappy 48 hours after Shapiro’s statement. “Our feelings were the best way was to be pro-active and talk to the fans immediately.”

Moreno issued his own statement Saturday night.

“Both the Angels and I have strongly encouraged Gary to cooperate with any authority investigating this matter,” Moreno said. “Specifically, the Angels have asked him to come forward and fully answer all questions surrounding the recent allegations against him. The organization continues to expect that this matter will come to a quick conclusion.”

Moreno said Monday he expected the Matthews matter to be resolved by Opening Day. But what that meant, he refused to say.

“That is one thing I won’t explain,” Moreno said firmly. “My frustration, or I should say all of our frustration, is the fact that we expected this to be handled very quickly.

“My expectations were that he would make a statement. I’m very disappointed.”

Moreno, speaking as both an owner and a fan, wants Matthews to speak unequivocally. But as is obvious, it is in Gary Matthews’ best interests to exercise his Miranda rights and remain silent. He well knows that anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law.

For baseball’s policy to be successful, there must be stern punishments to discourage violation, but there must also exist a means by which players can be forthright regarding what they have been done. The integrity of both America’s judicial system and their national pastimes requires both fairness and transparency. Baseball’s system, despite its good intentions, encourages obfuscation over openness, stonewalling over straight talk and therefore fails.

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