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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

SportTicker: Phillies’ Romero suspended 50 games

According to a report on ESPN.com, Phillies lefthander J.C. Romero has been suspended 50 games for using a banned supplement. The 33-year-old reliever, who won the third and clinching game of the 2008 World Series, has been ruled guilty of “negligence,” though Major League Baseball did not say that Romero cheated, according to the report.

Romero said on Monday that he bought a supplement from a GNC store in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, last July - and that the Players Association had told players that was acceptable.

“I still cannot see where I did something wrong,” Romero told ESPN.com. “There is nothing that should take away from the rings of my teammates. I didn’t cheat. I tried to follow the rules.”

Three months after Romero was tested before a game on August 26, the Players Association sent a letter to players.

The letter stated, “We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S. based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true.”

ESPN: Gammons - Romero questions suspension

NTNgod Posted: January 06, 2009 at 04:50 AM | 50 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: phillies

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   1. Foster Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:00 AM (#3044156)
If what he says he true, that he took something on a union-approved list... why the punishment? Change the list if you want, tell guys they have to be off such-and-such by such-and-such a date. Maybe he's full of ####, but taken at his word, the way this is being reported seems like a screw job.
   2. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:11 AM (#3044161)
Gammons version of the story is extremely sympathetic to Romero. If that's what happened, JC appears to be have basically been screwed.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:17 AM (#3044165)
You could tell just by looking at him. And his inflated home run totals.
   4. Esoteric Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:21 AM (#3044167)
If this version of events is what really happened then even I - a steroid/PED hawk - think Romero is getting utterly screwed over.

I'm not going to assume that this is exactly what happened just yet, however.
   5. Dave Spiwak Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:24 AM (#3044170)
We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S. based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true.


"Oops! Our bad." --MLBPA
   6. Esoteric Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:24 AM (#3044171)
After reading Gammons' version for ESPN (linked at the bottom of the post - I missed it originally), I'm more convinced: Romero's getting jobbed. This is really outrageous.
   7. RJ in TO Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:30 AM (#3044173)
If what he says he true, that he took something on a union-approved list... why the punishment?


Just because the union approves it doesn't mean that it actually satisfies the requirements of the agreement between the union and MLB regarding the banned substances list. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that what they're taking doesn't violate the MLB/PA drug agreement (which, given that this may be the result of a contaminant, is basically impossible for a player to do). If Romero's story is true, however, it really sucks to be Romero, as he did all that he could reasonably do.

That being said, it's pretty stupid for the players union to say something like “We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S. based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true” since this has been out there for over a year.
   8. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:35 AM (#3044179)
Oh, no, this will destroy their bullpen's chemistry!
   9. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:42 AM (#3044184)
Will he be paid during the 50 games?

Agreed that he's getting a raw deal, if his account is true.


EDIT: I RTA and it says that Romero will lose about $1.25M during his suspension.
   10. Sam M. Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:43 AM (#3044185)
If the mere fact that the MLBPA had put this supplement on a list of substances that are OK made it so, then you are (in effect) giving the union the authority to either unilaterally amend the agreement (which you obviously don't want to do -- or at least I don't), or the authority to effectively confer immunity on players who violate the agreement but do so in a way consistent with the union's erroneous list. I don't want to give the union power to "immunize" violations any more than I want to give it the power to amend the agreement unilaterally. The authority to grant immunity is held by the entity with enforcement power -- a court, or a prosector. Here, major league baseball.

I don't disagree that there is an unfairness to Romero, but I also see a deeper problem with effective enforcement if you adopt a policy or rule letting players off the hook in this situation. It creates a perverse incentive for the union to be sloppy (or worse) in putting out lists like this and then say, "Oops, sorry!"
   11. rdfc Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:50 AM (#3044190)
It's impossible to ever know what's in stuff you purchase at GNC et al. The supplement industry is completely unregulated thanks to Orrin Hatch, and it swindles Americans out of billions of dollars each year. Not only do most supplements have no positive effects, you can't even count on them containing what they claim to contain. IF MLB and MLBPA want to make sure that these kind of things happen, they have to provide the desired supplements to players directly and be responsible for testing every batch of every supplement before distributing it.

I'm sure this isn't the first time this has happened to an MLB player. Most players who have pleaded total ignorance/innocence after being suspended are, of course, full of it, but it's likely a couple have been no more guilty than Romero seems to be.
   12. Quinton McCracken's BFF Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:53 AM (#3044195)
does he also get kicked out of the WBC? this would suck donkey ball for the Puerto Rico team
   13. 1k5v3L Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:53 AM (#3044196)
Peter Gammons's column has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent illegal substance abuse by major league baseball players.
   14. plim Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:54 AM (#3044197)
it gets worse:

"The arbitration hearing was held Oct. 22 in Tampa, the first day of the World Series. Curiously, the bottle of the supplement MLB had purchased contained the label warning: "Use of this product may be banned by some athletic or government associations." However, the bottle Romero had purchased and brought to the hearing contained no warning."

unless Romero is doctoring bottle labels, he's really getting screwed over.
   15. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:01 AM (#3044200)
>:-O
   16. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:08 AM (#3044206)
We laugh that we may not cry.
Take your guess: In the phrase "J.C. Romero", what does the "J.C." stand for?

A) Julio Cesar
B) Juan Carlos
C) Jesus Cristo
D) Jack Clark
E) another guess
   17. Sam M. Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:11 AM (#3044209)
I'll guess E: "Joins Chase" . . . in missing the first two months.

No?
   18. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:18 AM (#3044215)
Interesting, all this stuff was going on during the World Series. I'm glad we didn't know about it at the time.

According to Jerry Crasnick, the same suspension is being levyed on Sergio Mitre of the Yankees. In other news, Sergio Mitre apparently plays for the Yankees now.
   19. Cris E Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:24 AM (#3044218)
Have you *looked* at his thighs? He was a teammate of Juan Rincon! He floats!

Even if my living depended on the product quality and consistancy of these flaky companies I can't imagine I'd be any more careful than Romero was. But I would be all up in their face with my lawyers, and I'd press the Players Association to be right there with me. If there was a chance to either recover the missing salary or crush a malfeasant company as encouragement to others to properly label products I'd be there, but I can get somewhat irrational at times.
   20. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:26 AM (#3044219)
what does the "J.C." stand for?


You gave it away didn't you? It's Jerry Crasnick.
   21. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:26 AM (#3044220)
In other news, Sergio Mitre apparently plays for the Yankees now.

My sarcasm meter may be on the fritz but Mitre was signed by the Yankees after being non-tendered.
   22. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:27 AM (#3044222)
No sarcasm, I just didn't notice when he signed with them. (November 3rd apparently)
   23. rfloh Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:40 AM (#3044228)
Even if my living depended on the product quality and consistancy of these flaky companies I can't imagine I'd be any more careful than Romero was. But I would be all up in their face with my lawyers, and I'd press the Players Association to be right there with me. If there was a chance to either recover the missing salary or crush a malfeasant company as encouragement to others to properly label products I'd be there, but I can get somewhat irrational at times.


You should all up MLBPA's face. And the two nutritionists that Romero consulted. Assuming that Romero is telling the truth here.
   24. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:46 AM (#3044233)
If the mere fact that the MLBPA had put this supplement on a list of substances that are OK made it so, then you are (in effect) giving the union the authority to either unilaterally amend the agreement (which you obviously don't want to do -- or at least I don't), or the authority to effectively confer immunity on players who violate the agreement but do so in a way consistent with the union's erroneous list. I don't want to give the union power to "immunize" violations any more than I want to give it the power to amend the agreement unilaterally. The authority to grant immunity is held by the entity with enforcement power -- a court, or a prosector. Here, major league baseball.

I agree with all of this. I agree that there are good reasons they can't make it policy that failed drug tests be excused when the offending substance was on an MLBPA-approved list. However, the prosecutor still has discretion in individual cases, and could choose not to punish Romero in this one.

One thing in his favor (IMO) is that this wasn't a statutory punishment for a first offense. If it was, and if he was then let off because the offending substance was on the approved list, that could be interpreted as de facto immunity for players conforming to the MLBPA lists.

But this was a second offense, and the first one was somewhat questionable to begin with. I could see a "prosecutor" (MLB) looking at the circumstances of the two cases and deciding that he doesn't deserve to be punished, without opening any precedent for immunity. But I am not a lawyer and don't know whether the legal system allows for looking at the two infractions together like that.
   25. AJMcCringleberry Posted: January 06, 2009 at 07:38 AM (#3044247)
This is helpful.
   26. Posada Posse Posted: January 06, 2009 at 11:00 AM (#3044267)
does he also get kicked out of the WBC? this would suck donkey ball for the Puerto Rico team


If true, this sucks, absolutely.
   27. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: January 06, 2009 at 11:29 AM (#3044268)
Interesting, all this stuff was going on during the World Series. I'm glad we didn't know about it at the time.

Somewhere, Paul Byrd has just thrown a chair.
   28. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 06, 2009 at 03:07 PM (#3044304)
More details from the Inquirer:

In July, Romero showed the new supplement to Phillies strength coach Dong Lien, who recommended that Romero get a second opinion before using it. Romero then showed it to his personal nutritionist, "the guy I've been working with since I've been in major-league baseball," Romero said.

That nutritionist checked the product's label and saw nothing on MLB's banned list. Romero began taking the supplement at that point.

Meanwhile, according to the arbitrator's report, Lien sent a sample of the supplement to MLB for testing. The tests showed the supplement contained a substance that could result in a positive drug test. A copy of those results was sent to commissioner Bud Selig's office in July.

Considering it was the first time a banned substance was found in an FDA-regulated, over-the-counter supplement - one available to every major-leaguer and millions of youths - that should have sounded alarms. But no one from MLB, the players' association or the Phillies told Romero that there was a problem with the supplement.


It really sounds like both the Union and MLB dropped the ball. They were previously operating under the assumption that any OTC supplement approved by the FDA was fine. Then in July, MLB (and presumably the Union) found out that there could be an exception but didn't tell the players. If Romero continued to use the supplement without that knowledge and after a trained professional advised him that it was not a banned substance, he really got jobbed. If, however, the strength coach told Romero about the result, Romero should have stopped using it and the suspension is just.
   29. BeanoCook Posted: January 06, 2009 at 03:15 PM (#3044312)
Romero said on Monday that he bought a supplement from a GNC store in Cherry Hill, New Jersey,


Finally baseball has mastered the NFL excuse. "I must have gotten a tainted supplement, one that was on the approved list no less."

Works for the NFL. NFL omerta media buys that BS, eats it up.

Of course I really don't care either way, just that baseball gets a similar treatment in the media as the NFL gets on this issue--which is basically a wink and a nod.
   30. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: January 06, 2009 at 03:28 PM (#3044321)
If the account of events as described in the excerpt of #28 is correct, then Romero should get a pass IMHO. It sounds as though he did more than his fair share of due diligence to try to avoid violating the prohibited substances ban. This doesn't appear to be some case of a guy caught and only then offering some BS excuse by claiming that he thought he was getting a B12 shot or flaxseed oil.
   31. Dave Spiwak Posted: January 06, 2009 at 03:29 PM (#3044323)
Considering it was the first time a banned substance was found in an FDA-regulated, over-the-counter supplement


Is this really true?
   32. RJ in TO Posted: January 06, 2009 at 03:32 PM (#3044327)
Is this really true?


No.
   33. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 06, 2009 at 03:35 PM (#3044330)
If the mere fact that the MLBPA had put this supplement on a list of substances that are OK made it so, then you are (in effect) giving the union the authority to either unilaterally amend the agreement (which you obviously don't want to do -- or at least I don't), or the authority to effectively confer immunity on players who violate the agreement but do so in a way consistent with the union's erroneous list. I don't want to give the union power to "immunize" violations any more than I want to give it the power to amend the agreement unilaterally. The authority to grant immunity is held by the entity with enforcement power -- a court, or a prosector. Here, major league baseball.

From TFGA:
Somehow, after MLB was warned in early July, those concerns did not reach the players' association about three supplements available at every GNC store.

Now, I'm not entirely sure that I'm buying Gammo's version of the events, but if we do, then there's no issue of the MLBPA putting out "a list of substances that are OK" and thus "(making) it so." Apparently, MLB puts out the approved list and the union simply passes the information along to its members. Apparently, MLB was aware of the potential problem and failed to notify the MLBPA in a timely manner.

Again, this all depends on believing Gammons. But if you do, then it's pretty hard to pin the blame for this on the union or the nutritionists.

And BTW, isn't this:
an FDA-regulated, over-the-counter supplement

an oxymoron?
   34. BeanoCook Posted: January 06, 2009 at 04:02 PM (#3044353)
Andro and ephedrine were both available at GNC not all that long ago, I believe.
   35. RJ in TO Posted: January 06, 2009 at 04:06 PM (#3044354)
Andro and ephedrine were both available at GNC not all that long ago, I believe.


I don't know about ephedrine, which still appears to be legal for sale (with notable restrictions), but GNC will be in a lot of trouble if they've been selling andro recently:

On April 11, 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of Andro, citing that the drug poses significant health risks commonly associated with steroids.
   36. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:14 PM (#3044423)
The NCAA has awarded the WS to Tampa Bay.
   37. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:19 PM (#3044436)
... as did the IOC.
   38. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:22 PM (#3044442)
The injustice to Andreea Raducan pales by comparison.
   39. Van Lingle Mungo Jerry Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:44 PM (#3044468)
Frankly, I'm surprised that professional athletes are apparently still buying and ingesting manufactured dietary supplements. You're a millionaire - hire a nutritionist and eat some green leafy vegetables, asshat. I have no sympathy for Romero or anyone else playing the "But I bought it at GNC" excuse.
   40. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:45 PM (#3044469)
ESPN just reported that Romero was told that he could serve only 25 games of this if he started serving immediately, in the postseason. He obviously refused. That just sounds extremely wrong.
   41. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: January 06, 2009 at 05:50 PM (#3044473)

Frankly, I'm surprised that professional athletes are apparently still buying and ingesting manufactured dietary supplements. You're a millionaire - hire a nutritionist and eat some green leafy vegetables, asshat. I have no sympathy for Romero or anyone else playing the "But I bought it at GNC" excuse.


But what of the muscle building potions that are available at GNC? At minimum, I'd imagine most players are familiar with things like the many varieties of creatine and glucosamine, and specific products like CellTech.

I wonder if stuff like Superdrol or AndroTest is on the banned substance list...
   42. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 06, 2009 at 06:52 PM (#3044558)
Phillies just held a "no comment" press conference. I understand why they can't, but it'd be nice if they showed some balls instead of saying "we support JC and MLB."
   43. Harris Posted: January 06, 2009 at 09:19 PM (#3044743)
ESPN just reported that Romero was told that he could serve only 25 games of this if he started serving immediately, in the postseason. He obviously refused. That just sounds extremely wrong.


If that's true..I credit JC for taking one for the team. He was a valuable member of the World Series team. If given the choice between 25 games starting when it counts absolutely most or 50 games when it matters, but they're not post-season, I think most would go for the 50 game variety during the regular season.

The differing levels of punishment for the same offense are comical. I recall when we had inclement weather days at my workplace about 4-5 years ago (during a stretch where the company really hated to shut-down even when comically hazardous driving conditions abounded).
The HR policy upon return went something like this..
"The site was closed on monday, and no employees needs to use a vacation day for the time off. Employees who did not come to work on Tuesday must use one half-day of vacation. Employees who did not come to work on Wednesday or later are required to take a full vacation day for each day missed"

So tuesday it was only half un-safe to drive to work? (I'm digressing from topic here, but a pretty heavy grudge I hold from this one)
   44. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: January 06, 2009 at 09:28 PM (#3044757)
HR policies are often quite dumb. My wife (high school teacher) was telling me about one of her colleagues who is about to pop any day now. She came into work yesterday and didn't officially start her maternity leave until today because otherwise her Christmas break would have been entirely unpaid.

I understand the rationale, but it just seemed stupid to me to make the poor woman log one full day of work or otherwise lose half of month's salary.
   45. Joey B. is being stalked by a (Gonfa) loon Posted: January 06, 2009 at 09:36 PM (#3044774)
Frankly, I'm surprised that professional athletes are apparently still buying and ingesting manufactured dietary supplements. You're a millionaire - hire a nutritionist and eat some green leafy vegetables, asshat. I have no sympathy for Romero or anyone else playing the "But I bought it at GNC" excuse.

Concur with you 100%. These supplements should be getting fully regulated by the government, but unless and until that happens, the agents and unions should be advising all the pro athletes to just stay out of these shady stores entirely and stick with sound nutrition and rest. Otherwise, caveat emptor.
   46. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: January 06, 2009 at 09:57 PM (#3044809)
I'm sure there's some reason to do with the testing process as to why this is, but, on the face of it, I object to any OTC substance being banned.
   47. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 06, 2009 at 10:00 PM (#3044813)
the agents and unions should be advising all the pro athletes to just stay out of these shady stores entirely and stick with sound nutrition and rest.


GNC is shady but you are satisfied with the government's ability to effectively regulate all supplements? I've never had the urge to go to GNC let alone purchase anything, but I don't really consider them 'shady'. And the FDC is a ####### joke.

EDIT - Obv just my opinion - don't want to come off as a douche tossing around totally unsubstantiated claims.
   48. Zach Posted: January 07, 2009 at 01:26 AM (#3044966)
GNC isn't shady. They sell branded products in sealed containers with ingredient labels on the packaging. I've bought things like creatine and protein drinks there myself. It's a specialty store, but so is Whole Foods.

In my eyes, shady means questionable legality or questionable provenance -- think horse steroids bought from a guy at the gym. By Romero's account, he got tripped up by a straight up labeling failure.
   49. Joey B. is being stalked by a (Gonfa) loon Posted: January 07, 2009 at 02:50 AM (#3045009)
Well, they're voluntarily doing business with guys that are shadier than a stand of giant redwoods, like the convicted criminal Patrick Arnold. And obviously their products aren't reliable and can't be trusted, as these guys are finding out the hard way.

Shop there at your own risk, especially if you're subject to a rigorous drug testing regimen.
   50. Zach Posted: January 07, 2009 at 05:31 AM (#3045095)
Thanks to the Will Carroll article (never thought I'd write that, but credit where credit's due), we find that the product advertises itself as "maximum testosterone" so my sympathy just took a huge dive. There's a huge difference between a supplement and a prohormone.

Incidentally, is something like this really fair to describe as a supplement? I mean, my diet is naturally short on nonsteroidal antiinflammatories, but that doesn't make Vioxx a food supplement.

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