Say it aint So(sa)!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


According to the NY Times,

Sammy Sosa, who joined with Mark McGwire in 1998 in a celebrated pursuit of baseball’s single-season home run record, is among the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from that year.

The disclosure that Sosa tested positive makes him the latest baseball star of the last two decades to be linked to performance-enhancers, a group that now includes McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro.

Sosa, who is sixth on Major League Baseball’s career home run list and last played in 2007, had long been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs but until now had never been publicly linked to a positive test.

In a recent interview with ESPN Deportes, Sosa, 40, said he would “calmly wait” for his induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame, for which he will become eligible for induction in 2013. But his 2003 positive test, when he played for the Chicago Cubs, may seriously damage his chances of gaining entry to the Hall, a fate encountered by McGwire, who has attracted relatively little support from voters in his first three years on the ballot.

The 2003 positive test could also create legal troubles for Sosa because he testified under oath before Congress at a public hearing in 2005 that he had “never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.”

The 2003 test that ensnared Sosa was the first such test conducted by Major League Baseball. Under guidelines agreed upon with the players union, the test results were to remain anonymous but would lead to testing with penalties the next year if more than 5 percent of the results were positive.

That is indeed what occurred. But for reasons never made completely clear, the test results were not destroyed by the players union and the 104 positives were subsequently seized by federal agents on the West Coast investigating matters related to the distribution of drugs to athletes.

The union immediately filed court papers alleging that the agents had illegally seized the tests, and over the past six years judges at various levels of the federal court system have been weighing whether the government can keep them. An 11-judge panel in California is preparing to rule in the case, but regardless of its verdict, the losing side is expected to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

As the union feared, the names on the list have begun to emerge. In February, Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez was on the 2003 list, and Rodriguez subsequently acknowledged that he had used steroids for three years. Now, Sosa’s name has been disclosed.

The lawyers who had knowledge of Sosa’s inclusion on the 2003 list did not know the substance for which Sosa tested positive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified as discussing material that is sealed by a court order.

A lawyer for Sosa, Jay Reisinger, declined comment, as did an official with Major League Baseball.

Sosa, who lives in the Dominican Republic, became a national figure with the Chicago Cubs in 1998, when he and McGwire, of the St. Louis Cardinals, engaged in a compelling race to overtake Roger Maris’s single-season home run record of 61. McGwire passed Maris first and ended up with 70 home runs. Sosa followed close behind with 66.

In the seasons that followed, Sosa exceeded 60 home runs on two more occasions. But he was fading as a player when he traveled to Washington in March 2005 to testify with Palmeiro and McGwire and others at a hearing called by the House Government Reform Committee to examine the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

At the hearing, Sosa testified that “everything” he had heard “about steroids and human growth hormones is that they are bad for you, even lethal” and that he “would never put anything dangerous like that” in his body.

“To be clear,” he added, “I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything.”

During that hearing, McGwire, by then retired, repeatedly declined to answer questions about possible drug use, saying he was not there to talk about the past. His statements were widely viewed as an admission of guilt, and since then he has had little involvement with baseball except for privately serving as a hitting tutor for several major leaguers. To win election to the Hall of Fame, a player must be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast; McGwire has yet to be named on 25 percent of them.

At that same hearing, Palmeiro pointed his finger at committee members as he said: “I have never used steroids. Period.” Five months later, he was suspended for 10 games as a result of a positive steroids test.

The committee declined to ask the Justice Department to investigate him for perjury, in part because it felt it could not establish that Palmeiro was lying at the time he testified.

Unlike Palmeiro, Sosa testified after he had tested positive, not before, but it is not clear if the committee will want to pursue the matter.

The committee did refer Clemens to the Justice Department for investigation of perjury after he repeatedly denied using performance-enhancing drugs in a public hearing in 2008, and Clemens’s statements are now being studied by a federal grand jury.

Bonds, who set a single-season home run record of 73 just three years after McGwire hit 70, holds the career mark for home runs, with 762. He is also the target of legal proceedings: he is awaiting trial on charges that he lied to a federal grand jury in December 2003 when he testified that he never knowingly used performance-enhancers.

Like Sosa, Bonds and Clemens last played in 2007 and, at this point, also seem destined to appear on the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot. That fact, in itself, would seem to guarantee that the issue of drug use in baseball is likely to reverberate for years to come.

I can hear Sosa saying it now, "Steroids have been bedy bedy good to me."

They always discuss how the slow leakage of names of steroid-taking players dirties the name of the sport even more than if the list would come all out at once and it proves to be true. Every few months we hear another name and it's like, "oh no - not again."

The worst part about it? Sports Radio will be discussing it for the next 3 weeks.


But in all seriousness, I don't know how anyone didn't catch it from an interview a few years back: