Manny’s story raises more PED questions


For starters, apologies for a second-straight PED post. We try to keep these topics to a minimum, but since Manny Ramirez was suspended last week, a number of issues have come to light. These issues are important in preventing future PED usage, not in any past witch hunts, which is why I’m going to run with this.

As you can see in the above-linked post, reports ran rampant upon the announcement of Manny’s suspension. It’s pot; no, it’s an ED drug; no it’s a fertility drug. Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn of ESPN have laid out the whole story, from Manny’s failed test to the ensuing investigation, even covering the planned appeal and its eventual dropping. If you’re interested in how Manny actually got caught, give it a read. It explains everything rather succinctly.

Just as it is difficult to believe that A-Rod stopped using steroids after the 2003 test, it’s equally difficult to believe this was the first time Manny used. There’s no use speculating exactly how long he used, so we’ll skip that part. Let’s just take it for granted that both A-Rod and Manny used outside of the timeframe when they were caught. How, then, are they skirting the tests? This is the most important question to arise from the collective incidences.

Major League Baseball’s drug testing program, while not the strictest on the books, trumps those of the three other major American sports. Yet the Manny issue highlights its deficiencies. Unfortunately, it’s going to take plenty more research to determine how these players are skirting tests. Are they only using in the off-season? Manny’s case could point to that. MLB found synthetic testosterone in his system, and his medical records revealed a prescription for hCG, a drug taken by steroid users coming off a cycle, in order to kickstart natural testosterone production. Does this indicate that players are using in the off-season, cycling off just before the round of Spring Training tests, and using drugs like hCG to restore normal testosterone levels?

The use of masking agents is another possibility. Steroid tests compare the ratio of testosterone and epitestosterone in a urine sample, with a 1:1 ratio being normal and a 4:1 ratio signaling foul play. A masking agent, then, could simulate epitestosterone in order to make the test look normal. This could be a problem for the testing program, since they’d then have to figure out what kind of masking agent would produce such an effect. Then they’d have to create a test for it which could be determined from urine alone, since we know blood testing isn’t an option at the moment.

While the current drug testing policy works well to keep normal steroid use in check, MLB still has a ways to go in further combatting PED use. If they’re truly committed to eradicating the sport of steroids and amphetamines, they’ll do whatever it takes to understand how players are beating tests. I’d expect many PED-related issues to arise when the PA and owners sit down for the next collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately for the players, they’re not going to have a ton of leverage on this issue.

Categories : STEROIDS!


  1. steve (different one) says:

    i thought players were tested during the offseason. is this not the case?

    • jsbrendog says:

      are they? and if they are isnt it “random?” so then is it just hope you dont get flagged for testing while youre in the midst of a cycle?

    • No, I don’t believe they are. Which leads me to this layman’s question:

      MLB found synthetic testosterone in his system, and his medical records revealed a prescription for hCG, a drug taken by steroid users coming off a cycle, in order to kickstart natural testosterone production. Does this indicate that players are using in the off-season, cycling off just before the round of Spring Training tests, and using drugs like hCG to restore normal testosterone levels?

      My question is, assuming that Manny (and others) continue to take PED’s during the offseason while they’re not tested but cycle off before the season starts, how much actual benefit would they gain from this? IIRC, the sports biomedical community is already split in terms of how much taking steroids actually improves your ability to hit a baseball hard (or if it helps at all); I wonder how much taking steroids months before you actually do hit a baseball would affect your ability to hit said baseballs hard all those months later.

      I mean, if Manny’s eating bull testicles in January and then cycling off in February to be clean by April, is he still going to be turning pop flies into screaming liners in August, September, and October thanks to “teh juice”?

    • Mattingly's Love Child says:

      During season play (beginning with Spring Training through the end of the Regular Season), all players will be randomly selected for testing at unannounced times for steroids once. The office of the Commissioner has the right during the season to administer additional random testing at unannounced times for steroids. The number of tests and the timing and schedule of these tests is determined by HPAC, and players are subject to any number of additional tests during the regular season.

      This is what I found on wikipedia. I really thought the testing was year-round. But that seems like quite the loophole.

      • I want to say that you are only subject to offseason testing after you’ve failed a test already, but I could be pulling that out of my ass.

        (snarky gay joke response by one of the RAB regulars in 3… 2… 1…)

        • Mattingly's Love Child says:

          I didn’t see anything about that, but that type of info may not be readily public knowledge. Makes sense.

          I’ll let one of the regulars hammer you with that comment….

        • jsbrendog says:

          (snarky gay joke response by one of the RAB regulars in 3… 2… 1…)

          ::vague veiled homophobic comment::

        • I’m wrong.

          The The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program adopted in the spring of 2006 allows for random offseason testing of any player, previous test or no previous test.

          Everybody takes a piss-test during spring training AND at least one random, unannounced time during the season. Some players will be tested at random, unannounced, more than once during the season OR DURING THE OFFSEASON.

          The only difference bewteen inseason testing and offseason testing is that inseason testing is for PED’s and stimulants (greenies, amphetamines, etc.). Offseason testing is for PED’s only but not stimulants.

          The policy doesn’t say how many offseason tests there are, but here’s the important part (emphasis mine):

          The IPA will determine how many tests to conduct during each off-season to serve the purposes of the Program, but shall not conduct, in the aggregate, more than 375 off-season tests pursuant to this Section 3.A.2 during the period commencing with the Effective Date of this Program and ending on the day prior to the first spring training voluntary reporting date for the 2011 championship season, and shall not conduct, in the aggregate, more than 500 off-season tests during each Subsequent Term.

          Meaning, for the offseasons covering the winters of 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011, there can be no more than 375 offseason tests during those four years, if I’m reading that right. So, a little less than 100 tests per offseason, which is about a third of baseball.

          • Chris says:

            Actually, the drug agreement was changed last year after the Mitchell report, so the 375 tests only cover 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011.

    • Ed says:

      I’m wondering if you’re not subject to testing if you’re an unsigned free agent. Remember all the rumors about Clemens starting the season late so he could load up on steroids? I always assumed that was the basis for those claims.

      If that’s the case, maybe that’s why Manny held out all winter just to sign for the same money he was offered initially.

      • Good point.

        I’d still blame it on a misjudged market and the stubbornness of Boras, though.

        • jsbrendog says:

          i was going to tsay the same thing.

          while that is a good point and makes sense it’s hard to negate the boras factor

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

        And maybe Boras made A-Rod opt out of his old contract because he knew A-Rod failed a test and it would become public soon.

        • jsbrendog says:

          but he hasnt failed a test. since 03. which was optional. and never supposed to be divulged.

          • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

            then he tested positive or whatever, you get the point. While it was not illegal in 2003, I suppose A-Rod does not get the same contract if the Yankees knew about it.

            • jsbrendog says:

              so youre saying scott boras knew selena roberts was oging to find out 1 of the 104 names that were sealed and supposedly so protected as to never even be able to come out was arod? so he had arod opt out because of this?

              • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

                I’m only saying, that it would have been the logical choice for A-Rod and Boras to opt out if they feared the public found out. IIRC A-Rod was told by the union he tested positive. I don’t believe it was like this but I wouldn’t say it is impossible.

                • steve (different one) says:

                  i don’t understand.

                  he opted out b/c his agent read the marker and determined that he stood to get more money.

                  which he accomplished.

                  there doesn’t need to be any other motivation.

                  he had the chance to become a FA at age 32 or at age 35. he smartly chose age 32.

                • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

                  I don’t say he wouldn’t have opted out regardless. All I say is that maybe Boras and A-Rod had to because of the fear it would become public.

              • Chris says:

                As crazy as you make it sound, it is possible. The list was under subpoena because of the Bonds perjury case, which I’m sure Boras was aware of. If not for the Bonds case, the list would have been destroyed long ago.

                I’m sure he had no idea that it would come out now, but once you know the list exists and your client is on it, then it’s not a stretch to believe that it will get out at some point in the next 3 years (after that and his original contract would have ended anyway).

                • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

                  Yes, and as I sais above: No way he gets his current contract if the info gets out beforehand.

      • thurdonpaul says:

        you raise some interesting points

  2. Bo says:

    There will always be better drugs and more ways around tests. There is just too much money involved in all sports for it to go away. For the players and for the owners and for everyone in between. And fans obviously don’t care since attendance rises every year.

  3. Hobbes says:

    Amphetamines? How many cans of Red Bull have you seen the players chugging during the games? who need amphetamines when you have liquid crack? That stuff is potent.

    • steve (different one) says:

      yeah, it is a little amusing that amphetamines get a 25 game suspension but Swisher chugs a red bull on camera between every inning…

      i am sure someone smarter than me will point out why they are different, but i still find it funny.

      • Nick Swisher : RedBull :: Kevin Elster : cocaine

      • Mattingly's Love Child says:

        Physical effects of amphetamine can include reduced appetite, increased/distorted sensations, hyperactivity, dilated pupils, flushing, restlessness, dry mouth, erectile dysfunction, headache, tachycardia, increased breathing rate, increased blood pressure, fever, sweating, diarrhea, constipation, blurred vision, impaired speech, dizziness, uncontrollable movements or shaking, insomnia, numbness, palpitations, and arrhythmia. In high doses or chronic use convulsions, dry or itchy skin, acne, pallor can occur

        I know I’m on a wiki-kick right now. But some of this effects are exactly the same as Red Bull and other energy drinks. But the more serious ones I don’t think are side effects of Red Bull or Monster or any of the rest…

  4. kunaldo says:

    i’m really sorry to go off topic, but this was too exciting to pass up, and there’s no open thread yet…did you guys see this fangraphs article? for those of us who believe in the value of a relief ace and not the closer, check out bobby cox FTW:

  5. I find if you generally go around with the attitude that most players have probably used something at some point in time, the entire thing becomes a non-issue.

  6. Mike Pop says:

    This sport today is a mockery!!!

  7. Mike Pop says:

    It’s funny when they showed Clemens today on ESPN, if I didn’t know any better, I would think he spent his entire career with the Yankees.

    Has to do with PED’s, so I don’t think I’m off-topic.

  8. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    “The Ramirez saga, as described by three sources with direct knowledge of the case, began to play out in spring training when the 36-year-old outfielder provided a urine sample for testing.”

    I wish “sources” would have the balls to give their names so that their quotes would be attributed to them.

    • Chris says:

      I don’t.

      If people had to come out on the record, then even less information would get out. A good reporter should be able to verify information with multiple sources and get a reasonable idea of it’s veracity.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

        When it’s for something like sports, I wish that they would. These aren’t world secrets.

        • Chris says:

          Exactly. Why on earth would someone risk his own career just so some baseball fans can have the name of the source? If you’re talking about some major national security secret, then people would be more willing to step forward on the record.

          • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

            The problem I have with the story, is that the general public didn’t need to know the details. He was suspended. Why he was suspended is none of the GP’s business. But 3 people have to come forward, anonimously, and say what the details were. Why don’t these 3 people just come out and admit who they are? I would guess that their principles would be so strong, that they shouldn’t have to worry about keeping something as frivolous as a job

  9. Chris says:

    Just as it is difficult to believe that A-Rod stopped using steroids after the 2003 test, it’s equally difficult to believe this was the first time Manny used.

    I disagree with this. I think it’s much more reasonable for A-Rod to have stopped using after 2003 than for Manny to have just started. You would expect the overall number of users in the game to drop every time the testing or penalties increased. I would assume a lot of guys quit when the anonymous testing started, and another group quit when suspensions were enacted.

    Would I be shocked to find out that A-Rod kept using after 2003? No. But it’s completely plausible that he did quit, especially after hearing that he tested positive in 2003.

    For Manny, I can’t come up with any rational explanation of why he would have started this offseason.

  10. ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

    The best thing about all the names coming out: I don’t feel anything is tainted anymore with baseball. Some years ago it was Canseco, Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro. Now basically everyone is supposed to have taken something and everything is leveled out. Everybody had a fair chance to win the title in all those years because everybody the exact same stuff. Wouldn’t even shock me anymore if Maddux or Jeter took something, if all took it, it’s the same as if nobody did.

    • Wouldn’t even shock me anymore if Maddux or Jeter took something, if all took it, it’s the same as if nobody did.


    • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

      I’m willing to bet that the “Steroid Era” goes a lot further back than people care to admit. I would bet my life that there are numerous PED users in the Hall of Fame now.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

        I wouldn’t want to bet against that. Just visited the HOF homepage, there are a lot of interesting names be eligible in 2013:

        2013: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton, David Wells, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Steve Finley, Roberto Hernandez, Jeff Cirillo, Jose Valentin, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Conine, Jose Mesa, Royce Clayton, Bob Wickman, Ryan Klesko, Aaron Sele, Woody Williams, Rondell White, Mike Lieberthal, Tony Batista, Mike Stanton, Sandy Alomar Jr., Damian Miller, Todd Walker, Eric Milton

      • Chris says:

        How much do you want to bet that Nolan Ryan was on steroids?

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

          It would not surprise me one bit.

        • Yeah, I love how when Clemens kept coming back everyone said he was on something ’cause it wasn’t natural for a guy that old to be pitching at that level, but no one said that about Nolan Ryan. I know Ryan is a big exception to the rule of durability but still.

  11. Joe R says:

    It makes me wonder how many other athletes have had elevated levels of testosterone but MLB couldnt pull the trigger/lost an appeal for a suspension. They got lucky in a sense finding out he used the fertility substance that was banned so they could slap him with a suspension. I’d imagine you would get the same penalty if you were caught using 1 or 5 substances at the same time tho.

  12. JP says:

    I blame the owners. Baseball players have ALWAYS used. No, not all of them, and not every drug is the same. But it’s not as if it’s been a squeaky clean enterprise which has been soiled for the first time in the 1990′s and 00′s.

    So…why is it a problem? Well, when the technology of the drugs gets so good that players can make huge improvements in their performance, it begins to smell like cheating. The owners knew this was happening long before any of us did. They should have, could have, nipped it in the bud then. We could have been told far fewer details. The net result would have been to clean up the game and preserve the image.

    What we have now is typical American sensationalism and tabloid journalism ruining the sport.

    PED’s are NOT the terrible scourge that they are now being made out to be, and the players are not the cheating SOB’s that the writers are making them out to be.

    This isn’t the sort of thing you can change overnight. People will continue to try to use, to evade the rules. But eventually, if it’s managed correctly, we can hope that the drugs will cease to be part of the culture at all levels – including the critical developmental levels (including those on foreign soil).

    But for now, it doesn’t serve anyone to continue making a circus out of every instance of PEDs in baseball. Buster Olney and the ESPN crowd aren’t doing anyone any good with their sanctimonious essays taking shots at ballplayers.

    We need to just move on.

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