Peter Gammons has a very detailed piece about J.C. Romero’s 50-game suspension for taking, well, something:
Three months after Romero was tested before a Phillies-Mets game on Aug. 26, the players’ association sent a Nov. 21 letter to players that 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. We have recently learned of three substances which can be bought over the counter at stores in the United States that will cause you to test positive. These three supplements were purchased at a GNC and Vitamin Shoppe in the U.S” . . .
On July 22, Romero bought a supplement at the GNC store in Cherry Hill. He had it checked by his personal nutritionist, who said there was nothing in the supplement that was illegal. There was no warning on the label. Romero mentioned it to Phillies strength and conditioning coach Dong Lien . . .
. . . “What they now say I should have done was call the drug hot line,” Romero said. “But I had it checked out by nutritionists, and I was following the guidelines laid down by the players’ association in spring training” . . .
. . . There seems to be little question that the players’ association unwittingly misled Romero — and other players — about over-the-counter supplements purchased in the United States. Somehow, after MLB was warned in early July, those concerns did not reach the players’ association about three supplements available at every GNC store.
This is a pretty messed up situation. Yes, it’s apparently a technical violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, and yes, Romero — like anyone else subject to drug testing of any kind — should take primary responsibility for ensuring that what goes into his system is permitted under the rules rather than rely on the union or trainers who, as this case makes clear, can be mistaken about such things.
But unless Gammons is leaving something major out — and I’ll note that MLB had no comment for the article — this does not sound like the sort of conduct that should cause a guy to miss nearly a third of the season. Unfortunately, the post BALCO public outcry — not to mention Congressional grandstanding — demanded that MLB adopt zero or near-zero tolerance for PED use, backed up with what, in this case anyway, appear to be pretty draconian and apparently anyway, discretion-free penalties.
(thanks to reader Ian Devine for the link)