Orioles trio in clear since tests made public

October 02, 2006|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,Sun Reporter

If Orioles Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons have used anabolic steroids in the past, as former Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley alleges in a federal affidavit, the league wouldn't have publicized it before last season.

But this much is certain: The trio did not fail tests for anabolic steroids since the start of 2005, when MLB's testing became public.

In fact, no big league ballplayer has been suspended for failing a drug test since New York Yankees outfielder Matt Lawton on Nov. 2, 2005.

This year, the three Orioles have submitted urine tests at least twice since spring training, according to the league policy mandate. And both Gibbons and Tejada have said they have been tested three times this season - and have passed all three times.

According to a league spokesperson, there is no longer a cap on how often a player can be tested.

In 2003, the collective bargaining agreement allowed for anonymous "survey testing," to see if there were more than five percent of players testing positive for steroids. There were - 83 positive cases were discovered, triggering random testing in 2004.

In both 2003 and 2004, there were no penalties for a first failed test and the results were kept confidential. Eleven positive cases were identified in 2004.

With pressure from U.S. Congress before last season, the policy and its penalties were revamped. Perhaps most important, names on the list were made public once the appeals process was exhausted.

A dozen major leaguers, led by former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, were suspended 10 days for failing drug tests. No player was suspended twice. At the end of 2005, at the urging of Congress, the policy again was tightened. The laughable suspensions - ranging from 10 days on first offense to a one-year ban after four offenses - were overhauled. Now, a player who fails a test faces a 50-game suspension, followed by 100 games on second offense and a lifetime ban after a third.

The substance list was also tweaked, and for the first time amphetamines were included, with their own set of suspensions. Also, independent doctors were placed on the policy's oversight committee, replacing baseball and union representatives.

With no failed tests, the union and MLB believe the policy is working. Critics, however, charge more can be done, such as administering blood testing instead of urine testing, especially for substances such as human growth hormone, which is banned by baseball but undetectable through urine tests.

Baseball argues that there is no adequate test for hGH - blood or urine - currently available.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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