Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs Could Continue in MLB

Sep 8, 2005

By Lindsay C. Cooper of
Weinstock, Friedman and Friedman
Headlines about professional athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, whether secretly or unknowingly, during their tenure as major league players are becoming commonplace. Yet, these players are allowed to return to the fields and achieve other goals that they may not have been able to achieve without the use of those drugs.
Steroid use in professional sports is nothing new, neither is the increased scrutiny over Major League Baseball’s stand. The likes of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield testified before a federal grand jury in December of 2003, with Giambi and Sheffield admitting to their use of steroids (according to the San Francisco Chronicle) even though Sheffield said he wasn’t aware that the substances he was using contained steroids.
Fast forward to 2005, when a steroid-related book that rocked MLB and emotion testimony of several superstars before Congress took center stage.
Among those superstars was Rafael Palmeiro, who vehemently claimed that he “never used steroids.” Two months after that testimony, MLB suspended Palmeiro because a drug test allegedly revealed that he had taken stanozolol, a “very tough steroid.” Baseball then went silent, awaiting Palmeiro’s response to a 10-game suspension it had administered.
But, just what kind of response can Palmeiro give? According to Newsday, steroid experts tell baseball officials the drug almost assuredly did not enter Palmeiro by way of “accident or sabotage,” seemingly squashing Palmeiro’s statement that he “unintentionally” used the steroid, which is commonly used to treat angiodema. Angiodema is a swelling of the deep layers of the skin, and it is unclear whether Palmeiro suffered from this condition.
Despite everything, Palmeiro remained an Oriole, even with his use of steroids, and amid a possible investigation that he perjured himself in his Congressional testimony. Two congressmen are now said to be looking into details surrounding Palmeiro’s suspension, sending a list of questions to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.
Still a Future Hall of Famer?
Will this suspension and failed steroid test keep Palmeiro out of the Hall of Fame given his 3000th major league hit? Probably not, unless there is a morals clause put into the Hall of Fame induction requirements. Could Palmeiro be fired from the Baltimore Orioles for the use of steroids? Arguably, according to the Baseball Think Factory, “an MLB team could still void or cancel a contract with the MLB player for using PEDs [performance enhancing drugs and substances] pursuant to the morals clause or the players’ fitness representations.” Will it happen? Probably not. Palmeiro likely will remain a Baltimore favorite.
As if the Palmeiro steroid issue wasn’t bad enough, his agent, Arn Tellem blamed MLB officials for “leak[ing] the name of the drug,” according to The Washington Post, alleging that the “confidentiality rules that the arbitrator set in this case have been broken by the MLB.” But while MLB fans await an explanation from Palmeiro, Rob Manfred baseball’s executive vice president of labor relations, according to the Washington Post replied, “Major League Baseball respected the confidentiality order that was imposed, and the only one that has been talking about the facts of this case is Rafael Palmeiro.”
Before the court of public opinion, can Palmeiro explain the existence of the drug in his system and avoid public scorn and the possibility of punishment for allegedly perjuring himself? We’ll have to wait and see given the fact that stanozolol, according to experts, is not found in supplements and has “not been associated with supplement contamination,” according to the Washington Post.
Alleging that Palmeiro lied under oath is easier than proving he did. According to the Washington Post, “a baseball source with knowledge of the matter confirmed multiple newspaper reports that the positive test occurred in May, some two months after Palmeiro testified before Congress. However, it is possible for certain steroids to remain in someone’s system for at least that long.”
Three Strikes and You May be Out… for Good
Currently, such a light sentence demonstrates that the MLB may still fall short in punishing for steroids but not if Bud Selig has anything to say about it. In fact, according to USA Today, “longer suspensions as proposed by Selig are needed.” Selig is reportedly now seeking a 50-day suspension on the first offense, 100 games on the second, and a lifetime ban on a third.
While the New York Yankees and even the Baltimore Orioles have inquired about the possibility of voiding player contracts “because of fitness representations,” according to Sports Illustrated, they never pursued the strategy. Further, upholding morals clauses has proven difficult as the Golden State Warriors, for one, found as they could not void Sprewell’s basketball contract, which contained a morals clause, after choking his coach, P. J. Carlismo.
At Least it’s a Start
Baseball’s policy is still small in comparison to other sports. In fact, according to, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, “adopted by most Olympic sports”, impose penalties of two years for their first positive test, and a lifetime ban for the second, unless there are mitigating circumstances.
In the End…
Steroid use will probably continue well into the future unless the players are heavily regulated by contract or law. Until that happens, these players will achieve superhuman record-breaking goals, get nominated into halls of fame, and continue to disillusion the public that the players earned their positions as major league athletes.
* Cooper is an associate attorney, and the leader of the Entertainment Law Group, which includes Sports Law at Weinstock, Friedman and Friedman, one of the largest law firms in Maryland. She can be reached at


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