Sammy Sosa, seen here testifying before
Congress in 2005, saying he never used
performance-enhancing drugs, reportedly
tested positive for them in 2003.
Sammy Sosa, who is currently 6th on the all-time homerun list, reportedly tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during MLB’s “survey test” that was conducted in 2003. The leak of Sosa being on the list follows on the heels of Alex Rodriguez testing positive for PEDs during MLB’s first wave of testing. The results of that test were to remain anonymous, but were seized as part of a federal investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball.
As noted in the report by Michael S. Schimdt of The New York Times, Sosa had long been suspected of being linked to PEDs, but no proof had been offered up. Now, that link appears to have been made. As reported, the news would seem to quash his possible induction into the Hall of Fame, as well as create legal complications.
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 survey test was conducted as part of negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. The “survey test” was done to determine the level of steroid use in baseball at the time. The agreement between the sides was that if more than 5 percent of the players tested positive, mandatory testing would be conducted the following year. When the results were complete, 104 players had tested positive, or approx. 7 percent of all players tested. The results of the tests were supposed to be destroyed as part of the agreement by the MLBPA, but was not done so before federal investigators seized the results as part of the BALCO investigation. There have been conflicting reports as to why the results were not destroyed, but the official response by Donald Fehr of the MLBPA was that:
“In mid-November 2003, the 2003 survey test results were tabulated and finalized. The MLBPA first received results on Tuesday, November 11.
Those results were finalized on Thursday, November 13, and the players were advised by a memo dated Friday, November 14. Promptly thereafter, the first steps were taken to begin the process of destruction of the testing materials and records, as contemplated by the Basic Agreement. On November 19, however, we learned that the government had issued a subpoena. Upon learning this, we concluded, of course, that it would be improper to proceed with the destruction of the materials. The fact that such a subpoena issued in November 2003 has been part of the public record for more than two years. See, U.S. v. CDT, 473 F3d at 920 (2006), and 513 F3d at 1090 (2008) (both opinions have now been vacated). Other subpoenas followed, including one for all test results.
“Over the next several months we attempted to negotiate a resolution of the matter with the United States Attorneys Office for the Northern District of California. During that time we pledged to the government attorneys that the materials would not be destroyed. When the government attorneys refused to withdraw its subpoena for all 2003 test results, we decided to ask a judge to determine to what the government was entitled. See, 473 F3d at 944, and 513 F3d at 1118. On the same day we were filing our papers with the court, the government attorneys obtained a search warrant and they began seizing materials the following day. Pursuant to that search warrant which named only 10 individuals, the government seized records for every baseball player tested under our program, in addition to many records related to testing in other sports, and even records for other (non-sport) business entities.
“Later in 2004 three federal district judges in three different judicial districts ruled that the government’s seizures were unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment and ordered the government to return all the materials seized (except for those related to the 10 players listed in the original search warrant). The government appealed and the matter is still pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
On December 18, 2008, the case was reargued before an en banc panel of Ninth Circuit judges.
In March of 2005, Sosa and other key figures in baseball, including Mark McGwire were called to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress (see testimonies from all that testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform in ’05, including Sosa) Sosa said, through an interpreter, “To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything.”
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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