Saturday, April 15, 2006

An idea - how to tackle the steroid era

I have just finished reading Game of Shadows - the study of the BALCO investigation that culminated in jail time for Victor Conte, the 'brains' behind BALCO, and Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds personal trainer. Without providing pictures, vials and a full transcript of the grand jury testimony, I am not sure what else Fainaru-Wada and Williams could do to provide evidence that Bonds was a sustained steroid abuser.

In truth though... so what? Baseball can gather all the evidence it likes in the Mitchell investigation, it can gather the pitcures, the syringes, but then what? While any player that did use steroids (without a prescription) prior to 2003 was breaking the law, he wasn't breaking any baseball 'rules', and I struggle to believe that the player's association would stand by and allow the Commissioner's office to ban a player under the best interests clause if evidence of steroid abuse is collected - regardless of how strong the evidence was.

So I have an idea - and I would welcome any thoughts that you might have on why this wouldn't work - that meets the need of all interested parties, and meets the criteria of 'fair' that has to underpin any investigation that baseball completes.

MLB needs to declare a steroid amnesty...

It needs to declare that baseball ignored the steroid issue, because it thought, wrongly, that the integrity of the game could be maintained while players did these things, that the owners were as much to blame as the players...

It needs to declare that any player who admits to drug use in the amnesty period, who provides full detail of the steroids that were used, and during which period, will receive no punishment from baseball - indeed will receive full PR support from MLB, that no team will be able to void a contract because of the admission or seek retrospective compensation, the player will have no statistics altered and will remain fully eligible for the Hall of Fame...

... and that any player who does not admit to drug use will be eligible for investigation by MLB and trial before a public, independent tribunal - if the player is found guilty by that tribunal then they will be banned from baseball for life, that the player's current team will be allowed to seek compensation, that all statistics the player has gathered will be stricken from the record, or specifically recorded in a 'drug cheat' category to publicize the punishment and that they will be permanantly ineligible for the Hall of Fame...

It needs to declare that the use of any performance enhancing drug in the game going forward will not be tolerated, not just those that are currently on the banned substance list, and that the only thing it will ask of the players union in the next labor agreement is permission to store samples for 5 years, to be retested once a year for the 5 years for any new substances that have been discovered that year - and to encourage the player's agreement, it should consider significantly increasing the minimum salary, or some other financial benefit that will reward players that play by the agreed rules / increase the risk for those that don't.

For MLB / baseball the amnesty will give as much closure as it possibly can - while the issue will linger as evidence is presented and 'tried' in the independent tribunal - that period could be limited to allow the game and players the certainty they would want. And MLB can argue that the solution is fair - players will have a choice, and will know the consequences either way... but MLB will have to own up, and take the public beating that will follow, that it allowed steroids to infiltrate the game with its knowledge.

For the drug taking players it allows a clean start - while it may take a brave player to own up, it will leave the threat of life-long 'punishment' if they don't own up... but the player will always have to live with the public record of their cheating.

For the non drug taking players it allows them a clean legacy from the steroid era - and it also allows them the possibility to talk players they knew were using steroids into using the amnesty... or leaves open the (highly unlikely) possibility of them using the independent tribunal for players they cannot persuade...

For those fans who really don't care about how statistics are achieved it would not require the 'false' striking of statistics from the game. For those fans who do care about how the statistics are achieved there would be easy identification, and for them the discounting of those players achievements...

All sides give up something in this solution, all sides gain something from this solution... thoughts?

3 threw a strike:

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At 12:51 am, Blogger Marc C. Santos said...

"For the drug taking players it allows a clean start - while it may take a brave player to own up, it will leave the threat of life-long 'punishment' if they don't own up... but the player will always have to live with the public record of their cheating."

I like your response--it is ideal! Of course, the problem with ideals is that they hardly capture all the complexity of a real situation. I don't mean this as a knock, only that most major league players probably don't feel any "life-long threat"; there is no 100% retroactive test to worry about, is there? I'm sure that they (like Raffy?) feel far out of retrobution's reach...

 
At 1:42 am, Blogger Neil H said...

I don't take it as a knock - and I agree, where there is an arrogance about how the drug taking player views the world, there is little we can do. If the player feels no shame in our "judgement", then there is no punishment, nor hope of rehabilitation, but I think that 'sample' might be quite small, particularly when a better option might exist.

One other hurdle that would need to be cleared, that I didn't think of, is some form of legal agreement to the effect that there would be no legal action againt the players who admitted to using - but given the political interest, I think that could be achieved.

 

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