Saturday, July 5, 2014


Those who have been following the Alex Rodriguez beat here at Bleeding Yankee Blue, know I have done my best to be non-bias in my opinions. If a player is guilty of using steroids, they deserve to be punished fairly, according to the Joint Drug Agreement. I've also made it clear that I think the punishment given to ARod was unfair. He is technically a first time offender, and there is no proof that he tampered with evidence. Why then was he punished more severely than other players?

Bud Selig was looking for a scape goat in the player that everyone loves to hate. I've said this several times. He wants to retire as the commissioner that saved baseball, as if expecting us to forget that he is also the commissioner that aided in it's great descent as well. The steroid era flourished under his watch, and he never once cared about the integrity of baseball.

Sports Illustrated recently released an excerpt from Tim Elfrink, and Gus Garcia-Roberts new book "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era." The book itself focuses on ARod, and his journey through baseball with steroids. It hits on a number of very interesting details, including the fact that ARod was granted permission to use steroids in 2007, and MLB was fully aware of it. The following are some quotes from the book:

Under baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy, players can apply for a so-called therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to take certain medical substances otherwise banned by MLB. A doctor appointed by both sides—the independent program administrator (IPA) -- reviews all applications. Baseball also has an expert medical panel to advise the IPA. If an exemption is granted, the player cannot be punished for using that substance. The exemption is good for one year.

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The IPA in '07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C., physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

The exemption was revealed in a transcript of Rodriguez’s fall 2013 grievance hearing. During that proceeding, MLB entered into evidence several exemptions applied for by Rodriguez during his Yankees tenure. In his testimony, MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred called testosterone “the mother of all anabolics” and said that exemptions for the substance are “very rare,” partly because “some people who have been involved in this field feel that with a young male, healthy young male, the most likely cause of low testosterone requiring this type of therapy would be prior steroid abuse.”

Statistics requested in 2008 by Massachusetts congressman John Tierney as part of a government probe into baseball’s PED problem reveal how rare testosterone exemptions are. In 2007, of the 1,354 players subjected to testing, 111 were granted a TUE. Only two, apparently including Rodriguez, received an exemption for “androgen deficiency medications,” the category that would include testosterone. The other exemptions that year involved treatments for baldness, hypertension and -- predominantly -- attention deficit disorder. The alarmingly high number of exemptions for the latter was Tierney’s main concern. “I think it begs a question: Are people using this as a loophole?” said Tierney. “Are they taking these because they are perceived as a performance-enhancing drug, or do they have a legitimate medicinal purpose?”

I've linked both the SI article, and the Amazon page for the book above for those interested in reading more, but this is the part that I find most interesting.

Manfred admitted that he knew that young, healthy athletes sometimes seek these TUE's as a result of steroid abuse, and yet they are still granted? If it is so rare to grant these exemptions, why were 111 players granted one in 2007? It seems odd. Is MLB actually aiding is the abuse of steroids? Further, are they aiding in the addiction that comes from using these PEDS? I do not understand why a player like ARod, who tested positive during 2001 - 2003, would be granted a TUE in 2007. More interestingly enough, he was granted yet another TUE in 2008.

The idea of TUE's as a whole is ridiculous to me! If steroids are illegal, they should be illegal across the board. To have an option like a TUE available to players, only makes it more likely that there will be abuse of the substance, and eventually addiction. So why is it available at all? For hair loss? Rogaine works just fine, and does not contain any steroids. To think that these players aren't smart enough to figure out loopholes in the TUE process is naive.

It brings me back to my original point. If ARod did indeed use steroid illegally, his punishment should be just. But he was given TUE's in  the past with Selig's knowledge. I understand that TUE's only cover one season, and it does not justify his usage from any years other than the two years he was granted permission to use. But Selig had to be aware of what could happen.

Let's remember that by this point, the steroid problem became more evident in the sport. Selig began taking steps to change it. So why then were 111 players granted TUE's in 2007? What would Selig hope to gain by allowing so many players to use? If it is common knowledge that TUE's are often sought after by athletes who show addictive behaviors, isn't the idea of a TUE like handing a bottle of liquor to an alcoholic, and expecting them to remain sober?

The excerpt alone brings up many interesting questions. With these exemptions, will the sport ever be truly cleansed of steroids? It sounds like the MLB was aiding in the addiction, and abuse of these substances.

--Erica Morales BYB Senior Writer 
Twitter: @e_morales1804


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