Selig mulls action on A-Rod, HR mark
Commissioner says he's 'saddened' by Rodriguez's steroid use
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told USA Today in Thursday's edition that he is contemplating whether a suspension of Alex Rodriguez might be appropriate in the wake of the Yankees third baseman's admission to the use of banned substances from 2001-2003.
"It was against the law, so I would have to think about that," Selig said in an interview with Christine Brennan.
Thursday afternoon, Selig released a statement expanding on his earlier thoughts.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am saddened by the revelations concerning Alex Rodriguez's use of performance-enhancing substances," Selig said. "While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances and those who use them have shamed the game.
"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation. His actions are also a reminder to everyone in baseball -- under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games. Eradicating performance-enhancing substances from the game of baseball has been my first priority over the past decade and it is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity."
Selig also told USA Today that as the March 2 trial date for Barry Bonds approaches, he was considering the reinstatement of Henry Aaron as the rightful home run king in the official record books. Bonds faces charges of lying to a federal grand jury about his alleged use performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds currently holds the career record with 762 home runs, having passed Aaron's mark of 755 in 2007.
"This is breaking my heart, I don't mind telling you that," Selig told USA Today.
The other thing Selig said, according to a column by Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, was that he was "not dismissing" reinstating his friend, Aaron, as the record holder, but admitted that "once you start tinkering you create more problems."
Selig could make such a ruling under the Commissioner's all-encompassing "best interest in baseball" powers. One of his predecessors, Ford Frick, did that in 1961 when he separated the single-season home run record into two categories: Roger Maris' 61 homers in a 162-game schedule that year and Babe Ruth's 60 homers in a 154-game schedule in 1927.
As for Rodriguez, a suspension would be a tricky proposition because the test that came up positive was part of an anonymous survey to determine whether use was above a certain threshold in the game.
So, Rodriguez would be paying a price for verifying his use in response to an unnamed-sources leak to Sports Illustrated, and it is unclear whether Selig would want to deter others from coming forward if they were inclined to confess to being among the 104 names on the list that included A-Rod.
"He's open to everything. That doesn't mean he can do everything. He's keeping all options open," MLB senior vice president of public relations Rich Levin told the Daily News.
Additionally, even Rodriguez's "admission" to using outlawed substances to ESPN in Monday's interview was unclear.
"I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using," Rodriguez said.
The list of 2003 results that was confiscated as part of the highly publicized BALCO investigation started with 10 players of interest. Rodriguez was not one of the 10 players connected to that inquiry, though he was revealed to be one of the 104 overall tagged as positive in the story that broke Feb. 7 on SI.com. A-Rod confirmed the general accuracy of that article on ESPN two days later.
The New York Times reported in 2004 that Bonds, Marvin Benard, Bobby Estalella, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Armando Rios, Benito Santiago, Gary Sheffield and Randy Velarde were among those who had urine specimens seized as part of the BALCO investigation. Later, it was reported that in June 2006 the house of Jason Grimsley, then a pitcher for the Diamondbacks, was searched as part of the BALCO probe. Grimsley, released by the D-backs, was suspended for 50 games by MLB, consistent with guidelines in an agreement with the Players Association.
It is not known outside the circle of the sealed federal case whether any of those players were connected to positive tests in the 2003 survey of more than 1,000 Major Leaguers, but those were the records originally sought by investigators. After resistance from the union regarding details for the 10 players, federal agents who seized material from the Long Beach-based Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. (a company that kept records matching names to numeric sample identifications) had a search warrant for the test results of 10 players specifically, and in their search, they discovered on a computer spreadsheet the test results of additional players, raising many questions ranging from whether that material should be destroyed or made public. All the participants were part of collectively bargained testing that was agreed would preserve anonymity. The matter is now in the hands of a California court.
Donald Fehr, the union's executive director, told USA Today he would not expect any action taken against Rodriguez.
"I would be surprised if there was an attempt to [suspend Rodriguez]," Fehr said.
Selig issued a memo in 1997 banning steroids and noted possession of steroids was illegal without a prescription. Players did not agree to punishment for use until 2004, triggered by the more than five percent of players who tested positive in the 2003 exercise.
Brennan wrote a column that included additional details of her discussion with the Commissioner.
"I don't want to create any false hope," Selig said, referring to those, including Brennan herself, who are advocating action, even if just to make a statement and even if it were overturned or unenforceable.
As Brennan wrote, suggesting a "best interest" of the game rationale: "Suspend him for 50 games, suspend him for a week. Just suspend him."
Easier written than done, no doubt, for the aforementioned reason that the A-Rod revelation ultimately was the product of an illegal disclosure.
The BALCO scandal hardly has raised suspicions solely about baseball players.
In a 2004 interview with the ABC program "20/20," and in a bylined story in ESPN the Magazine, the alleged mastermind of BALCO, Victor Conte, claimed he had provided banned drugs to a long list of elite athletes, including track and field superstar Marion Jones (she later served six months in prison for lying in the investigation), world record sprinter Tim Montgomery, former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski and British sprint champion Dwain Chambers. Former San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield later was connected to BALCO as well and was sentenced to two years' probation for lying to federal agents.
"We are fully committed to ridding our game of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances," Selig said in Thursday's statement. "These drugs and those who use them and facilitate their use threaten the integrity of our sport. It is disappointing that others may have acted to thwart or prevent a legitimate drug testing program from being implemented sooner. That only served to stiffen our resolve. We are very proud of the enormous progress we have made, and it is important to note that the recent revelations are at least five years old and a residue of pre-program behavior. But we will not rest or relax our efforts until the use of these illegal drugs are gone from baseball."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.