Some people are going to think that I am trying to defend A-Rod. Let me be perfectly clear about this. A-Rod’s decision to use steroids was wrong, period.

At the same time, I am concerned about the actions of the MLBPA (the union) and whether they served the best interests of their members.

My concern isn’t even that someone within the union may be the source for the story. My concern was that the information was ever there in the first place.

The 2003 steroid tests were screening tests. The players were tested merely to see if 5% of players tested positive. If more than 5% tested positive (they did), then the union would agree to mandatory testing. There was never any intent to determine if any specific player was taking steroids.

With the nature of this testing, there would have been no reason to link a sample to a particular player at any point in the process. I guess you might say that this would allow a player’s “B” sample (essentially a backup to re-test to rule out a faulty test) to be tested in the case of a positive. However, even this wouldn’t necessitate identifying the player. I am no expert on drug testing, but this methodology would seem to satisfy everyone:

  1. Collect a player’s “A” and “B” samples
  2. Have the team’s union representative and a management representative secure the team. This could be done by having them sign their name on an adhesive strip and placing the strips across the sample’s seal.
  3. Group each A and B sample together. (Perhaps by placing both samples in a small box.)
  4. Have the union rep and management rep leave the room and be replaced by a second team. The new people would have no way of guessing which samples were from which player.
  5. Take the samples out of the box and label them “1A”, “1B”, etc.
  6. The end result is a situation where A and B are tied together, each side is confident that there will not be any tampering with the samples, and the samples are completely anonymous.

The union’s troubles don’t stop there, however. USA Today reported that the test results (from 2003) were later seized from union offices by the feds as part of the BALCO investigation (in 2004). Why on earth would the union keep these results? I struggle to think of any way the union could have used this information for the benefit of their clients. Really, the only important piece of data from the tests were the number (and percent) of positive tests. The specifics of which players tested positive were irrelevant – the only question was whether or not the number was higher than 5%.

I know a lot of people think that it is a good thing that this information came out, but a key point is that the purpose of the union is to represent the players and protect their interests (as defined in the collective bargaining agreement). The role of the union is NOT to decide when the actions of its members are right or wrong.

I would not be surprised if the union ends up with a lawsuit on its hands – especially if the names of the other 103 players who tested positive are leaked to the press.

(Once again, I state that what Alex Rodriguez did is wrong and I do not condone his actions).