Monday, February 9, 2009

The End Of the Innocence

The calls are multiplying for Alex Rodriguez to come clean, to 'fess up to steroid use.

This, after someone leaked a supposedly positive test result from a sample taken in 2003, before Major League Baseball imposed a mandatory testing regimen. Those 2003 samples were to be used to determine if MLB had a drug problem: if more than 5% of the samples came back positive, the sport would begin stricter testing with penalties the following year.

In the last few days, we've seen reports alleging both A-Rod and Barry Bonds tested positive in that 2003 survey. Cue the wailing, gnashing of teeth, and wringing of hands.

But hold on a moment. Can I ask a simple question? Leave aside the fairness of leaking supposedly-secret test results. Why were these samples even linked to a player's name in the first place?

If the goal of the 2003 program was to establish whether MLB had a problem, it served absolutely no purpose to flag the samples with players' names. All the 2003 program needed to know was this: was the sample from a major leaguer?

If it seems like I'm splitting hairs, maybe I am. But I happen to believe very strongly in the rule of law. If the process isn't fair, how much faith can we have in the results?

Go ahead and wring your hands and call for A-Rod to do whatever it is you think he ought to do. But give some thought to a process that appears to be badly flawed, and ask yourself for a moment why the only leaked positives from the 2003 tests point to two of the sport's biggest stars, and not to any of the 70-odd others who also tested positive that year.

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