A-Rod's Steroid Bust: How It Really Went Down

Alex Rodriguez did an Andy Pettitte yesterday and admitted to taking steroids. Though he wasn't facing any legal jeopardy, it's probably for the best that he did this as Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Andy Pettitte were all able to easily go on with their careers after their admissions whereas we all know about what Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have dealt with as a result of their continued denials.

Rodriguez was exposed by Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated as a steroid user on Saturday afternoon. Four anonymous sources leaked A-Rod's name, telling her that his name was on a list containing 104 names of major league baseball players that failed a MLB steroid test in 2003. None of the other 103 names were leaked.

I've got several problems with what's going on here. I don't like that the only name leaked was A-Rod's. I don't like that I actually agree with Curt Schilling that we need to know the other 103 names. But I really don't like that most of the reporters writing and commenting on this are getting some basic simple facts wrong.

One of the worst offenders is Richard Justice, but SI's Jon Heyman, who I like, is getting the same issue wrong. They're both blaming this on the baseball players union. They're both claiming that Rodriguez's name got out there because the union refused to release the results for the players caught up in the BALCO scandal, primarily Barry Bonds, and as a result, the Feds subpoenaed and got the right to take the names of all 104 players. (I note that neither of them, especially Justice who goes out of his way to defend Bud Selig at every opportunity, is angry at Bud Selig for agreeing with the union about that list of names.)

That's wrong. That's not what happened.

The lab that conducted the tests refused to hand the results over to the Feds. The federal prosecutor got a warrant to seize the results of the ten players involved with BALCO. The lab was raided by Jeff Novitzky in April 2004. The BALCO prosecutor, Jeff Nedrow decided to unilaterally expand the warrant and ordered Novitzky to seize the results of all the players tested by MLB.

The lab and the players union then went to court to have those records returned while the names of the non-BALCO players were kept private. Judge Susan Illston, the judge currently presiding over the Barry Bonds case, ordered that the records be kept under seal and ordered jailed anyone caught leaking this info. Four different U.S. District Court judges have ordered these records to be returned to MLB, and the parties are currently awaiting a decision from the appellate courts, a decision which will likely favor the players.

So despite Richard Justice's hatred of the players union, they didn't do anything wrong. The prosecutors who seized the records did so by way of an improper and illegal seizure. The Feds willfully violated the language of the warrant, and the Judge Illston has been making the life of the prosecutors a living hell. In fact, it was just last Thursday that the Judge made several rulings in the Barry Bonds case that were very bad rulings for the prosecution. While a final ruling is still pending, Judge Illston stated that she probably will not allow the Barry Bonds drug tests in the possession of the Feds to be admitted into evidence.

According to Heyman's story, union rep Gene Orza was working with the list of 104, attempting to find false-positives. This to me sounds like something the union should be doing. Now what I would really like is for these learned legal scholars like Justice to be as pissed off and indignant about the government's Constitutional violations that have been going around the Barry Bonds matter as they are angry at the players union for doing its job. And I would hope that the learned legal scholars like Justice would be pushing to find out who the leakers of this information are so that they can be doing the jail time they should be doing.

And if I were Selena Roberts, I would probably be packing a bag, because Judge Illston has given every clue in the Barry Bonds case that she doesn't fool around, and she's going to want to know who leaked this confidential information to the press. And if Selena Roberts doesn't want to share that information, then she's going to be going to jail for contempt. That, I'm sure, will get the learned legal scholar that is Richard Justice all nice and angry. I just wish he would get as nice and angry about the breaking of the law that has gone on with the outing of Alex Rodriguez.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal