Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Remember how the Obama White House re-defined “imminent,” as in an imminent threat of terrorism, to “not necessarily anytime soon”?
Major League Baseball (MLB) seems to feel the same way about the word “impending,” as in impending punishments for players who broke the rules on Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) through association with the now-closed Biogenesis Clinic in South Florida, and so do the pet journalists who uncritically swallow and pass on these vague threats. 

Since the first Biogenesis document dump to the Miami New Times this winter, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been promising action, and on a weekly (daily during All Star Game Week) basis, sources “close to” MLB have been saying Judgment Day would be coming soon to a TV screen, website or newspaper near you. 

This week Selig mounted the soapbox at The David Letterman Show to reiterate that his “tough”, “thorough” investigation was nearing a climax, promising with classic Seligian anti-climax that judgments and punishments would occur “sometime in the future.”  Sort of like that “imminent” terrorist attack” that makes it legal for the US Government to kill or arrest you.
Since its contract with Major League Baseball guarantees the Players Union the right to challenge any charges, and the union will challenge each and every one of them, Union leader Michael Weiner added 3 words to baseball's re-definition of “impending”: “not this season.”
Weiner also estimated that the number of suspensions of his player-clients could number be “5 to 500”.  The 2 most frequently mentioned names are the widely-loathed Alex Rodriguez and the MLB-despised Ryan Braun.
A lot of people, reportedly including a lot of his past and present teammates, don’t like Rodriguez because, in addition to being an insufferably vain braggart, he is an admitted liar and PED-abuser, who, in fact, lied for years about past PED use.
MLB hates Ryan Braun because he “beat” them in a PED case brought against him because his lawyers were able to convince an impartial arbitrator that well-documented errors in the handling of his suspect specimen made it inadmissible as well as doubtful as evidence against him. 

MLB responded to the decision by swiftly and pointedly (and point-headedly) firing the arbitrator.  This was, of course, a message to all future arbitrators and drug testers that MLB would accept only the results it wants.  As if any court would accept “evidence” whose protocols had been so violated.  As if the record for errors in forensic and clinical labs weren’t perfectly clear: they all make errors.
Exactly how many and how frequently is hard to say, but the standard guesstimate is that clinical labs make errors in as few as 4 cases in 1000 or as many as 3 in every 100.  Other studies set the laboratory error rate much higher.  And don’t believe the bullshit that the athletic drug labs are any better.  WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency has fired deficient labs and reinstated falsely-accused athletes with some recent frequency. 

WADA long resisted admitting the possibility of error, even after 4 respected Norwegian scientists blasted them for the 2006 banning of race walker Erik Tysse.
Here’s what the 4 critics wrote:  “The primary data presented by WADA are of poor quality and have been treated and interpreted in a deviant and superficial manner.
“It is pretty clear that the evidence presented is far from proving any guilt.  

"The present case is an example of misuse of scientific methods.
“WADA’s behavior in this case jeopardizes their credibility.  They must adhere to good scientific practice, as this is crucial for their efforts to prevent the misuse of PEDs and for gaining the respect and trust of athletes and the general public.”
Of course, in the case of MLB’s vendetta against “5 to 500” players, “scientific practice” practice will not be involved.  There are no "pending" flunked drug tests on record against any of the dozen or more players whose names have been leaked to news media.  A few of the named have flunked and been punished for using PEDs in the past, but no new tests will be cited against them.

So, forget science, but what about “legal practice?” Will the players get a day in court or before any kind of panel of their “peers”, baseball peers or citizen peers?  Nope.  Commissioner Selig does fine, says Commissioner Selig, playing investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury.  But in the case of A-Rod, what might a court make of the fact that Anthony Bosch the disgraced former head of the Biogenesis Clinic reportedly (on A-Rod’s thinly supported say so, we must add in Bosch’s defense) went to Rodriguez asking for hush money, and being turned down, before selling his testimony to MLB. And like a jailhouse snitch, Bosch is getting not just money, but a Get Out of Civil Court Free card, from MLB.
Braun, of the mishandled specimen samples, says his contacts with Bosch were not about buying PEDs, but about Bosch's being a consultant in Braun's maddeningly successful case against “impending” MLB suspension.  While encouraging reporters to put Braun’s name near the top of the list of “suspects,” no sources at MLB have offered any refutation of this, other than to impute guilt from Braun’s refusal to cooperate with the “investigation.”  Darn that Fifth Amendment!
It is easy and correct to be against the use of PEDs, even though many of them do not so much enhance “artificially” higher performance levels by athletes, as they quicken recovery from injuries or wear and tear which may be inhibiting an athlete from reaching his or her “real” performance levels.
It is easy, and too often inccrect to spew and repeat undefined "charges, and just as several Constitutional principles protect people accused of crimes from wrongful prosecution or conviction, so too, athletic institutional discipline must follow rule of law, especially where wrongful charges can permanently damage careers, incomes, and personal reputations.
A new case to watch involves the recently-accused Jamaican track stars Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, both Olympic medalists with long, clean careers behind them.  They got a new trainer, and after their first races with him, tested “dirty.”  They say they suspect the trainer, Chris Xuereb, tried to put something over on them and WADA without their knowledge or participation. 

This is not the first time such a plea for exoneration has been made, and not always falsely.
Let’s hope imminence does not preclude justice in the Powell and Simpson cases, and that the proof for Bud Selig’s “impending” punishments will be scientific and irrefutable.
In the meanwhile, MLB’s sources and the media recipients of their leakage should just shut up.  
As should the incessant marketers of "imminent" terrorism. 

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