For years, David Ortiz talked about getting to the bottom of his positive drug test. He should’ve started with excoriating his own union. The MLB players’ failed to request the results be destroyed, leading to their eventual publication in the New York Times.
Here’s the back story: MLB and the union agreed to hold survey drug testing in 2003. At the time, the league was getting lambasted for its burgeoning steroid scandal, and nonexistent PED policy. So MLB and the union cut a deal. If more than five percent of the tests came back positive, MLB would implement a PED testing program the following season. As we know, 104 players wound up testing positive, leading to the implementation of MLB’s testing protocols.
Though MLB promised confidentiality, that was never a realistic possibility, considering player names needed to be attached to each sample. Otherwise, the league wouldn’t have been able to verify each urine sample.
Fair enough, but the union still had ample opportunity to shield the results from public view, as former executive director Donald Fehr told Yahoo! Sports in 2009. “All the information was supposed to be anonymous and confidential and the records destroyed,” he said. “This was going to be done quickly but in the ordinary course.”
That didn’t happen. For whatever reason, the union failed to honor the agreement. Six days after the results were finalized, a grand jury investigating BALCO — the infamous San Francisco-based laboratory that distributed anabolic steroids to pro athletes — issued a subpoena for the results. Destroying them was no longer plausible, though MLB maintains the union just had to call the laboratory with the request, and it would've been done.
“The fact of the matter is that this would all have been prevented if they had just called and said, ‘Destroy the tests.,'" an MLB official told the New York Times in February 2009.
The union proceeded to haggle with the government for the records, but the results were already circulating. First, Alex Rodriguez’s name was leaked. Then the New York Times published the names of more players in July 2009, including Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. It’s worth mentioning the New York Times Company held a minority ownership stake in the Red Sox at the time.
If Ortiz really wanted to figure out what happened, he also could’ve gone up to the owners’ suite to get some answers.
Ultimately, Ortiz salvaged his reputation, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Tuesday. But the same can’t be said for many of his peers.
If only the all-power players’ union didn’t let them down.