Prominent reporter who broke many PED stories defends David Ortiz ahead of HOF vote

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ESPN’s T.J. Quinn was one of the sports investigative reporters who regularly broke news about MLB’s ongoing steroid scandal and its related legal proceedings. Most famously, he was part of the team that published the FBI’s report about Mark McGwire’s performance-enhancing drug regimen, and broke the story of Barry Bonds’ grand jury testimony in the BALCO case.

All of that history promises to be revisited in the coming weeks as baseball writers cast their Hall of Fame votes. The topic will be especially pertinent this winter, since it is David Ortiz’s first year on the ballot, and the final year of eligibility for Bonds and Roger Clemens. But it’s not fair to lump in Ortiz with confirmed PED users. As Quinn explained on Twitter, there are multiple variables involved in Ortiz’s case.

Back in 2009, the New York Times reported Ortiz was one of 104 MLB players who tested positive for PEDs during an anonymous round of testing conducted in 2003. Since more than 5% of players tested positive, MLB implanted a PED policy the following year.

But there are questions about the validity of the 2003 list, beginning with the fact there were roughly 10 false positives. For years, Ortiz has denied using illegal steroids, saying he thinks the positive test was triggered by over-the-counter supplements. Since the results were never publicized, we don’t know what Ortiz actually tested positive for.

Those are some of the points Quinn brought up.

“Some things to keep in mind when evaluating David Ortiz. We know he was on a list, but we don’t know what he took, if it was banned at the time, what the levels were, whether it was something that plausibly could have become from a supplement,” Quinn writes. "He never got his day in court.”

Several other Dominican stars, including Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejada, were implicated in the steroid scandal as well — either through positive tests or hearsay. Quinn says the latter isn’t enough to disqualify someone from the Hall of Fame, at least in his view.

“I’ve heard way too many people speculate over the past 10 years that he must have doped because he’s Dominican. Such crap,” Quinn writes. “All we know is he was on a list, and we don’t know what put him there. The point is he never had a chance to defend himself.

“If that’s enough to keep him off your HOF ballot, so be it. But you just can’t equate him with people who were identified as dopers by either a test or non-analytical evidence.”

Ortiz retired at the end of the 2016 season with 541 career home runs. This year’s Hall of Fame results will be announced Jan. 25.