Did MLB Give A-Rod Permission to Use Performance-Enhancing Drugs?

In a startling development, a new book alleges that Major League Baseball (MLB) gave New York Yankee star Alex Rodriguez permission to use testosterone during the 2007 season. The book, Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era, authored by Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times and Gus Garcia-Roberts of Newsday, states:

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The IPA in ’07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C. physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

The book, which delineates the relationship between Rodriguez and Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch, explains that because of the federal government’s involvement in inspecting MLB for drug abuse in the 2000s, exemptions for using testosterone were quite rare:

In 2007, of the 1,354 players subjected to testing, 111 were granted a TUE. Only two, apparently including Rodriguez, received an exemption for “androgen deficiency medications,” the category that would include testosterone.

Rodriguez had what was arguably his best year in 2007, winning a third MVP award and posting a .314/.422/.645 slash line, with 54 homers, 156 RBI, 143 runs scored and 376 total bases. 

According to Matt Snyder of CBS Sports, MLB simply stated:

All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) under the Joint Drug Program are made by the Independent Program Administrator (IPA) in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the Office of the Commissioner or the Players Association. The process is confidentially administered by the IPA, and MLB and the MLBPA are not even made aware of which players applied for TUEs. 

 

The TUE process under the Joint Drug Program is comparable to the process under the World Anti-Doping Code.  The standard for receiving a TUE for a medication listed as a performance-enhancing substance is stringent, with only a few such TUEs being issued each year by the IPA. MLB and the MLBPA annually review the TUE process to make sure it meets the most up-to-date standards for the issuance of TUEs.

 

As recommended by the Mitchell Report, since 2008 MLB and the MLBPA have publicly issued the IPA’s annual report, which documents how many TUEs were granted for each category of medication. We believe this high level of transparency helps to ensure the proper operation of the TUE process.  

Wallace Matthews of ESPN reported a spokesman for Rodriguez had no comment about the book other than to say, “We have turned the page from this and r looking 2wards 2015 and getting back on the field.”

MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred, was quoted in the excerpt from the book dealing with MLB’s granting permission to Rodriguez, asserting that exemptions for testosterone are "very rare," because  "some people who have been involved in this field feel that with a young male, healthy young male, the most likely cause of low testosterone requiring this type of therapy would be prior steroid abuse.”

Manfred testified against Rodriguez last year in the grievance hearing held to decide the status of Rodriguez’s suspension from baseball, which had been triggered by a January 2013 story by Elfrink about Biogenesis.

The book also examines the arbitration hearing for Rodriguez, and gleans from testimony in the hearing that Rodriguez obtained another exemption for drugs in 2008. The second exemption permitted him to use clomiphene citrate (Clomid), "a drug designed to increase fertility in women." The salient fact about Rodriguez using Clomid is that it stimulates the production of testosterone:

It is also prescribed to men who suffer from hypogonadism—testosterone deficiency—to block the production of estrogen in their bodies. The drug is popular with bodybuilders at the end of steroid cycles because it can also stimulate the body to make more testosterone.

The same doctor who approved the exemption for testosterone in 2007, Bryan W. Smith, approved the Clomid use in 2008.

In November 2013, Steve Eder, Serge F. Kovaleski and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times broke a story about Rodriguez that “he failed a drug test for stimulants in 2006." A lawyer for Rodriguez, James C. McCarroll, responded that Rodriguez had not been suspended for use of stimulants and "has passed all tests under the MLB drug program." 


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