J.C. Romero is out for 50 games for testing positive to a banned substance. The reliever was accused of being negligent and lost an arbitration hearing conducted during the ’08 World Series. That we know, but now some are suggesting that the offense may leave an asterisk next to the world championship.
First of all, lets lay down the facts (all according to Peter Gammons of ESPN): Romero was told prior to the season that all over the counter supplements were permissible. On July 22, Romero bought a supplement at the GNC store in Cherry Hill, NJ. He had it checked by his personal nutritionist, who said there was nothing in the supplement that was illegal. There was no warning on the label. Romero mentioned it to Phillies strength and conditioning coach Dong Lien, who suggested he get a second opinion (he never did.)
On August 26 and September 19 Romero was tested prior to a Phillies-Mets game. The test found him positive of a banned substance. Although he did not know what caused the failed test he immediately stopped use of the substance.
October 1 Romero was tested again. This time the results were negative, so throughout the playoffs the supplement was no longer in Romero’s system.
During the world series, in Tampa Bay, Florida, a arbitration hearing was held. Romero plead his case, and told local beat writers I spoke with, that he thought it would go away.
The players’ association sent a letter to players on November 21 that stated, “We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S. based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true. We have recently learned of three substances which can be bought over the counter at stores in the United States that will cause you to test positive. These three supplements were purchased at a GNC and Vitamin Shoppe in the U.S.” Just a little late.
In December Romero was alerted that the arbitrator had a change of heart and was ruling against him.
On January 5 Peter Gammons of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight broke the story on ESPN.com. The following day, the commisioners office officially announced the suspension.
Romero was on a Phillies sponsored cruise when the facts were released but told Comcast SportsNet’s Leslie Gudel that he will be heard when he arrives back in town.
Romero is suspended 50 unpaid games, effective opening day. He will loose $1.25 million.
How will the suspension effect the team? In a few conversations I had with local beat writers they all seemed to think Scott Eyre could step in and fill the role. “Think of it like an injury,” one told me.
I on the other-hand think it could be a huge loss. Madson has had his share of ups and downs. If he’s not pitching well, the bullpen could go from one of the best in the league to one of the worst. Eyre and Madson must step up.
The fact that Romero was off the drug during the playoffs is definitely a good thing. Still a few people have presented to me the fact that drug use could leave an asterisk next to the championship. Romero is not a cheater. The only person guilty of negligence is the head of the player’s association.