The case against Miguel Tejada seems to be a clear-cut case of breaking the rules. The convicted perjurer who had a starring role in the Mitchell Report failed two tests for amphetamines this season. Factor in a prior flunked test, and the drug-testing math adds up to a 105-game suspension.
Simple. Except that it's not.
This is a staggering suspension for something that doesn't involve steroids, exceeded this summer only by the 211-game ban given to Alex Rodriguez for his connections to Biogenesis, the now-defunct South Florida clinic that increasingly seems to have been created whole cloth from an Elmore Leonard novel.
Tejada isn't in the same boat as A-Rod, or the 13 other players who accepted bans of at least 50 games for their links to the clinic. Technically, he is being prosecuted for taking amphetamines. But according to his account, that's misleading. He is being banned because he used Adderall, an attention deficit drug that one out of every 10 players uses legally.
Adderall is so ho-hum in baseball that when Jonathan Gray, the third pick in this year's draft, flunked a test for it in before the draft in June, everyone shrugged. "I don't think that will affect much of anything," a scouting director told MLB.com. "There are a whole lot of guys in the big leagues who have a prescription for that."
To be precise, 116 players received therapeutic use exemptions for it last season. Tejada was one of them.
According to Tejada, his exemption was good until April 15, at which point he forgot to file the paperwork to renew it. When he failed a test earlier this season, the union applied for an extension, apparently staying the 25-game ban that was supposed to go into effect because he had a previous violation of the league's drug policy.
What happened next is a little murky. At some point, MLB refused to give him the permission he sought. When he flunked a second test earlier this month, the league considered it a third violation and hit him with the 105-game ban.
But why be so hard on the guy now, six years after he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report and five years after he says MLB first gave him permission to use the drug?
He's 39 years old, and looking at the end of his career on the DL. Out of 116 players, why is grandpa the one who gets his meds taken away?
"Some kids might grow out of ADD, but you don't grow out of it between the ages of 37 and 39," says Howard Jacobs, a Los Angeles defense attorney who has represented several athletes who've tested positive for Adderall.
Tejada's treatment is especially curious in light of the fact that MLB is so lenient about renewing Adderall exemptions. Since 2009, the vast majority of TUE grants have been renewals from previous seasons. (In 2011 and 2012, only 20 percent of applications from 40-man roster players were first-time requesters.)
So I ask again, why drop him now?
This week, ESPN's Pedro Gomez reported that Tejada had been "implicated" in MLB's investigation of Biogenesis. It's not clear when he came to the league's attention. But eventually, MLB's gumshoes concluded the evidence against him wasn't as strong as the 14 players it suspended. The league issued a statement this week saying it had "found no violation" of its drug policy.
Is it possible that those reported links to Biogenesis played a role in its decision to take away Tejada's TUE?
I have nothing hard to base this on. No documents. No source whispering in my ear. The timing of the two events could be entirely unrelated.
But the prevalence of Adderall in sports raises a disturbing notion to me: The more players get hooked on it, the more leagues have subtle but important leverage over them.
So many jocks have become reliant (addicted?) on Adderall that their TUEs have turned into lifelines. After his suspension was announced, Tejada told Enrique Rojas of ESPNdeportes, "I knew that I was in risk of breaking the rules, but at the same time, I could not stop using the medicine because I suffer from ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]. It's not a vice, it is a disease."
Because it is up to the to leagues to issue those TUEs, is it too conspiratorial to think that relationship could be misused?
Is it too far-fetched to think that a player could find his TUE suddenly taken away if he gets out of line, or, say, meddles with a South Florida drug clinic, thinking he's so sharp no proof will ever connect him?
OK, yeah, maybe it is. But everything about this Biogenesis case reeks of conspiracy. People have been chasing witnesses on highways, stealing records, promising six figures or more for smoking gun documents. Maybe Tejada is just an unlucky guy. Or maybe there's a hidden message being sent to players in this case:
You can have your meds if you're good. But screw around, and see how easy it is to have them taken away.
I'm not saying the leagues actually like having players hooked on Adderall. Then again, it's a powerful prescription to get them to play by the rules.