As they work together to host their first international competition, Major League Baseball and its players union have apparently failed to ensure that global anti-doping regulations are followed.
A drug-testing policy document sent to players on the preliminary rosters for the inaugural World Baseball Classic is missing important and popular performance-enhancers banned under the World Anti-Doping Code.
Whether the omissions happened accidentally or on purpose, the end result could be the invalidation of any positive test results. The list of missing substances includes Human Growth Hormone, ephedrine and DHEA, a legal pro-hormonal supplement that is similar to andro.
The incomplete memo raises questions about baseball's anti-doping compliance and potentially puts in jeopardy the sport's inclusion in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to anti-doping officials and experts.
"You can't pick and choose what you want like it's off a menu," said Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) committee that drafted the list.
The document, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN The Magazine, contains a list of banned substances that is far shy of the official roster maintained by WADA. The 2006 prohibited list is available on the WADA Web site.
Because the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) is sanctioning the WBC, the tournament is required to adhere to world anti-doping standards. Providing an incomplete list to athletes could be considered non-compliance. According to WADA chairman Dick Pound, his organization is now looking into the IBAF's management of the drug-testing program.
Also contained in the document is a clause that preserves confidentiality for players on provisional rosters who may have failed drug tests before the competition began. Gene Orza, chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association, and Rob Manfred, MLB's executive VP for labor relations, both contend this blanket of confidentiality only extends to players who may have tested positive and then were either cut from their teams or voluntarily dropped from the tournament before the 30-man rosters were set. However, one of the men who wrote the World Anti-Doping Code says the failure to disclose a positive test would still be a violation.
"All tests count. None are for practice," said Richard Young, outside counsel to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). "Why are you supplying a system like the East Germans used to?"
Young is referring to East German athletes in the 1970s and '80s who were screened for performance-enhancing drugs before traveling to international competitions, allowing officials to quietly drop those who test positive in advance and forestalling suspensions.
For the WBC, the IBAF is responsible for upholding the code and is the only body that would face any consequences of non-compliance.
If the IBAF is "not willing to apply the Anti-Doping Code, we will report that to the stakeholders," said Pound, also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member. One of the stakeholders is the IOC, which determines the eligibility of each sport for the Olympics.
Pound said WADA has requested the drug-testing contract the IBAF, MLBPA and MLB all signed to determine if his organization will pursue non-compliance violations against the IBAF.
Orza's name, phone number and e-mail address were listed on the document that was sent to players and agents. Player agents say they received the document, which is undated and appears on '06 World Baseball Classic stationery, from the MLBPA on Feb. 16.
Orza acknowledged that players received a list that was missing a few substances, such as ephedrine, but said that it was WADA-compliant and approved by the IBAF.
Orza would not confirm that the Feb. 16 document player agents received was the last one sent to players. When asked to provide the final piece of information sent to players about drug testing, he refused.
"We know MLB has attempted to hold themselves to the world as having a real drug-testing system," one anti-doping expert said, "when the reality is, when you look behind the pronouncements, you can point to the glaring omissions on this list as having been entirely consistent with a pattern [of behavior] we have seen all the way through."
But Charles Yesalis, a Penn State health policy professor who has written extensively about steroids, believes the explanation could simply be incompetence. "If I had to guess, I would say that baseball acted with gross negligence," Yesalis said. "But with it happening in the midst of all the public scrutiny, it's even more astounding."
Both MLB and the MLBPA have said that the IBAF is in charge of drug testing for the tournament, and IBAF president Aldo Notari told ESPNDeportes.com on Monday that more than 200 samples have been taken from players and no one has tested positive.
Notari's second-in-command, executive director Miquel Ortin, said he was unaware of the incomplete banned-substance list that was sent to players.
"I know of no such list," said Ortin. "I don't have contact with any of the players. I will have to talk to the players association."
Ortin also added that the WBC drug-testing agreement with baseball and its players union was sent to WADA.
WADA spokesman Frederic Donze said his organization has no such document and referred all questions to the IBAF.
According to Manfred, MLB assumed the IBAF was following code.
"We have acted in the role as event organizer," Manfred said. "We've worked very hard to have the IBAF in control of the drug testing as opposed to us. That's all I can tell you."
Orza said all players will be subjected to testing mandated by the international code. He is technically correct, according to Christiane Ayotte, director of the WADA-accredited lab in Montreal, who said all the samples will be tested according to the code. But the incomplete list players received opens a potential loophole that could be exploited on appeal.
According to experts contacted by The Magazine, including Young, any players who test positive for a substance on the WBC list may not be held responsible because the memo sent to them did not comply with the WADA code. And players must be allowed an appeal, also a code requirement.
"I don't care whether or not the players got the notice," Orza said. "WADA might care about that, but I don't. The laboratory will report to us what the test results are. If it was a substance that is banned by WADA, that individual will be removed from the tournament. If that individual wants to say, 'Gee, I didn't get notice under the World Anti-Doping Code,' we say, 'Sorry, you are responsible for knowing the banned substances under our rules.' "
Both Terrmel Sledge, now with the Padres, and Derrick Turnbow, now with the Brewers, received two-year bans in international competition for failed drug tests at Team USA tryouts in 2003. Neither faced discipline under MLB's drug-testing program, and neither will any player who tests positive in this year's WBC.
Both baseball and softball were voted out of the Olympics this February, so the 2008 Games will be the last for both sports.
Anti-doping officials have long questioned baseball's drug-testing efforts. Not until 2003 did MLB begin a testing program, and baseball has since faced intense pressure from Congress to implement a tougher policy.
Under the threat of WADA-style testing from the government last fall, baseball and its union agreed to a stricter policy for the 2006 season, one with 50-game suspensions for first-time steroid cheats and bans stimulants for the first time.
Anti-doping officials see the WBC document snafu as another apparent sign of baseball's willingness to make its own rules.
"Either they're going to get on the [anti-doping] page internationally or they're not," Pound said. "And it appears they are not."
Amy K. Nelson is a writer-reporter for ESPN The Magazine.