Or from visiting the Cherry Hill Mall, for that matter.To borrow from my Internet friend Stu’s optimistic take, the Philadelphia Phillies have just made a dramatic middle-of-the-season move, picking up overused lefty reliever J.C. Romero well before the trade deadline. That’s because he’s been suspended 50 games. ESPN’s Peter Gammons had the story, which everyone in baseball managed to keep under wraps (somewhat impressively, I’d say) during the playoffs.

Romero also spoke to the Inquirer‘s Phil Sheridan, who breaks down the whole sequence of events quite thoroughly. Two parts of his piece jumped out at me.

Considering it was the first time a banned substance was found in an FDA-regulated, over-the-counter supplement – one available to every major-leaguer and millions of youths – that should have sounded alarms.

Wait, the FDA – the President Bush-era FDA – regulates the supplement industry? Were they doing a good job?


Here is where Patrick Arnold comes in. The man who first brought androstenedione to the U.S. marketplace and was the chemist behind development of THG – the designer steroid distributed by Balco – also runs a major supplement business called ErgoPharm. Arnold created and marketed the supplement Romero was using.

In an e-mail exchange, Arnold said there was nothing in his supplement that should have created a positive drug test.

The Daily News’ Rich Hoffman says the union let its players down (Yankees minor league pitcher Sergio Mitre is also out for 50 games), and quotes from the MLBPA’s letter:

Nothing on the labels of those supplements indicated that they contained a trace amount of a substance prohibited under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. 

But haven’t we already learned a hundred times that labels can’t be trusted (even from such a nonpareil source as Patrick Arnold)?

As usual, neither side looks good – the whole culture is still just as messed up as when McGwire was on andro. Legal or not legal, banned or not banned,  performance enhancing vs. workout recovery, amphetamines vs. “five hour energy,” – players are always going to take whatever they can and MLB will always lag behind in its definitions/enforcement/testing ability.

So if you believe that there’s not a huge philosophical gulf between taking HGH or having Lasik surgery, it’s all kind of pointless. Whereas if you believe in the PED bogeyman, then Romero is just as guilty as an Olympian on Sudafed (in fact, two Olympic-sport athletes have already been suspended for this stuff). Which would also mean it’s something of a joke that the appeals process enabled him to play in the World Series. I’m glad he did, of course, since I fall more into the former camp.

Update: Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus points out that the product already came with a warning label! He also links to Anthony Roberts, who has more on Arnold and chemistry.