July 17, 2013

Will baseball players face drug hearings in September?

Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are among more than a dozen players under investigation.

By RONALD BLUM/The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The baseball players' association says any suspensions resulting from the sport's latest drug investigation likely won't be served until next year if the discipline is challenged before an arbitrator.

Union head Michael Weiner expects Major League Baseball will notify the union of its plans for penalties in the next month, and the association will maintain any discipline should not be announced until after a grievance hearing, and then only if arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upholds a ban.

"We're going to have a discussion with them. That discussion will include whether or not names of suspended players will be announced publicly," Weiner said Tuesday during a meeting with the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Former MVPs Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are among the more than a dozen players under investigation for ties to Biogenesis, a closed antiaging clinic in Florida linked with the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs. MLB officials have been interviewing players, who have been represented by the union and their own lawyers.

A provision in baseball's drug agreement says discipline for first offenders can be announced before a hearing if the penalty results from an allegation that became public other than through MLB or a team. Miami New Times published allegations in January, but the union could argue that a penalty results from evidence baseball has gathered rather than the newspaper account.

After MLB and the union decide how to process grievances, hearings will be scheduled before Horowitz -- but not before September and possibly later. Each player is entitled to a separate hearing, and Weiner said the union wants Horowitz to hear all cases.

"When all the interviews are done, we will meet with the commissioner's office and we'll try to work something out," Weiner said. "Our players that deserve the suspensions, we'll try to cope with their suspensions. Our players that don't deserve suspensions, we will argue that they don't deserve a suspension. And I hope we have success. We may not have success on every single player, but I hope we have a fair amount of success."

MLB Executive Vice President Rob Manfred declined comment.

Weiner spoke from a wheelchair and said symptoms have increased in the last month from a brain tumor diagnosed last summer.

Weiner said the union will appoint a deputy executive director within a week or two.

Most of his talk was dominated by the drug investigation.

While most suspensions have been for positive tests since the joint drug agreement was reached in 2002, players also can be penalized for "just cause," based on other evidence.

"In theory, they could be suspended for five games or 500 games," Weiner said. "We could then choose to challenge or not, but the commissioner's office is not bound by the 50-100-life scale."

 

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