Bob Klapisch recently chimed in on the issue of blood testing for HGH, and echoed the sentiments of many skeptical fans:
Weiner is telling his constituents not to worry, the union has their backs on HGH. The war will be waged on the “privacy” issue, which means we can forget about blood tests for at least another two years.
That’s just fine with the same group of ideologues that prolonged the juicing era 3-4 years longer that it should have. Fehr enabled his players’ rights over steroids, now it’s Weiner’s turn with HGH.
“Blood testing is much more complicated in terms of the safety issues,” Weiner was saying on Saturday. That’s another way of saying the union would rather wait for the more-easily administered urine test, knowing that’s years away from being implemented…..
But times have changed. Drug-free players don’t want to be rounded up with the usual suspects anymore. This is Weiner’s chance to put his own, unique stamp on union of the coming decade. It’s his opening to be the leader to all his constituents, not just the stars looking for loopholes.
Derrek Lee is one of the good guys, telling USA Today he’s ready to “test for everything, get it all out. Then there would be no more questions.”
Klapisch, like many fans, believes that the union is just using the testing issue as a bargaining tool, and that the privacy considerations are not really vital to most of the players. Therefore, he paints those who have “privacy concerns” as being bad guys, while those in favor of using the currently available (and largely unreliable) blood test are the good guys. He wants players to sacrifice their rights simply to satisfy his own curiosity and to give him peace of mind regarding the purity of the game.
For a more nuanced opinion on the topic, I turned to the excellent Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, a lawyer-turned-blogger who has written extensively about steroids, testing, and the union:
Me: Many have framed the HGH blood testing issue in term of “privacy issues.” What does that term refer to in a legal sense, and are these the sort of rights that generally fall under that umbrella?
Craig: I think when we hear “privacy issues” mentioned in connection with drug testing in baseball, the term is being used to describe practical considerations, not legal ones, dealing primarily with Major League Baseball’s handling of blood samples and test results. You’ll recall the matter of the 2003 survey testing which led to the famous list of 103? While the failure to destroy those tests falls on the union’s shoulders in my view, I think that example has given the union pause about letting any more medical information about players out into the ether than is already out there. There’s a reason, I think, that the union makes the existence of a dead-reliable HGH test a prerequisite to any discussion of blood testing, and that’s because a reliable test suggests a time frame in which samples could be disposed of in a routine manner.
Me: Do you believe that the privacy issue is actually important to the union, or is this more about holding testing as a bargaining chip?
I think the privacy issue is actually important. History has shown that Major League Baseball can be surprisingly cynical with information relating to drugs. In 1985 or 1986, the Pittsburgh Pirates sued Dave Parker to try and get money back they had paid him earlier in the decade on the basis of his cocaine use. This despite the fact that the Pirates had known of his drug use for some time. They took an opportunity, however, presented by the negative publicity of the Pittsburgh cocaine trials in order to make a grab for some money they wish they hadn’t spent. We’re in a different time now, I think — one in which the owners and the Commissioner’s office aren’t nearly as short sighted as those that preceded them — but I think there’s understandable concern on the part of the union that history could repeat itself and that, say, blood samples taken for purpose A could later be used for purpose B.
Not to say that the union doesn’t see the writing on the wall and that some day, some way, blood testing will become a reality. In light of that, if they can extract something from the league before inevitability sets in, hey, why not?
I think Craig is spot on here, as the issue is a lot more complicated than the union just trying to squeeze some extra concessions out of the league. Thanks to Craig for answering my questions.
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