First of all:
WHY? Why are you such an idiot? I loved you so hard. I was THERE when you hit that 500th home run. I defended you when my friends called you lazy and ugly. Not because you aren’t lazy and ugly, but because you were Manny. Now? You suck.
Also, I’m glad I never bought your Jersey. Jerk.
There are two basic legal issues to look at here.
1. What did Manny actually do wrong/ how did they catch him?
2. Can anybody sue anybody else as a result of this?
Lawyer: The answer to #1 is complicated, and interesting, I think, for Nurse to address. Manny claims that the drug was for a legitimate medical use. And everyone responding says this is highly unlikely. Which, granted, it probably is. But IF Manny were telling the truth, then he still didn’t follow the rules — MLB would require that he get a Thereputic Use Exemption — IN ADVANCE of taking the drug.
Nurse: When you are asked to take a drug screen, you are responsible for knowing any medications that you are taking which were legitimately prescribed that could show up. You are given the opportunity to disclose them and provide proof that it’s legit. I have had this opportunity when I’ve been tested for work, and I would be shocked if athletes weren’t given the same chance.
Manny used used human chorionic gonadotropin. HCG is a hormone that females make during pregnancy– it’s the hormone that a pregnancy test detects . It may be prescribed for women who are having fertility problems– that’s not a difficult leap to make. It may be occasionally prescribed for men who are having fertility problems also because it helps men produce male hormones– like testosterone, although it isn’t well studied. Do we see where this is going? We get even more suspicious noting that experts say HCG is sometimes used by steroid users coming off a course while the body’s own testosterone production is shut down.
HCG is prescribed under several brand names, and indicated for infertility in women and low levels of male hormones in men. More information is available from Micromedex, a clinical drug reference widely used and trusted.
Lawyer: According to the New York Times, he didn’t actually fail a drug test. Something in his medical records (which apparently they get to see — nurse? Thoughts?) was damning enough to trigger the suspension. And from what I understand, there was something suspicious but not sufficient in a urine sample, which led them to pull the medical records, which contained the damning entries. Baseball lets the commissioner suspend plays for “just cause” (note, you non-legal types, that that doesn’t mean “just because,” it means a fair and sufficient reason.) And in fact, this has been the case for most of the high-profile suspensions that have happened in the last few years.
The long and the short of it is, Manny didn’t follow the rules.
Nurse: although the urine tests were suspicious, it was the investigation following that showed Manny was prescribed HCG, and this was the cause for his suspension, according to Bud Selig. Manny says the drug was prescribed for a“personal health issue.” This would mean some kind of hormonal or pituitary problem, but it’s pretty suspicious. I’m wondering: if they can investigate his medical records to determine what was prescribed, can they also investigate why? If I were Manny, I would certainly disclose whatever condition made it legit, so. . . maybe not so much. Sure, it’s a gross violation of privacy to dig through someone’s medical records and do it publically, but when you sign up to play pro sports, should this be part of the package?
Lawyer: For issue # 2, I really don’t know know if anyone has real legal recourse here, though this being America, I’m sure someone will try a law suit. Some possible interessting scenearios:
The Dodgers sue Manny to recover all sorts of lost revenue — interesting especially in light of their attempts to market much more heavily to Hispanic fans.
Nurse: I foud some numbers on the WSJ: Mr. Ramirez generated roughly $7.6 million in ticket sales, parking, food, drink and merchandise for the Dodgers, and average attendance jumped after his arrival. The Dodgers sold 14,000 Ramirez T-shirts, 7,000 dreadlock wigs and 500 jerseys. When he signed a new two-year, $45 million contract in March, the team spent an estimated $2 million on advertising for the season. The campaign included splashing his image onto billboards. A Dodgers spokeswoman says they will be replacing those billboard images soon.
Lawyer: Nice one, Nurse. That’s exactly the sort of thing I could imagine them suing over.
Other possibilities: Fans sue Manny or the Dodgers
Or, as Gabe Feldman suggests (is he joking or not?) on his Sports Law Blog, fantasy baseball types sue Manny because now their fantasy teams are in the crapper. (More about that here.)
I seriously don’t know how any of this would work, and I probably never will, because sports law is not exactly on my list of must-take classes.
But I do know this: the way that tort law works in this country, it’s meant to more or less allow money-related issues and perceived unfairness to work themselves out. There’s been a lot of debate about how to enforce the drug policy in baseball and many other arenas (zero-tolerance is desirable in some ways, but also flawed, not least because the testing is imperfect.) If players could be sued for big bucks for violating the drug policy, isn’t that likely to be more effective than simply suspending them for a few games? MLB doesn’t have to make new draconian rules. Our existing legal system, applied to this situation, could get it to right itself.
One final note: though I still kind of can’t believe there’s a whole blog devoted to the rules and legal issues of fantasy sports, the folks at SportsJudge did bring up an interesting point: there is a clause in the standard player contract that basically says the player has to behave. It doesn’t specify what constitutes behaving in terms that are really any more specific than that. And if he doesn’t, the club can boot him. Does this count?