Giambi/Amphetamines/Leaks

The Daily News’ Bob Raissman goes hard after Mike and the Mad Dog today. Yesterday, the WFN duo dismissed as unimportant a Daily News backpage headline that Jason Giambi had failed a test for amphetamines, necessitating additional testing by the embattled slugger.

Raissman called them on that:

… on the heels of Daily News investigative reporter T.J. Quinn revealing that Giambi tested positive for amphetamines, there is a new defense for his chemical transgressions.

It’s called the No Big Deal defense.

Yesterday, it was articulated on WFAN by Chris (Mad Dog) Russo and Mike Francesa. To hear them talk, the Daily News should have ignored Giambi’s positive test.

“Can the Daily News stop patting themselves on the back with Jason Giambi drug-testing scenarios on the back page,” Russo said. “Nobody that I know cares a hoot – and this includes even high school kids – about Giambi with amphetamines. It’s one thing if it’s steroids. The amphetamines thing is the biggest waste of newspaper space known to man.”

Fortunately, no editor here will ever kill a story because “no one” Russo knows will give a “hoot” about it. This isn’t the first time Dog has used his “nobody cares” line. What Russo meant to say is he doesn’t care. Nonetheless, his bold statement about “high school” kids not giving a “hoot” is an original.

Has Russo been spending his spare time lurking in high school cafeterias?

About Francesa, Raissman writes:

“Exclusive for what?” Francesa asked. “Is anyone surprised, does anybody care, that Jason Giambi, who has already admitted he has done steroids to a federal grand jury, has done amphetamines? Especially when anyone who has been around baseball for the last 40 years knows they basically handed them out like they were Pez.”

So FranDog, self-anointed professors of journalism, are saying this: If no one is surprised Giambi was caught violating baseball’s drug policy then the Daily News owes it to its readers to cover it up rather than expose it on the front page. The fact that greenies were once dispensed like “Pez,” and have been around the “last 40 years” is also reason enough for the Daily News to keep it a secret. Somehow this all makes Giambi’s latest drug bust more acceptable.

That’s the swill FranDog was force-feeding listeners. Remember, this comes from the same two guys who screamed for years that baseball needed a drug policy. Now baseball has a drug policy, which includes amphetamines, but, according to FranDog, it is not supposed to matter, or be newsworthy, because it’s no “surprise” Giambi violated it.

Francesa and Russo came off as clueless about the adverse effects of taking amphetamines, or other stimulants, now banned by baseball. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies amphetamines, along with similar stimulants, as Schedule II drugs, the same category as cocaine.

A couple of points here. First, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: better-informed people than Mike and Chris believe amphetamines to be a more enduring problem in baseball than steroids, and more clearly related to improved performance. And, amphetamines’ health effects, since the drugs have been around longer are also, if anything, clearer than are the effects of steroids. Second, the leaking of this information is really out of hand. Someone in the commissioner’s office is acting in bad faith. First failed amphetamine tests are not supposed to result in public disclosure of the offending party, and I see no compelling reason why the public’s right to know should outweigh the agreement between the players and owners.

According to Mark Feinsand, also in the Daily News:

Yesterday’s Daily News story that Jason Giambi had failed an amphetamine test within the past year got some members of the Yankees hot, but none of their hostility was directed toward their controversial teammate.

Instead, the source of their ire was the fact that the test result – which is supposed to be confidential according to the agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union – was leaked to begin with.

“It’s very upsetting because I guess anybody on the street can make the claim that (Giambi) tested positive,” Johnny Damon said. “It’s supposed to be anonymous, and I think Major League Baseball is failing at this drug test. That’s pretty much it.”

Giambi is the second player to have his anonymous test revealed, joining Barry Bonds. Damon was annoyed that the two players, who were both prominent figures in the BALCO controversy, were subjected to scrutiny over something that was supposed to remain sealed.

Said Damon: “It doesn’t seem like the guidelines of the drug testing is being done correctly when anybody can go around and leak something that we don’t know if it’s true or not and we’re not supposed to know until they get in trouble a second time.”

Mike Myers, one of the highest-ranking players on the MLB Players Association’s executive board, believes that if Giambi actually did fail an amphetamine test, the fact that it was leaked is a serious problem for the players.

“If there is a leak here, then nothing is ever anonymous anymore in any agreement that we do,” Myers said. “If (the story) is true, then there should be heads that get chopped. Whether it came out of MLB, from the drug-testing place. … If there was a leak and there’s any ounce of truth to this, someone should be fired.”

TJ Quinn, the reporter who broke this story, also broke the story of Barry Bonds’ alleged failed amphetamine test over the winter. In that episode, Quinn reported that Bonds tried to pin blame on his teammate Mark Sweeney, adding the label “snitch” to his already long list of unflattering attributes. Whether Bonds really did rat out Sweeney was, as I pointed out at the time, not quite so clear:

Last week, after T. J. Quinn of the Daily News reported that Barry Bonds had failed a test for amphetamine use and then initially blamed fellow Giant Mark Sweeney for it, I wrote a post questioning the reporting on Bonds’ supposed ratting out of a teammate. Needless to say, I have no first, second, third or fourth hand knowledge of what transpired there. But, Quinn’s apparent failure to even ask Bonds or his agent for comment on whether Bonds outed Sweeney was, in my view, a basic breach of journalistic practice.

Because almost everybody hates Barry Bonds, it’s easy to make a claim like the one Quinn did. But, my hunch is that if we were talking about a more popular player, Quinn would have tried harder, at least, to dot his i’s and cross his t’s.

<>After initial reports to the contrary, Sweeney went on the record to reject the idea that Bonds implicated him. Now whether Sweeney is covering for Bonds, I don’t know. But, as I wrote at the time, I don’t see any reason why Sweeney would. And, what bothered me about Quinn’s report on Bonds, and what bothers me now, is that we don’t really have any sense of what kind of journalistic standards, if any, sports reporters are following when they write these stories. Does this mean I think Giambi (or Bonds) is innocent of amphetamine use? No, it doesn’t. But, I don’t know and, what’s more, I don’t trust that sports journalists are really trying to do more than grind axes. And, to repeat what Joe Sheehan so aptly outlined the other day, among the most under-reported part of the steroids era is the complicity of the commissioner’s office in what happened. In that light, the leaking should take on added significance – it continues to draw attention to the most obvious and immediate source of the problem – the players who are using – and to deflect it from the pernicious reality that baseball let this slide for so long and is now trying to make itself look good at the expense of following privacy agreements in good faith.  I’m not saying that Bud Selig or Bob Dupuy is personally leaking this information, but somebody in their office must be, unless the reports are false, in which case they obviously shouldn’t be in the news.  The media and MLB are playing a very unsavory game of footsy here, and the odor emanating from it stinks.

2 Responses to “Giambi/Amphetamines/Leaks”

  1. This leak and the media’s handling of it (especially Quinn’s) reeks.

  2. couldn’t agree more, Dwil. i think the owners are really starting to sweat now. i’m hoping this radomski thing comes full circle on them. it’s one thing if players are sneaking around to do this on their own; it’s quite another if it’s out-in-the-open clubhouse type stuff. if radmoski really can reveal it to be the latter, no way the owners (and the MLBPA, for that matter) can continue to plead ignorance. so, they pull a preemptive maneuver and out giambi, which is a strict violation of the league’s substance abuse policy (amphetamine pops are confidential for first-timers), all in order to ensure that no one steps out of their little conga line. these owners make me wretch. here’s hoping they get their long-overdue comuppance.

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