When it comes to Romero, read the fine print

January, 6, 2009
01/06/09
3:28
PM ET
Two exchanges from my chat this morning:

    Heather (Philadelphia): Hi Rob, How is what is happening to J.C. Romero fair? He was obviously not a cheater and tried to do all the right things to make sure he was following the rules and he still gets 50 games? How is that right?

    Rob Neyer: It's a rigid, sometimes Draconian policy … which, as I recall, is what everyone (except the players) wanted.

    Brian (Philly): You didn't answer the Romero question. Do YOU think it's fair that he took a substance that was approved by Baseball and the player's association, went the extra mile to find out if was really okay, told to get a second opinion, got a second opinion, was told it was okay again, before anything was found out about it causing you to test positive, immediately stopped taking it and got suspended 50 games for his trouble.

    Rob Neyer: Well, that's *his* story, right? I mean, in this case I'm inclined to believe the player. But we have to allow for the possibility that players do occasionally lie about these things.

In case you missed the story, Romero has been suspended for 50 games because he tested positive after (admittedly) taking a supplement called 6-OXO. Romero's defense is that he didn't know that what he did was against the rules. Morally, that might be a fine defense. Professionally, it's no defense at all. Particularly once you've read Will Carroll's take:

    J.C. Romero was suspended for fifty games under terms of MLB's drug policy. Just before it was handed down, Romero made his case public, the same one that the arbitrator rejected. With the NFL's drug policy currently under attack in the Starcaps case, where six players took a supplement that was tainted with a diuretic but unknown to the players, this type of defense might hold water.

    Until you learn what Romero tested positive for. According to multiple sources (and also reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer), Romero tested positive for 6-OXO Extreme, a product that enhances testosterone production in ways very similar to anabolic steroids. While legal and still available at your local GNC, 6-OXO Extreme* has always carried a warning that it could result in positive tests. If you look at the above link, you'll be able to find the same warning in the online information.

    But it gets better, or worse, if you're Romero. 6-OXO is a product of Ergopharm. Ergopharm is owned and operated by a guy you might remember: Patrick Arnold. Yes, that one. Arnold was the source for the THG used by BALCO. Arnold served several months in jail due to his involvement and is now back in business.

    If Romero didn't know what he was taking, he sure got unlucky in picking the product marked "for hardcore users only" and with a connection that baseball fans would rather forget.

    UPDATE: It appears the substance in the 6-OXO that caused the positive test is another one that Arnold is known for: androstendione. Here's more technical info if you're so inclined, from one of the best in that biz.

I looked at the above link, and then I clicked the "Label" tab and found that 6-OXO is loaded with Vitamin B-6 and that "Use of this product may be banned by some athletic or government associations (including military)."

Here's a crazy idea: Read the label, and if the label says the product may be banned by an athletic association and you're a professional athlete subject to drug testing … don't take that drug.

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