Pitcher receives two-year international ban

Updated: January 6, 2004, 10:56 PM ET
Associated Press

Anaheim Angels reliever Derrick Turnbow, the first major leaguer to test positive for a banned steroid, faces a two-year ban from international competition but will not face any sanctions from Major League Baseball.

Derrick Turnbow

Turnbow, a right-hander with a 98 mph fastball, went 2-0 with 15 strikeouts in 15 1-3 innings after a Sept. 1 callup from the minors last season. He flunked the drug test during a U.S. Olympic training camp in October.

Turnbow told his agent, Jeff Borris, that the positive drug test was the result of an over-the-counter dietary supplement. The Major League Baseball Players Association said Tuesday that Turnbow did not use anything players with big league contracts currently are prohibited from using.

The case points once again to the dichotomy between strict international doping rules and those of baseball and other U.S. professional sports.

"International athletes are held to much higher standards than Major League Baseball, which has a program that has very little muscle at all," said Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a harsh critic of baseball's drug policies.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Tuesday that Turnbow tested positive Oct. 7 in Tempe, Ariz., for "a steroid violation, which resulted from taking nandrolone, norandrostenedione or norandrostenediol." All three of those substances are performance-enhancing steroids, the agency said in a statement.

Gene Orza, associate general counsel of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said Turnbow had tested positive for androstenedione -- the over-the-counter supplement popularized by Mark McGwire during his chase of the home run record in 1998. Andro is now banned in the minor leagues, but is not regulated in the major leagues.

"Derrick Turnbow did not test positive for a steroid. He tested positive for what the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and others regard as a steroid, but the U.S. government does not," Orza said.

"Baseball players are not currently prohibited from buying and using androstenedione," Orza said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "The IOC and its affiliates can and do ban whatever they feel like banning, because the athletes they exploit have no rights."

Major League Baseball will begin penalizing players for steroid use this season after more than 5 percent of last year's anonymous tests came back positive. A first positive test for steroid use will result in treatment, but no suspension.

Since Turnbow tested positive in 2003, he will not be required to undergo such treatment.

Turnbow originally was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997, and was a Rule 5 pick by the Angels in 1999. He appeared in 24 games for the Angels in 2000, but then spent the following two seasons in the minors, during which time he had a broken forearm. He impressed the Angels in his 11-game stint as a middle reliever last season, throwing as hard as 98 mph.

"Major league baseball players are governed by an agreed-upon drug policy. There is a similar policy that applies to minor league players as well," said Angels Vice President Tim Mead. "Derrick Turnbow is on our 40-man roster, thus comes under the umbrella of the major league drug policy."

Turnbow was not selected for the U.S. national team that played in Olympic qualifying games in November at Panama City. The team failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Paul Seiler, the executive director of USA Baseball, said Turnbow's case should not inhibit other pros from participating on national teams and facing stricter drug regulations.

"The point is a lot of people fail to see there are 30 other guys there was no issue with, many of them top prospects," he said. "It's not like every time we go out and use professional players that we have these issues. Derrick rerpsents one in several hundred tests.

"It seems like the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater here," Seiler said. "We don't really see it as this big black mark against the sport."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press