May 12, 2009

NOT A GAME WITH WHICH ABNER WAS FAMILIAR:

Sources: Records had key evidence (Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn, 5/11/09, ESPN.com)

The Ramirez saga, as described by three sources with direct knowledge of the case, began to play out in spring training when the 36-year-old outfielder provided a urine sample for testing.

The test came back showing elevated levels of testosterone. Every individual naturally produces testosterone and a substance called epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. In Major League Baseball, if the ratio comes in at 4:1 during testing, a player is flagged. In Ramirez's case, his ratio was between 4:1 and 10:1, according to one source.

At that point, MLB notified Ramirez of his elevated levels and began further investigation, including taking two primary actions:

First, MLB asked the World Anti-Doping Agency lab in Montreal, which conducts its testing, to perform a carbon isotope ratio test to determine whether the testosterone spike resulted from natural variations within Ramirez's body or from an artificial source. The test revealed the testosterone was synthetic -- in other words, it was ingested somehow.

Secondly, as per the drug-testing policy, MLB requested all of Ramirez's medical records, including those from doctors he might have consulted outside of MLB. Addendum C of the policy is authorization by every player to provide "health information" from "all health care providers (including but not limited to [add Club orthopedist and medical internist], other physicians, laboratories, clinics and Club trainers) with whom I have consulted pursuant to my Uniform Player's Contract or the Basic Agreement."

Ramirez and his representatives were prepared to appeal the synthetic testosterone results, intending to argue he had taken a steroid precursor known as DHEA, according to two sources. The drug is akin to the now-banned substance famously known as Andro, but it is not on baseball's banned list.

Baseball had geared up to dispute the argument, and a Ramirez appeal was scheduled for last Wednesday. MLB's legal team intended to use expert testimony to cite evidence it believed showed DHEA could not have been the cause of the synthetic testosterone.

However, in the days before the hearing, the union turned over Ramirez's medical records -- and they turned out to be a boon for MLB.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2009 6:35 AM
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