CLEARWATER, Fla. - A year later, the message was different. Instead of telling Phillies players that they should be safe taking over-the-counter dietary supplements, officials from the Major League Baseball Players Association yesterday told the team to beware.
The warning came after Phillies reliever J.C. Romero tested positive for a banned substance last summer and was slapped with a 50-game suspension that begins on opening day.
Romero tested positive for androstenedione after taking 6-OXO Extreme, an over-the-counter supplement that he purchased in New Jersey. Androstenedione was not included on the supplement's ingredients list.
"What we do is give the best information we have, and up until then we had absolutely no reason to believe that there would essentially be products that violated the law out there and were sold over the counter," Don Fehr, the union's executive director, said after his annual meeting with Phillies players. "That turned out not to be the case. So now the advice we give has changed."
Fehr told the players that they can call a Major League Baseball hotline if they have questions about a supplement, or they can send the product to the league for testing. They can also consult a list of approved supplements at www.nsf.org/certified/BannedSub/listings.asp.
"As long as we have this enormously unregulated [supplement] industry in which there is little or no federal inspection, you'll have these kind of problems," he said.
Phils closer Brad Lidge said many of the players' questions were about the uncertainty of dietary supplements.
"We have this tiny list of approved substances that includes things like Gatorade," Lidge said. "Guys are like, 'Can I take some protein? Can I eat a protein bar?' You send it to get checked, and it takes two months to get back. It's a difficult time. Everyone is so scared - players and the union - of doing anything wrong."
Romero will forfeit about $1.3 million in salary during his suspension. Fehr said that the union will not cover that loss.
"Our obligation is to represent him, and that's what we did,'' Fehr said.
The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez is the only name to come out from a list of 104 players who tested positive for a banned substance during survey testing in 2003.
Lidge would like to see the other 103 names released to eliminate blanket suspicion that people have. He did not voice his desire in the meeting, however.
"It might feel like ripping a Band-Aid off, but if everyone is out, we'll be able to start from scratch," Lidge said. Fehr said the union has an obligation to see that the 103 names are not released.