So J.C. Romero has sued Ergopharm, the company that made his androstenedione-containing supplement, 6-OXO Extreme. He also sued the Vitamin Shoppe and GNC, where he bought the stuff. As most of you know, Romero was suspended 50 games after testing positive (the test occurred on August 26, 2008), though he claims he didn’t know that the supplement contained a banned substance. Only Romero knows if that is true, because none of us was privy to his thoughts when he purchased and repeatedly ingested the andro. He will ultimately lose $1.4 million in salary.
His statement reads:
"Testing positive and being suspended from baseball was one of the most painful experiences in my life and robbed me of the joy of winning the World Series and damaged my reputation in the process," Romero said in a statement. "I purchased an over-the-counter supplement that I was told and believed would not cause me to test positive. These events have hurt me deeply and placed a cloud over my career, accomplishments and family. It is my hope that I can finally start to put this event behind me and protect the interests of others who rely on manufacturers and retailers to be honest about their products. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies and my teammates at the end of my suspension."
Major League Baseball has a hotline that players can call to learn whether their supplements contain anything that would trigger a positive test. Players have said that MLB has not advertised the service well enough. But if Romero had gone out of his way and taken this step (and wouldn’t you be extra diligent in matters that could threaten your livelihood and reputation?) people would not be guessing at his intentions, he wouldn’t have needed to hire a legal team and PR firm and he’d be $1.4 million richer.
UPDATE: Thanks to the reader who reminded me of this January New York Times story, which provides a helpful summary of the entire situation, and resolves the confusion over whether calling the hotline would have helped. Near the bottom of the story, MLB's Rob Manfred states clearly that the league would have told Romero not to take 6-OXO, had the pitcher called the hotline.
This is from pages 4-5 of the lawsuit: “During the All-Star break in July 2008, Plaintiff went to a GNC store in his home town of Fairhope, Alabama, where Plaintiff was well known as a professional baseball player. Plaintiff asked the salesperson at GNC about 6-OXO EXTREME, and specifically asked the salesperson at GNC if 6-OXO EXTREME would make him test positive on a Major League Baseball drug test. Plaintiff relied on the representations of the salesperson at GNC that 6-0XO EXTREME would not make him test positive for any substance banned by Major League Baseball, Plaintiff purchased one bottle of 6-OXO EXTREME from the GNC store, which he consumed up to an through August 16, 2008 (italics mine).”
The lawsuit goes on to say that Romero read “literature” on Ergopharm, and consulted with “colleagues.” Those experiences led him to feel comfortable taking the supplement.
All the while, the hotline was available, capable of providing a definitive “no.”