More procedural issues in MLB's steroid testing


More procedural issues in MLB's steroid testing

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball dropped its 100-game suspension of Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo for a positive drug test because of the same procedural issues that came up in the Ryan Braun case. Alfonzo is eligible to play immediately, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday night because no announcement had been made. Mostly a backup during six major league seasons, Alfonzo became the first player suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs under the MLB testing program when the commissioner's office announced a 100-game penalty last September. Alfonzo appealed and was notified within the past week that MLB had lifted the ban. The reason: a dispute over the storage and shipment of his urine sample similar to the one that led to Braun's 50-game drug penalty getting overturned by an arbitrator in February, the person said. The person was not familiar with specific details regarding the chain of custody of Alfonzo's specimen. Alfonzo's contract was renewed by the Rockies in March, but he was not paid while he was on the restricted list during the suspension. He is currently assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Pacific Coast League, but the 33-year-old catcher has been at home in Venezuela, the person said. Alfonzo gets the minimum 480,000 salary in the majors and 86,473 in the minors. A message left for Rockies spokesman Jay Alves late Sunday night was not immediately returned. Braun, last year's NL MVP, tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, which was revealed by ESPN in December. His sample was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day he and the Milwaukee Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the weekend. Baseball's drug agreement states that "absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected." Braun appealed and when his ban was thrown out by arbitrator Shyam Das, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management "vehemently" disagreed with the decision, which made the Milwaukee slugger the first major league player to successfully challenge a drug-related penalty in a grievance. During the hearing, Braun's side challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly 48 hours later, to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory outside Montreal, two people familiar with the case said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because what took place in the hearing is supposed to be confidential. Since then, MLB and the players' union have made some changes to collection procedures as a result of Das' decision. Employees of Comprehensive Drug Testing, who take the specimens from players, are now required to drop the samples off at a Federal Express office on the same day they are collected, provided an office is open in the vicinity. If not, collectors should take the specimens home rather than leave them in a drop box. The prohibition against using drop boxes already was in the drug agreement between players and owners. Alfonzo's penalty was dropped without a hearing before an arbitrator, the person said Sunday. The catcher missed the final 15 games of last season and Colorado has already played 33 games this year. Under the major league drug agreement, first offenses are arbitrated before any public announcement -- but additional offenses are litigated after a suspension is announced. Alfonzo also was suspended for 50 games in April 2008 while a member of the San Francisco Giants. "I am surprised by this positive test," he said last September in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association. "I learned my lesson in 2008 and have not taken any prohibited substances since then. With the union's help, I intend to fight this suspension and look forward to appearing before the arbitrator in the near future." After the suspension four years ago, Alfonzo said he never knowingly took steroids but did take medicine for bronchitis while home in Venezuela. Manny Ramirez and Guillermo Mota are the only other major league players to be penalized twice for positive drug tests. Baseball began testing with penalties in 2004. Under the current rules, a third violation would carry a lifetime ban. Alfonzo is a .240 career hitter with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 591 at-bats over 193 major league games. He has also played for San Diego and Seattle.

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The Capitals' presence was felt at the Redskins' Thanksgiving game

Via @JPFinlayNBCS

The Capitals' presence was felt at the Redskins' Thanksgiving game

Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that tends to be dominated by football. Even with the Redskins hosting the New York Giants on Thursday, the Capitals' still had their presence felt.

Andre Burakovsky decided to spend his Thanksgiving night at FedEx Field at the game to cheer on the Redskins. He tweeted out a picture from his seat.

Just as Burakovsky was there supporting the Redskins, Redskins offensive lineman Morgan Moses was showing love for the Caps with an Alex Ovechkin jersey.

The Redskins pulled out a critical 20-10 win over the division-rival Giants on Thursday giving everyone something to celebrate on the holiday. The Capitals will try to keep the hometown fans happy as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.


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Redskins players and coaches won't say much about home field, publicly anyway


Redskins players and coaches won't say much about home field, publicly anyway

FedEx Field became a national joke on Thanksgiving night. Well, not the whole stadium, but the actual field. 

The strip of grass inside the hash marks, from end zone to end zone, looked barren. The grass on the sidelines looked pleasantly green, but the turf in the middle of the field, where the bulk of the game gets played, looked terrible. 

It's time to dispel at least one myth: This is not some cost-cutting measure by the Redskins. The team has tried to address the poor field for years, and yet, it keeps happening. The team has tried to resod, install new fields, and additional grass seed. For whatever reason, none of it seems to work.

As has happened many times before, in the second half of Washington's win over the Giants, the turf caused a problem for the home team. 

Kirk Cousins went to make a throw to the sideline, and it looked like his foot stuck in the dirt. That caused him to sail the ball, and in turn led to an interception. That interception got returned for a New York touchdown. That touchdown tied the score, in the fourth quarter. 

So, yeah, Redskins fans were very mad about the field. 

Cousins was able to engineer another TD scoring drive, and the Redskins were able to win the game. That calmed some of the anger about the field, at least from the players and coaches. 

Asked about the field's involvement in his lone interception, Cousins remained diplomatic.

"I just felt rushed because I felt like they were going to get my arm if I didn’t rush it so I kind of came up quick and tried to dump it quickly and the ball was a little high and just ended up very unlucky," the QB said.

Head coach Jay Gruden said even less about the field. 

"I don’t know what happened," Gruden said. "Did somebody trip or something? I didn’t notice that.”

Coaches, and quarterbacks, don't like to offer excuses. And it's pretty clear that the turf wasn't the only factor in Cousins' interception, especially considering running back Byron Marshall had a chance at the pass before it caromed to the Giants defender. 

Still, look at that picture. The field is a problem, like it has been in years past. 

On NBC Sports Washington after the game, former Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss talked about his own struggles at FedEx Field as winter progressed. Moss explained it happened every year, and players knew it was coming. 

Privately, a few Redskins players acknowledged the poor field, and its impact on the game. 

That's not to say fields throughout the country don't deteriorate as fall turns to winter. It's natural, though some stadiums seem to handle the changes in weather better. 

FedEx Field, in the relatively moderate climate of D.C., is not one of them.

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