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Steroid tests yet to come in bulk

DETROIT -- According to Red Sox union representative Johnny Damon, only two teammates had been tested for steroids through the games of last weekend.It appears major league players were tested sparingly before the All-Star break. In fact, Damon said the two Sox players were approached in Anaheim, Calif., during the July 15-18 series against the Angels.One reason for the low number may be because Major League Baseball had to switch the laboratory where samples are tested. The original lab, in Montreal, had been labeling samples from last year. This upset the players' union because those samples -- which were taken as part of a penalty-free period -- were supposed to remain confidential. After a lengthy search, MLB settled on a new lab in Southern California.

"I think they're going to wait until the end of the season when guys start running down," Damon said. "I got to the ballpark late the time they pulled a couple of our guys during the last road trip and had them pee into a cup. Then they ask them not to take any of their supplements and vitamins and pain pills for a week, and then they retested them. I think they're trying to stretch it out, hoping they can catch that guy who needs an extra lift toward the end of the season and into the playoffs."

Yet who would be so careless as to take steroids now? The players who might have been caught are off the hook, unless they take steroids because they feel they won't get tested. Compare this to football, where at least once a week a tester is in the locker room notifying about a half-dozen players they must submit a sample.

Robert Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources, said in a statement last Nov. 13, "We believe that last year's testing helped address the problem of steroid use and that the more vigorous testing and enforcement program [in 2004] will be a further step forward on this issue."

Last year, 1,438 tests were conducted and 5 percent to 7 percent percent came back positive, exceeding the threshold of the basic agreement and triggering a penalty phase of random testing this season. Last season, all players on the 40-man roster were tested randomly, and then tested a second time.

It could be that more players will be tested the rest of the season, but the lab switch certainly helped buy time for some players who might have been trying to get off steroids. . . .
Those at Fenway Park the day after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees can recall the scene vividly. Principal owner John W. Henry and president Larry Lucchino sat in the Sox dugout chatting while Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm booted a soccer ball in left field before they went off into the sunset for their California wedding.

We know Garciparra loves soccer. He was a soccer star in high school and Hamm is one of the greatest players in the game. So Bob Lobel's report Thursday night on Channel 4 indicating Garciaparra injured his Achilles' playing soccer is interesting.

If the injury was soccer-related, which would be hard to prove, it would be a violation of Garciaparra's contract. The Sox could file a grievance and possibly recoup some of the shortstop's salary.

Last night, Garciaparra told reporters in San Francisco he was injured during spring training playing baseball. "I don't even know what story they're coming up with," said Garciaparra, whose agent, Arn Tellem, previously denied reports the star shortstop was already hurt when he reported for spring training. "I'm curious as to what they're saying. I hurt it in spring training, there's no question about that. That's when it happened. I was already a week and a half into spring training, everything was fine . . . I got hurt, I got hit."

The language in the basic agreement is very clear: "The player and the club recognize and agree that the player's participation in certain other sports may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a baseball player. Accordingly, the player agrees that he will not engage in professional boxing, wrestling; and that except with the written consent of the club, he will not engage in skiing, auto racing, motorcycle racing, skydiving, or in any game or exhibition of football, soccer, professional league basketball, ice hockey, or other sport involving a substantial risk of personal injury." In an e-mail sent to Henry, the Sox owner would not acknowledge whether he knew of the clause or whether the team would explore it. It might also be the Sox knew how the injury occurred and have decided to just move on. . . .
Grady Little was consulted by Cubs general manager Jim Hendry during the Garciaparra trade negotiations. Little, who is a special assistant to Hendry, was all for the move and what Garciaparra would bring to Chicago. Little, who scouts for the Cubs and monitors their minor league system, has seen the best and worst of Garciaparra. As a manager last year, Little struggled through Garciaparra's horrible September and postseason.

Little has always said Garciaparra was fine physically during his late-season drought. Yet Little said of Garciaparra, "He's one of the best in the game and he'd be an asset to any team he played for." Though Garciaparra started his Cubs career 4 for 18 with three RBIs, he has energized the Cubs, who are in position to capture a wild-card berth. . . .
Was Derek Lowe auditioning for a return home last night? Lowe might live in Fort Myers, Fla., now, but he lives and breathes Detroit sports. He graduated from Edsel Ford High School in 1991 and grew up and lived in nearby Dearborn. Tiger sources indicate they'll be interested in Lowe at the right price. There would likely have to be a hometown discount involved. One problem for Lowe returning home is that Detroit's young pitchers are beginning to come around and Lowe hasn't had the best of seasons. There could be a classic Catch-22 at work in that if he pitches well, his free agent price will rise, but that may knock him out of the Tigers' plans. 

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