David Murphy: In case of Phillies' banned second baseman Freddy Galvis, save your moral outrage

Posted: June 21, 2012

IF MORAL INDIGNATION is what you are after, feel free to read the following paragraph and then flip to the adult entertainment advertisements at the back of our section (or their online equivalent, the comments section).


Now, for those of you who want to have an honest discussion about drug-testing, let's take a look at what actually happened yesterday evening when the Phillies announced that rookie infielder Freddy Galvis had been suspended for a drug test that revealed traces of the banned drug Clostebol in his system. A urine sample provided by a utility man who was hitting .226 with a .254 on-base percentage and three home runs returned a positive test that, according to a 2004 study, could have been caused by contaminated meat, contaminated medicine, or a woman's vagina that had been contaminated with contaminated medicine. The positive test also could have been caused by a light-hitting utility man's decision to ingest an illegal anabolic drug in the hopes of improving his performance and securing a permanent spot on a major league roster.

The reality is that none of us knows anything beyond what the drug test revealed, which, according to a statement issued by Galvis, was a trace amount of Clostebol. The exact amount, according to the player, was 80 parts per trillion, which is the rough equivalent of a drop of ink that has been diluted into 12 million gallons of water. Relatively speaking, such an amount would be at the far end of detectable levels.

Again, what do we really know? Galvis could have ingested a small concentration of the offending substance shortly before his test, or he could have ingested a heavy concentration that dissolved over time. Major League Baseball's collectively bargained drug policy makes it clear that an athlete is responsible for any substance that is found in his body, regardless of the source of that substance. Furthermore, there is no such thing as an acceptable level of the drug. If it is traced, then it is punishable.

According to a study conducted in Belgium and published in 1992, Galvis could have eaten some tainted steak the day of his test, causing a positive. According to a Brazilian study published in 2004, he could have spent the night with a woman who was using a medication containing Clostebol, causing him to excrete traceable levels of the drug. There is no indication that Galvis was preparing to use either defense, but that is not the point. The point is that nooks and crannies of doubt exist.

On one end of the spectrum we have a deliberate violation of both the rule of major league baseball and the spirit of honest competition. On the other end, we have the world's most expensive dinner date. In between are the gray shades of truth that many of us ignore when we march to the door of our latest athletic witch . They are the shades of cross-contaminated supplements and amateur trainers, of well-meaning but ignorant friends and legal codes that change dramatically south of the border.

Galvis did not offer an explanation in his statement, saying, "I cannot understand how even this tiny particle of a banned substance got into my body. I have not and never would knowingly use anything illegal to enhance my performance. I have always tried to follow the team's strength and conditioning methods, listen to the trainers, work out hard and eat right. Unfortunately, the rules are the rules and I will be suspended."

Which brings us to our next point. Because Galvis was already expected to miss at least 50 games due to a fracture in his back, his best course of action was to accept the suspension and serve his sentence during a stretch when he would not be playing anyway. The drug agreement allows this. Whether that is right or wrong is irrelevant. Domestic violence is wrong. Driving under the influence is wrong. The system allows players arrested for both to continue to play. The system, in other words, is not a moral arbiter.

Few would argue the benefit of drug-testing in sports, nor the necessity of a policy that allows for no exceptions. But there you have to travel a significant distance from a positive drug test to the moral bankruptcy of a human being.

This is what we know: Freddy Galvis is a 22-year-old rookie whose defensive prowess provided fans with one of their few reasons to cheer for this Phillies team. Galvis took a drug test that revealed a banned substance. The system reacted accordingly, and Galvis had little choice but to oblige. But at some point, he will be return, and he will resume his quest to become a major league-caliber hitter, and all of us can direct our moral indignation toward the numerous issues in this country that are worth being morally indignant about. n

Contact David Murphy at dmurphy@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HighCheese. For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.philly.com/HighCheese.

comments powered by Disqus