Marvin Miller weighs in, defending the union, and arguing that -- given the eight day span between getting the test results and having them subpoenaed -- to destroy the samples would have been "running a terrible risk of being charged with obstruction of justice".
As baseball union leaders Donald Fehr and Gene Orza face a torrent of criticism for their handling of events leading up to Alex Rodriguez's steroid admission, Players Association founder Marvin Miller defended the union's conduct and accused the federal government and major drug testing bodies of engaging in a "witch hunt" against prominent athletes.
But Miller, the 91-year-old Players Association icon, said union leaders are also now paying for their biggest mistake -- the decision to bow to public and Congressional pressure and enter into an agreement with Major League Baseball to institute mandatory testing in 2004.
"Everything I've read in the last few days is unfair and anti-union," Miller told ESPN.com Tuesday. "But that does not mean I agree that [union officials]are without blame. When they agreed on a testing program, I said, 'They're going to regret this, because you're going to see players going to jail.' "
"I would never have agreed to any testing program in the first place," he said. "There's no evidence that's plausible to justify testing people indiscriminately. If the government wanted to do that, they'd have to go to court for each player tested and say, 'Here's evidence of probable cause that this player is a user of an illegal product.' "
Miller took several other hard-line and potentially unpopular stands during a 40-minute interview with ESPN.com Tuesday. Among his other observations:
On the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball: "I have a personal belief that there's no such thing as a magic pill or magic injection. I don't know that there's any scientific evidence that there's a performance-enhancing drug. Players take it because they think it does. That's a far cry from saying that it does. Where is the evidence that requires testing?"
On the argument that steroids should be eliminated from the game because of health concerns: "Not one but two surgeons general have said that tobacco use is the worst cause of death in the United States that can be prevented -- that we lose 400,000 people a year to tobacco-related incidents and over time it runs into the millions. Yet not only do we not outlaw tobacco, but the U.S. Congress keeps giving subsidies to the tobacco industry and everybody sits back and smiles. On the other hand, there's not one single documented death from the use of steroids. So that's a hypocritical lie."
On the dangers of taking drug test results as gospel: "Anybody who has read about urine testing for a long time knows that quite a number of false positives come up. You get a false positive and then people are questioned in another context -- 'were you a user?' They say no. And then you get a news leak -- a leak of a leak, as it were -- and it turns out that you tested positive. If you said something under oath, you could go to jail and still be an innocent person."
On why the union didn't necessarily have to bend to the wishes of membership and agree to random drug testing. "I have no doubt that was a factor in the union agreeing to it. But leadership can't just take a poll on what membership wants. You also have to judge whether this is in the best interests of the people you represent. If the entire membership voted unanimously to disband, would you do it?"
On the media's role in perpetuating steroid use by referring to the drugs as "performance enhancers": "A kid who would love to be a professional athlete reads the sports pages or watches ESPN and is told over and over again, 'These are performance enhancing drugs. They will make you a Barry Bonds or an A-Rod or a Roger Clemens,' The media, without evidence, keep telling young people all over the country, 'All you have to do to be a famous athlete with lots of money is take steroids.' The media are the greatest merchants of encouraging this that I've ever seen."