Former Cub Star Sosa Reportedly Failed Drug Test

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According to a report in The New York Times, former baseball slugger Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003. The paper, citing lawyers familiar with the case, reported that Sosa is one of 104 players who tested positive in a 2003 baseball survey but did not identify the drug.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Longtime Chicago Cubs favorite Sammy Sosa, sixth on the all-time home-run list, reportedly did test positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug back in 2003. The New York Times reported the positive test on its Web site yesterday. If true, Sosa joins a growing list of stars linked to drugs during baseball's steroid era, as it's now called. Joining us to talk about it is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: And let's hear the details on that New York Times report.

GOLDMAN: Well, the paper said the information about Sammy Sosa came from lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from 2003. Now, the lawyers didn't give their names because they didn't want to be identified discussing material that is sealed by court order.

They say Sosa was one of 104 Major League players who tested positive as part of what was called survey testing back in 2003. That was an initial test without possible penalties and with the promise that names wouldn't be revealed. And it was to determine the size of the drug problem in baseball.

The identities of those 104 players were supposed to be protected, and the union was supposed to destroy the list of names. But it didn't, and the legal battle over the list has gone on for several years. And it could even be headed to the Supreme Court.

MONTAGNE: And the other names on that list - who else emerged?

GOLDMAN: Well, the only one we've heard of is Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. That emerged earlier this year. That was followed by Rodriguez's admission of steroid use. There have been no comments yet from Sosa or his lawyers.

And you know, there will be increased clamoring for the rest of the names to be released. Some say, you know, get it over with, get the names out there. Deal with them; move on. Others say no, that's unlawful and unethical, and it's breaking the confidentiality agreements made back in 2003.

MONTAGNE: Okay. So Alex Rodriguez's name was on the list and after that name emerged he said, yes, in fact, I did use banned substances. But with Sammy Sosa, are we surprised? He's come under suspicion for steroid use.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you're right about that, and we really aren't that surprised. In fact, last night on ESPN's "SportsCenter," it was story number three, after a couple of reports on key Major League baseball games. It still was covered at length, but you know, there just wasn't the breathless urgency that we've seen with other reports of this kind, partly because, as you've mentioned, there have always been suspicions about Sammy Sosa - from his bulked-up physique to his huge numbers later in his career to his corked-bat incident, which showed that he had the capacity to cheat, and partly because after Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and Rafael Palmeiro and Miguel Tejada and Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and others, we're conditioned to expect this kind of news about prominent players from the steroid era in baseball, which is roughly from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s.

MONTAGNE: And you know, looking back over what Sammy Sosa has said - he famously testified before Congress in 2005 at a hearing about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball - could anything he said there get him in trouble now with this new information?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, he said he'd never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and he hadn't broken the laws of the United States or the Dominican Republic, which is his native country.

Now, this could've been some clever parsing because steroids and other drugs banned in the U.S. are legal in the Dominican Republic. So if he used them there, as it is implied in today's New York Daily News, he wasn't breaking Dominican law nor U.S. law. So there's no word on whether Congress will pursue any action yet on Sosa possibly lying under oath to lawmakers.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

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