(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Last week’s flurry of news about MLB’s investigation of the Biogenesis clinic concluded with the revelation that subpoenas had been issued to Federal Express, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Presumably, MLB believes those companies have evidence that Biogenesis provided players with PEDs. As of this writing, none of the companies had challenged the subpoenas, which were issued last month.
MLB’s lawyers have the power to issue subpoenas because of the lawsuit against Biogenesis and its founder Tony Bosch. Although it seems like anyone can sue anyone in the U.S., there usually has be some basis. This MLB.com story from March provided some insight into the purported reasoning behind MLB’s suit:
The filing asks for "monetary damages and other relief resulting from defendants' tortious interference with MLB's contractual relationships." […]
The suit, which alleges that Bosch provided players with PEDs that included testosterone, human growth hormone and human chorionic gonadotropin, could bring two benefits to MLB.
First, it seeks to recoup money, based on the premise that the individuals named have harmed the sport. Moreover, it could aid the ongoing investigation into the scandal. Lacking subpoena power, MLB has been limited in its attempt to gather information in its investigation…
It seems clear that the main motivation for the lawsuit was so MLB could have the power to issue subpoenas. The idea that Biogenesis caused financial damage to MLB is preposterous on its face. Furthermore, since when is it appropriate for an employer to sue someone for engaging in consensual behavior with its employees (regardless of whether or not that behavior is illegal)?
As HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra observed when the suit was filed, “I’d be rather surprised if there is any kind of rich case history in which companies have been allowed to sue drug dealers for selling to its employees. Employees are not the company’s property. They have no standing to assert such claims.”
Everything about MLB’s behavior is this case has been questionable at best, and blatantly imperious at worst. MLB filed a lawsuit explicitly to use subpoena power to compel other private entities to disclose proprietary information. If last week’s ESPN report is accurate, MLB has more or less blackmailed Tony Bosch into cooperating with their investigation. Going further back, they fired the arbitrator who overturned Ryan Braun’s suspension for enforcing the rules both MLB and its players union agreed to. Given its behavior, it is clear the top brass of MLB think they are accountable to no one.
Reports indicate that Commissioner Bud Selig is proud that MLB has the toughest drug policy in professional sports, and this lawsuit is proof of how far the league is willing to go. He shouldn’t be proud of that. MLB’s tactics is this case are like using a SWAT team to stop someone from smoking a joint. It’s definitely a tough policy. It’s also destructive and shameful. Everyone seems to agree the players need to be held accountable if they used PEDs. Someone needs to hold MLB accountable for their overbearing, coercive tactics.