Topic: Sports & Entertainment

Cheating Palmeiro

Rafael Palmeiro’s golden season, highlighted by his becoming only the fourth player in major league baseball history to reach 500 home runs while amassing over 3000 hits, turned to dust when he tested positive for steroids and was suspended. The dust then became radioactive when an anonymous source revealed that in his unsuccessful hearing before Major League Baseball to challenge his suspension, the Baltimore Orioles star suggested that a vitamin B-12 injection he received from teammate Miguel Tejada may have contained the banned substance that the tests revealed. This revelation made Palmeiro persona non grata to his team, which promptly sent him home for the season.

Just desserts for the man who famously wagged his finger at Congress and TV cameras and declared that “I have never used steroids”? Condign justice, as George Will likes to say?

No. Palmeiro’s hearing was supposed to be private and confidential, just like the incriminating grand jury testimony of Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds that were similarly leaked to the press. Now Palmeiro has been branded a traitor and a rat for attempting to use a team mate to explain away his drug violation, and he probably is. That does not change the fact that neither Miguel Tejada, nor the other Orioles, nor ESPN, nor you nor I ever should have known about this, because it was supposed to be absolutely confidential in order to protect Palmeiro’s rights under the contractual agreement his union has with major league baseball.

The press doesn’t care, and never gives proper emphasis to this point because the press loves, encourages and protects those who disregard guarantees of confidentiality. But let’s make this absolutely clear: it was not Palmeiro who dragged Tejada’s name into the public controversy; it was the cowardly anonymous leaker who unethically and maliciously revealed what Major League Baseball had promised to protect as confidential.

Revealing confidential information can be a crime, and is certainly justification for civil damages. Once again, the Ethics Scoreboard will state its position that news media that publish information revealed in violation of valid confidentiality laws, regulations or agreements should be treated as participants in harmful and wrongful acts with legal penalties. Legislators can and should carve out exceptions when public health, welfare, or safety is concerned, but that exception wouldn’t apply here. The right of Freedom of the Press was not intended as a license to rob the rest of us of our rights, which, as the critics of John Roberts have been careful to remind us, include the right of privacy. If the media can’t be more responsible with its precious right, then that right might need to be modified to protect us.

Rafael Palmeiro, cheater, hypocrite, liar, rat and phony that he almost certainly is, is the real victim here. In America, bad guys have rights too. Leaking the details of his appeal was absolutely wrong, and the unethical actions of whoever was responsible should not be allowed to take Palmeiro’s rights away.

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