More procedural issues in MLB's steroid testing

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More procedural issues in MLB's steroid testing

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Major League Baseball dropped its 100-game suspension of Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo for a positive drug test because of the same procedural issues that came up in the Ryan Braun case. Alfonzo is eligible to play immediately, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday night because no announcement had been made. Mostly a backup during six major league seasons, Alfonzo became the first player suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs under the MLB testing program when the commissioner's office announced a 100-game penalty last September. Alfonzo appealed and was notified within the past week that MLB had lifted the ban. The reason: a dispute over the storage and shipment of his urine sample similar to the one that led to Braun's 50-game drug penalty getting overturned by an arbitrator in February, the person said. The person was not familiar with specific details regarding the chain of custody of Alfonzo's specimen. Alfonzo's contract was renewed by the Rockies in March, but he was not paid while he was on the restricted list during the suspension. He is currently assigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs in the Pacific Coast League, but the 33-year-old catcher has been at home in Venezuela, the person said. Alfonzo gets the minimum 480,000 salary in the majors and 86,473 in the minors. A message left for Rockies spokesman Jay Alves late Sunday night was not immediately returned. Braun, last year's NL MVP, tested positive in October for elevated testosterone, which was revealed by ESPN in December. His sample was collected on Oct. 1, a Saturday and the day he and the Milwaukee Brewers opened the NL playoffs. The collector did not send the sample to the laboratory until Monday, thinking it would be more secure at home than at a Federal Express office during the weekend. Baseball's drug agreement states that "absent unusual circumstances, the specimens should be sent by FedEx to the laboratory on the same day they are collected." Braun appealed and when his ban was thrown out by arbitrator Shyam Das, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said management "vehemently" disagreed with the decision, which made the Milwaukee slugger the first major league player to successfully challenge a drug-related penalty in a grievance. During the hearing, Braun's side challenged the chain of custody from the time the urine sample was collected by Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. to when it was sent, nearly 48 hours later, to a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory outside Montreal, two people familiar with the case said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because what took place in the hearing is supposed to be confidential. Since then, MLB and the players' union have made some changes to collection procedures as a result of Das' decision. Employees of Comprehensive Drug Testing, who take the specimens from players, are now required to drop the samples off at a Federal Express office on the same day they are collected, provided an office is open in the vicinity. If not, collectors should take the specimens home rather than leave them in a drop box. The prohibition against using drop boxes already was in the drug agreement between players and owners. Alfonzo's penalty was dropped without a hearing before an arbitrator, the person said Sunday. The catcher missed the final 15 games of last season and Colorado has already played 33 games this year. Under the major league drug agreement, first offenses are arbitrated before any public announcement -- but additional offenses are litigated after a suspension is announced. Alfonzo also was suspended for 50 games in April 2008 while a member of the San Francisco Giants. "I am surprised by this positive test," he said last September in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association. "I learned my lesson in 2008 and have not taken any prohibited substances since then. With the union's help, I intend to fight this suspension and look forward to appearing before the arbitrator in the near future." After the suspension four years ago, Alfonzo said he never knowingly took steroids but did take medicine for bronchitis while home in Venezuela. Manny Ramirez and Guillermo Mota are the only other major league players to be penalized twice for positive drug tests. Baseball began testing with penalties in 2004. Under the current rules, a third violation would carry a lifetime ban. Alfonzo is a .240 career hitter with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 591 at-bats over 193 major league games. He has also played for San Diego and Seattle.

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Wizards remain intent on signing Otto Porter and John Wall to new deals, president Ernie Grunfeld says

Wizards remain intent on signing Otto Porter and John Wall to new deals, president Ernie Grunfeld says

Each time Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld or head coach Scott Brooks refer to their team's future, they include Otto Porter's name despite the latter just days away from being a restricted free agent. He does not yet have a long-term contract, but the Wizards remain hopeful they can come to an agreement that will continue his development alongside other young players like John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Markieff Morris.

Porter, who turned 24 earlier this month, could receive as long as a five-year deal with the Wizards. 

"We've said all along that we want to keep our core group of young players together and Otto is an important part of what we're trying to do," Grunfeld said. "When free agency starts, we'll see what we can do and work things out to keep him here."

If that process does see Porter hit restricted free agency, the Wizards will have to first make a qualifying offer of 125 percent of his 2016-17 salary, which was $5.9 million, by the June 30 deadline. That would put his QO at around $7.4 million. He could then seek offers in free agency with the Wizards holding the option to match and retain his rights. Once Porter receives an offer, they will have 72 hours to make their decision.

[RELATED: Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 18: Wiz make a deal]

The NBA's free agency moratorium, which allows teams to negotiate deals with players, begins July 1. Players can then be signed beginning on July 6.

How much Porter is asking for is not clear yet, same with how much he will ultimately receive. The NBA salary cap's significant increase last offseason and new rules have made it so there are few comparisons to draw. Bradley Beal, who was also a third overall pick like Porter, signed a maximum contract of five years and $128 million last summer, but he is and was a more acccomplished player than Porter. This past season Porter averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and shot 43.4 percent from three.

Wall's contract future was also addressed by Grunfeld this week as he addressed the media before and after Thursday's NBA Draft. Now that Wall was named All-NBA following the 2016-17 season, he is eligible for an extension worth four years and about $167 million.

"At the appropriate time, we will sit down with John. We want John to finish his career here," Grunfeld said. "He's a franchise guy. Him and Bradley have done a great job of improving and leading this ballclub, so we want John to finish his career here."

[RELATED: Brooks reminisces about Durant, 1st season in D.C.]

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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