Red Sox Star Prospect Michael Chavis Tested Positive For Steroids. The Team Should Fire Him

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that third baseman Michael Chavis, who is the Red Sox’s No. 1 prospect has been suspended following their violations of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Chavis is effective immediately. He was expected to be a candidate to come up to the big leagues and help the Red Sox in the stretch drive. His suspension hurts the entire organization.

Chavis tweeted a long and plaintive denial. And you know what the line is about that: “That’s what they all say.” Here is a sample…

“Over the past several months, I have been searching for an answer as to how a prohibited substance I have never heard of, DHMCT, was detected in my urine during the offseason. It is a question that unfortunately has not been answered, and I have run out of time for now to find an answer. As hopeless as this is for me, I am faced with the reality that maybe I never will. The only thing I do know is that I would never, and have never, purposely taken any prohibitive substance in my entire life.”

The Red Sox should fire him. Release him, let another team sign him. Maybe he’ll become a superstar. It shouldn’t matter. I know, “He’s just a kid.” No, he’s 22, he’s not 11. At this stage of the sport’s handling of performance enhancing drug use by its players, there is no excuse for a player to be caught cheating. It is signature significance. It tells the team, and its fans, and everyone else, that Chavis is 1) untrustworthy 2) greedy and 3) an idiot. Sending a clear message to all players present and future that the Boston Red Sox don’t want, won’t pay, and won’t tolerate steroid cheats is essential, and ethically a no-brainer.

I regard his refusal to admit his guilt an additional and decisive reason to kick him out. Yup, he was just walking down the street, and some Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone just leaped into his bladder after hiding in the bushes. Happens all the time.


Of course, the Red Sox won’t do the right thing; no team would. Instead it released a statement after the suspension was announced:

“The Boston Red Sox fully support Major League Baseball and the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. While we are disappointed by the news of this violation, we will look to provide the appropriate support to Michael. Going forward, the club will not comment further on the matter.”

The appropriate support for a steroid cheat is no support at all.

22 thoughts on “Red Sox Star Prospect Michael Chavis Tested Positive For Steroids. The Team Should Fire Him

  1. They won’t do it. Had the chance a few weeks ago with Jake Romanski. And this is a team that manipulated international bonus money and paid a steep price so any “ethics” are elsewhere. But to owner John Henry the real important issue is Yawkey Way. Of course, Chavis is going all Sargent Shultz in his reply.

  2. I wonder whether the performance enhancing drug industry is still steaming full speed ahead with un- or less-detectable therapies. I suspect so. Kids in high school have been doing steroids for a long time, so I’m sure current minor leaguers are hip to how things work. There’s a huge financial incentive for drug labs to pursue the latest technologies. I assume they’re much better funded with profits than the drug testers are. Lifetime bans are the only thing that will ever really end this. Meanwhile, back at the park, the balls keep flying out… but of course, that’s because Walt Hreniack is dead and buried. Sure.

    • I’d be interested in the false positive rates without such things. Screening tests run into a number of related problems which are best-known in public health and screening tests for diseases (e.g. see for discussion), but the general gist is that Jack’s “that’s what they all say” dismissal is, at best, premature barring additional evidence.

      Of course, that’s based on the idea that he simply flunked one test… but, frankly, that’s all the evidence that Jack’s summary provides.

      Then again, a second test might not be statistically independent of the first, which is required for the stronger methods of narrowing the odds. The math gets… complicated… in that case.

      Ultimately, do I believe him when he says that he didn’t use that drug and had never heard of it? No, but I don’t disbelieve him, either. I’m not qualified to make the determination, and don’t care enough to get the relevant qualifications. What I do know is that Jack provided inadequate information to actually condemn Chavis’s conduct… which looks quite different if he’s actually telling the truth.

      • The union watches these things very carefully. If you read Chavis’s whole statement, you learn that the positive test happened months ago. That means that Chavis and his teams lawyers had every chance to review the process and determine if anything possibly occurred that would give him a legitimate challenge. The process is extremely controlled, and because the consequences to a player are massive, involving many millions of dollars for a veteran, the fail-safe processes are thorough. In the MLB process, a player is surprised by a demand that he pee in a cup, and is observed while he does. (Yup!) Then the urine is split into two samples. One is sent directly to a lab, the other is held by a second lab, and only used if the first sample comes back positive. Then the second sample is tested, without the lab being told what the other test showed.

        The chances that both tests would confirm the use of the the same PED substance falsely is vanishingly small, and literally no one at this stage has argued credibly otherwise. Indeed, the players union, if a single example had occurred, would be screaming bloody murder.

        Thus I provided sufficient information to conclude he was guilty: the fact that this process showed he was guilty. Since no system is 100% reliable, we know that the likelihood of a false positive as quite a bit less than 1%, enough for a beyond a reasonable doubt verdict in a criminal case.

        This was not the case, in contrast, with the case of David Ortiz, whose results in a voluntary test, under a different procedure, was leaked to the press. The results were supposed to be private and confidential; he was not told what substance was supposedly found, and there was no second test.

        • The procedure you just described is, to any testing expert, woefully inadequate, and at least one statement you made is hilariously, blatantly false due to a basic logical error you made: confusing prior and posterior probability.

          To illustrate the problem, let’s go back over the math I kinda glossed over earlier.

          Let’s say that the test is symmetrically 99% accurate — that is, it returns a correct result 99% of the time, with no biases in regards to false negatives or false positives. This is both an extremely good number for a screening test (or a medical test in general) and rather unusual in that most tests have different false positive and false negative rates (or sensitivity and specificity numbers)… but that just makes the math more complicated without changing my point.

          Now let’s say that they test 10,000 players (a large number, I know, but I chose it to simplify the math), of whom 1% — or 100 — are doping.

          You will thus be giving the test to 9,900 players who are *not* doping, of whom 1%, or 99, will get false positives. You will also be giving the test to 100 players who are doping, of whom one will get a false negative. Thus, half of your positive results were for players who were completely innocent… and, indeed, the math works out that way. The prior probability of a false positive is 1/100; the posterior probability, or the probability of a positive result being false, is 1/2.

          So, let’s say you take couple hundred such samples to another lab, and they use another, statistically independent test with similar accuracy. Of the 100 innocent people, you can expect one to get a false positive; of the 100 dopers, one will get a false negative. Thus, of the 100 people you “found” guilty of doping, one is innocent… after two separate “99% accurate” tests.

          However, that assumes that the two tests were statistically independent — which does not mean “independently conducted”. It means that none of the things that can fool one test can fool the other. This is vanishingly rare in biology and biological testing, and can only be approximated — and thus that 1/100 figure acts not as an actual answer, but rather as a lower bound of the chances involved.

          None — none — of the measures you described do anything appreciable to address the issue. Two labs with what’s essentially the same sample, presumably using the same methods? I’d give 1/4 posterior odds at best given the above numbers. Watching him pee in the cup? That just (hopefully) prevents a degree of cheating and does nothing to address problems fundamental to the tests themselves.

          To anyone familiar with medical testing, in other words, your “thorough” procedures are anything but, and the chances of a false positive are anything but “vanishingly small”… and that’s without getting into other issues like the popularity of unregulated dietary supplements among modern athletes and the frequency with which they are adulterated.

          • This is the link (below) to Chavis’ apology for his actions or his excuse depending on your view. Chavis chose not to appeal. The PED is one that is unique and managing to get into his system is what mystifies Chavis. Maybe Chavis should have chosen the Ryan Braun approach? But he did not.

            Chavis is not alone in the Red Sox system in the suspension category, but the Red Sox obviously consulted with Chavis and his representatives and all agreed to accept the penalty. Chavis is their highest ranked prospect and a home run threat in a system that has none of his calibers. The 80 games is a significant development loss for both team and player and that gives me the opinion of his guilt and accepting the consequences and move on with a cover story.


            • Chavis’s acceptance of the penalty without further protest creates a rebuttable presumption that he committed the act he was accused of.

              The League was not ethically required to ban him from baseball, though of course that would have had every justification to do so.

              Alexander Cheezem did bring up an important point ion whether the League can ethically rely on this test. while it is a moot point for Chavis, this is an issue that will likely turn up again.

              • If anything, I understated the problem — because I not only assumed that no one was able to successfully cheat (or that the 99% accuracy figure factored in such cheating attempts), but also that they were only testing for one performance-enhancing drug.

                Neither assumption is at all realistic.

                For the former, well, test accuracy figures are usually calculated based on laboratory conditions, not under high-stakes field conditions. If they were for treatments, we’d say that the figures were measures of efficacy rather than effectiveness.

                For the latter, well, that 99% accuracy is calculated per test. If you use 99% accuracy tests for 20 different things, you’ll find at least one false positive a bit over 18.2% of the time (assuming, again, that the tests are statistically independent…).

                And that’s without getting into the other things I mentioned… like the supplement issue, which really, really should not be ignored.

                You see, every testing issue I’ve mentioned so far only addresses the idea that the tests were wrong… but, in today’s environment, it’s quite possible to be dosed on steroids without ever actually trying to dope.

                Some of you may be familiar with the bodybuilders’ practice of slurping raw eggs as a quick and readily-available source of protein. Today, due in large part to concerns about salmonella and general reflexive disgust, that practice has fallen by the wayside… but the need of bodybuilders and athletes for ready sources of protein has not.

                Today’s cultural equivalent of the “raw egg trick” is the use of a wide assortment of dietary supplements… which are, unfortunately, subject to woefully inadequate regulation, and thus are subject to an entirely different danger: If you go out to the store and buy some whey protein (a popular source of the protein I mentioned), you… might not exactly be getting what you expect. A recent test of a screening method for whey protein supplements, for instance, found this: “In 10 of the 16 samples analyzed, only proteins from bovine whey could be detected, while in the other samples several other protein sources were detected in high concentrations, especially soybean, wheat, and rice. These results point out a probable adulteration and/or sample contamination during manufacturing…” ( )

                Of course, that sort of contamination is comparatively harmless. It’s also quite common for the manufacturers of such supplements to “promote results” by slipping illegal drugs into their product. In fact, it’s been estimated ( ) that between 6.4% and 8.8% of positive drug tests in competitive sports are caused by illegally adulterated (or “contaminated”) dietary supplements.

                The problem is a source of major concern in the anti-doping field (e.g. see ), and disproportionately impacts young athletes. Given that anywhere between 10-30% of such supplements, depending on the estimate (e.g. , ,, are dosed with steroids, it’s pathetically easy to become a victim.

                What does this mean? Well, even if the tests were accurate, even if he legitimately had DHMCT in his system, I would still fully believe him when he says he’d never heard of the stuff before.

                And looking at the events through that lens puts a whole different spin on literally everyone’s behavior.

  3. Perhaps he is the victim of the same supernatural forces that put similar drugs in the body of Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley: “I don’t know, a lot of ghosts around here. Ghost put it in. You know the ghost of Christmas past.”.

    Still the best excuse ever, for anything.

  4. Not really adding to the discussion, but a funny little story nonetheless…

    a player is surprised by a demand that he pee in a cup, and is observed while he does. (Yup!)

    When I was in the Army, we had a older E5 sarge who ran a squad of…reprobates, shall we say? He got popped for operation Piss for the Flag, under Operation Golden Flow. In the Army’s infinite wisdom, he was given warning (this was in the late 1980’s) that he would be tested the next morning (thus drink lots of coffee) and sent home for the night.

    He ‘performed’ his duty admirably, meaning he did not make the officer responsible for collecting specimens miss his next meeting, as we went merrily alone until a month later (yes it took that long) when his results came back… pregnant.

    Being fooled once, the Brass put out that the tests were corrupted and the same folks would again be tested the next day. Once again, the sarge was prepared to perform, but this time a sharp eyed Lieutenant noted a tube producing urine… and not a flesh one. He had a medical IV bag strapped to his leg.

    He was always ‘directly observed’ by the lowest ranking (or latest screw up) officer from then on. Oh yes, he went to drug counseling and was not relieved of duty. He added the Article 15 to his collection (which was why he was still an E5 after 18 years in service.)

    He also broke up with his gal: seems he had a vasectomy. Not his kid.

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