ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Is steroid use a breach of a ballplayer's contract?

Barry_bonds Baseball is facing a neat little problem in contract construction in the wake of the steroid scandal, in which some prominent players, including seven-time-MVP Barry Bonds, left, have recently admitted using the performance-enhancing substances.

Some baseball teams are considering trying to cancel the contracts of some players who have allegedly used steroids—the New York Yankees and the huge contract of star infielder Jason Giambi have been mentioned.  But this may be a tough sell, even though it’s a good contracts hypothetical. The contract clauses at issue reportedly say:

The player must agree to keep himself in first-class physical condition and adhere to all training rules set by the club.

The use or misuse of illegal or prescription drugs can be interpreted to mean the player is not keeping himself in first-class physical condition.

The clubs, goes the argument, can claim that the players who used steroids "misused" the drugs, and thus they can "interpret" that as not keeping the player in "first-class physical condition."  One problem with the argument is that these are performance-enhancing substances, and the odds are that the players performed much better than they would have had they avoided the substances.  Bonds and a couple of allegedly steroid-using stars (Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa) have annihilated the single-season home run record that had stood for nearly 40 years.  At least nine MVP awards in the past ten years have been won by admitted steroid users, and there are suspicions about others.

The players will presumably argue that the clause is meant to apply to things like cocaine or other drugs that cause players to perform at less than their peak.

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The intent was to only bar use use of illegal drugs that diminish performance? I don't think so.

A player's "use" of "illegal" drugs can be interpreted to mean the player is not keeping himself in first class condition i.e. if a performance enhancing drug are being used, it can be presumed that without the drug, the player is not in first class condition.

Question: "must agree?"

Also, what about "adhere to all training rules set by the club?"

Posted by: MD | Dec 4, 2004 2:47:04 PM

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