Josh Hamilton will not be suspended after an arbitrator ruled a binge around Super Bowl weekend that resulted in a positive test did not violate his drug-treatment program.
After Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association deadlocked on whether to suspend Hamilton for self-reporting cocaine use to the league, an independent arbitrator considered the case of the Los Angeles Angels outfielder and agreed with the union’s argument that one-time use did not merit a suspension.
Hamilton’s case hinged on what constituted a violation of the program. Under baseball's Joint Drug Agreement, an admission of drug use or a refusal to take a test constitutes a positive result. The failure to comply with the drug-treatment program – which Hamilton has been in for nearly a decade following long battles with cocaine and alcohol – was not undone by Hamilton’s episode, the arbitrator ruled.
The league issued a statement Friday afternoon acknowledging the defeat: “The Office of the Commissioner disagrees with the decision, and will seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the Program in the collective bargaining process.”
Hamilton was represented by lawyers Jay Reisinger and Tina Miller, who declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports.
Discipline was considered almost a foregone conclusion in Hamilton’s case, and a victory in arbitration allows him to not only avoid missing games but to collect his full $23 million salary. The 33-year-old outfielder, who signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels in 2013, has $83 million remaining on the final three years of his contract. His struggles with the Angels have been marked, a .255/.316/.426 line over two seasons compounded with 73 games missed last season.
The Angels released the following statement regarding Hamilton's situation:
"The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.”
Hamilton had surgery on his right shoulder in February and continues to rehab in Texas. He missed spring training, and it is unclear when he'll be healthy enough to return.