Report: Arbitrator likely needed for Hamilton rehab ruling

Josh Hamilton likely faces at least a 25-game suspension for violating the sport's drug policy.

Kirby Lee/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

An arbitrator is expected to determine whether Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton should enter rehab after a four-person panel is deadlocked on the decision, the Los Angeles Times reported. Hamilton breached the MLB’s drug policy, reportedly for using cocaine and alcohol.

The panel, comprised of two attorneys and two doctors — one of each is appointed by MLB and the MLBPA. Because the group cannot decide on the treatment issue, the arbitrator would be summoned to break the tie, the newspaper notes.

Officials are trying to determine whether he is a fourth-time offender of the league’s drug policy, which would mean a penalty of missing at least one full season. FOX Sports 1 MLB Insiders Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi reported last week that Hamilton is likely to be suspended for at least 25 games but less than a full season. Because of various complexities, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is not close to a decision. Moreover, the MLB Players Association, acting on Hamilton’s behalf, would appeal any penalty it deems to be too harsh.

Hamilton’s recent reported drug use violated the terms of a treatment program to which the Angels outfielder agreed when he returned in June 2006 from a suspension of more than two years. The sport’s jointly bargained drug agreement lists specific penalties for such violations, but those guidelines are not easily applied in Hamilton’s complicated case.

The punishment for a player’s first failure to comply with a treatment program is a suspension of at least 15 but not more than 25 games. Yet, this is not Hamilton’s first offense. The suspension he served while in the minor leagues — €from Feb. 18, 2004 through June 1, 2006 — was for a succession of violations.

Additionally, MLB classifies the 2004-06 suspension as a major-league violation, because the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had placed him on their 40-man roster before it began. So, Hamilton is now a repeat offender at the major-league level even though he did not debut with the Cincinnati Reds until 2007.

However, Manfred and other league officials have a favorable view of Hamilton’s efforts to remain sober, including compliance with MLB-mandated drug tests (three each week) for nearly nine years. He made five All-Star teams during that time, all while speaking honestly to baseball fans and the greater public about his struggle with addiction.

Although Hamilton approached MLB officials to inform them of his relapse, the fact that he was forthcoming will not be the reason for leniency; sources say MLB officials are of the view that Hamilton may have come to them once he believed a positive drug test was inevitable.