An independent arbitrator has ruled that Los Angeles Angels’ outfielder Josh Hamilton did not violate his substance abuse treatment program after his offseason cocaine relapse. Upon the announcement, MLB announced that Hamilton is free to rejoin the Angels immediately. He will not be suspended and does not face any further discipline.
Hamilton was represented in arbitration by attorneys Jay Reisinger and Tina Miller of Farrell & Reisinger in Pittsburgh. The ruling in the case was based on the arbitrator’s interpretation of Section 4(C) of the Joint Drug Agreement. That section states that a player has committed a violation only if the player (a) refuses to submit to evaluations and followup tests; (b) “consistently fails to participate in mandatory sessions with his assigned health care professional”; (c) his health care professional tells Major League Baseball that the player is not cooperating; or (d) the player tests positive for a drug of abuse.
Hamilton had self-reported his cocaine use to the Commissioner, therefore, the stipulations of the Joint Drug Agreement did not apply to Hamilton’s case. His use of the drug was classified as a “slip” rather than a “relapse,” according to NBC Sports.com. Past use of alcohol, which Hamilton is also forbidden from using, did not result in discipline.
Major League Baseball disagreed vehemently with the decision, and issued the following statement through Twitter:
MLB issued the following statement today regarding Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton: pic.twitter.com/FSDjHF4TyZ
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) April 3, 2015
Hamilton is in the process of rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. His status for Opening Day was doubtful, and when he will take the field for the first time this season remains unclear. In the first two seasons since signing his five-year, $125 million contract, Hamilton has largely been a disappointment, batting only .255 with 31 home runs in 240 games. He is owed $83 million over the next three years.