By Mike Berardino
June 18, 2003
FORT LAUDERDALE—Jeff Allison, the Marlins’ top pitching prospect, has admitted failing a Major League Baseball-administered drug test for marijuana and acknowledged past abuse of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.
Allison made the admissions Sunday night during an appearance on New England Cable News. Allison, a 19-year-old righthander from Peabody, Mass., also said he has been drug-free for several months.
“I failed one drug test, marijuana. That’s the truth,” Allison told the Boston-area channel. “I only failed one drug test . . . They were going to suspend me.”
Instead, Allison was placed on the restricted list May 6 after he left the Marlins’ Jupiter, Fla., camp without permission. There’s no timetable for his return, but Allison said he believes the Marlins would place him in a drug-rehabilitation program once he reports.
“I don’t really agree with that,” he said. “I don’t have a problem, and I haven’t for awhile.”
Allison said he forfeited at least $200,000 of his $1.85 million signing bonus to the Marlins because of his mistakes. It’s unclear whether he’ll eventually be able to reclaim that money.
“The money [the Marlins] took away was just because of that drug test,” Allison said. “When I left, they took away a little more.”
The Marlins, though spokesman P.J. Loyello, declined comment.
Allison, Baseball America’s 2003 High School Player of the Year, ranked 44th on BA’s 2004 Top 100 Prospects list. He was considered to have the best fastball and the best curveball in the 2003 draft. The 16th overall pick in last year’s draft—sliding that far mainly because of signability concerns—Allison pitched nine innings for the Marlins’ Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team last August before being shut down with shoulder tendinitis.
Allison said he realized last November he had a problem with OxyContin, a highly addictive medication. It was unclear when he began to abuse OxyContin, but Allison said it was sometime after he was drafted last June.
During the winter, Allison entered a rehab program in the Boston area before reporting to Jupiter in January. He was conducting regular baseball workouts but soon “fell into the hole again,” Allison said, and decided to return home.
He was back in Jupiter by late March but left again less than five weeks later.
“[Drug abuse] was something I had gotten myself into again,” he said. “I knew I had to get myself out of it again. I was just really stressed out from that, from running around all the time and from baseball itself. I’d step on the field every day not knowing if I wanted to do my job anymore. It was just getting really, really tough for me.”
Allison also criticized the Marlins for advising him to buy an apartment near Riviera Beach, suggesting that led to his troubles.
“I didn’t think I should have been there at all,” he said. “I don’t know why they put me there. It was a really bad area. I hung around with a couple kids that weren’t nice.”
NECN sports anchor Chris Collins, who has known Allison since the pitcher was 14, conducted the interview. Allison’s high school coach, Ed Nizwantowski, appeared on the program with him.
According to Collins, Allison doesn’t expect to return to Marlins camp until mid-July at the earliest.
“I feel good,” Allison said. “I’m going to get back when I feel I need to. I’m not rushing anything.”
The remainder of Allison’s bonus was restructured in March and will be paid out over the next several years. Allison can’t be paid while on the restricted list.
“That money did change my life,” Allison said. “I thought it would change my life for the better, but no, it changed my life for the worse so far. I’m going to turn it around now.”
Mike Berardino covers the Marlins for the Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale).