SBD/August 24, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Latest PED-Related Suspensions To Colon, Cabrera Tarnish MLB's Reputation

Cabrera, who won the '12 Home Run Derby, is serving a 50-game suspension for PEDs
The steroid era, as baseball has “learned anew this month, is more likely to be a permanent state of affairs than an ugly chapter that can be closed,” according to a front-page piece by Lynn Zinser of the N.Y. TIMES. MLB has seen two high-profile players -- A's P Bartolo Colon and Giants LF Melky Cabrera -- test positive for testosterone this month, and the league's testing program “now appears to serve less as a real solution and more as a vehicle for reminding everyone that drug use manages to endure, sowing mistrust, ruining careers and embarrassing the national pastime." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig in January '10 “felt emboldened enough to declare the essential end of steroid use in the sport.” However, five PED-related suspensions this season, along with the “uneasiness created” by the case against Brewers LF Ryan Braun, “has undermined Selig’s assertion.” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said MLB has "made great strides, compared to where they started in 2003." MLB Senior VP/PR Pat Courtney: “We’re upset any time a player tests positive. But it means we have a good testing program in place” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/24). ESPN’s Jayson Stark said of the testing program. “When you have two prominent players test positive in a week for something very similar ... it proves that testing works.” But it also means “you’ve clearly got a sport that isn’t 'clean.'” Stark: "People inside front offices seem very concerned that there’s more of this to come and that the use of synthetic testosterone might actually be widespread.” MLB has “tried to reassure clubs by saying they’re now doing secondary testing on any sample they believe is suspicious.” He added, "We’re a long ways from where we were at the height of the steroid era 10 years, even five years ago … and clearly they have addressed a lot of these problems. (But the) sport is not clean, the sport has a problem and will always have to work to combat that problem" (“First Take,” ESPN2, 8/23).

TIME TO UP THE ANTE: In Chicago, Phil Rogers noted MLB is “in the middle of an investigation that could lead to more violators and possibly arrests for some people who are helping players obtain steroids and use them to beat testing.” Rogers: “This may not be BALCO, circa 2003, but it’s a disappointing development to happen when so many people in baseball -- including the players and the post-Donald Fehr union leadership -- have worked so hard to even the playing field." MLB's “only remaining weapon would seem to be stepping up the discipline for players who test positive.” Rogers wrote, “Would players think twice if the first offense was 100 and the next a lifetime ban? Who knows?” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/22). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote under the header, “MLB Drug Policy Fatally Flawed.” Drug testing will “work when players and teams fear the punishment more than crave the reward, and right now the punishments are insignificant in comparison to the rewards.” Ratto: “The notion of punishing organizations to negate the benefits of PEDs is never brought up. Ever” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/23).

LOOKING FOR A SILVER LINING: In Toronto, Richard Griffin writes the game "is not clean" and blood testing for HGH "has just been introduced, but it’s clear ... the look and feel of the game has changed since the union and ownership reached a mandatory testing agreement with attached punishments back in ‘05.” Would we “only be saying that baseball’s new drug testing policy is working if nobody was ever caught?” Or does the fact that Cabrera and Colon have both begun serving 50-game suspensions mean “that half the game is still dirty?” Griffin: “Cabrera and Colon will not be the last. It’s sad, but it means the game is moving in the right direction” (TORONTO STAR, 8/24). SI.com’s Jay Jaffe wrote MLB “has come a long way in its battle against performance-enhancing drugs.” However, the game “may not ever be able to eradicate them completely, because the temptation to cheat is older than the sport itself.” MLB’s drug-testing program “could stand adjustment,” but as the suspensions of Cabrera and Colon show, “the system is catching players who use PEDs” (SI.com, 8/22).
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