MLB Too Soft on Cheaters

IM000248.JPGBy Matthew Moses

We have all heard the saying cheaters never win and I believe that to be true, but in Major League Baseball it seems that for the most part cheaters do not lose. Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) users get suspended without pay for positive drug tests but that still does not seem like enough to deter players from cheating. With the recent news of Major League Baseball seeking to suspend players who have been linked to Tony Bosch and the Biogenesis ‘anti-aging’ clinic in Miami, it makes me question if MLB is doing enough to maintain the game’s integrity. Are the current testing programs and consequences for drug use powerful enough to stop players from taking banned substances and keep the game clean? I don’t think so. After the steroid era of the 90’s where big names like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens were hindered by their steroid use, it did seem as though MLB was doing just that, starting to clean itself out. That was until Major League Baseball was informed by one of Bosch’s former employees of the clinic’s relations with a number of players.

Since then, Tony Bosch the former director of the now closed clinic in Miami has a deal with Major League Baseball to cooperate in their investigation. Not too long after the deal was made the first suspension by the league was announced. Due to the overwhelming evidence against Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Braun has decided to accept his 65 game suspension keeping him out for the rest of the season without pay. So with one player already accepting a suspension I guess you can notch this one up for MLB in the win column. Not so fast, yes Braun is expected to miss out on about $3 million for the remainder of the 2013 season but he is still under contract with the Brewers. The Brewers signed him to an extension last year in April and are still required to pay him $133 million over the next 8 years. This contract extension came earlier in the year where Ryan Braun won the League’s MVP award and also won his appeal of a positive drug test that reported him of having elevated testosterone levels.

My point here is that despite facing the consequences that MLB might impose, players still see benefits in using PEDs. In this situation Braun’s 2011 season performance may have been exaggerated by his use of these drugs which lead him to receive a hefty contract extension and a coveted award. A similar example to this one is that of Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays who has also been linked to the clinic. Cabrera who played for the San Francisco Giants last season and won the MLB All Star Game MVP Award was suspended last season for 50 games because of elevated testosterone levels. He became a free agent after last season and despite his previous suspended for a banned substance, the Toronto Blue Jays still did not hesitate to give him a two year contract worth $16 million dollars. To me, this communicates the message that players will take the chance to gain an advantage and get more financial security and teams don’t have a problem signing players that have made questionable mistakes. These two players are not the only ones who have been under recent pressure as there are as many as 20 other players who are believed to be involved with the clinic and PED use.

Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball has recently said he does know which players are going to be suspended but has not said any names out of respect for the investigation process. Selig also said that he is proud of their new drug testing program that was implemented in 2004. Since then, 32 major league baseball players have been suspended for using banned substances and 47 minor league players have been suspended. There were three major league players who were suspended for 50-games last season for testing positive for Synthetic Testosterone, which seemed to be becoming popular among players. The substance is typically fast-acting and quick disappearing. After MLB officials caught on to this they added changes to their testing program which included studies that continually track players Testosterone to Epitestosterone ratio (T:E ratio), where a spike in the ratio indicates a synthetic drug is being used. The normal ratio in a human body is 1:1 and in the testing program any level above 4:1 warrants a comprehensive carbon isotope test. The testing program does seem to be effective but if we look at the recent scandal with the Biogenesis clinic it may seem otherwise. Ryan Braun’s positive test in 2011 reported a T:E ratio of 20:1 but he still managed to successfully appealed his suspension. It was not until the former employee of Bosch leaked the information to MLB that Braun and now about 20 others face suspensions. How did Major League Baseball’s great testing program not catch this and why are the players still so willing to take these risks?

MLB should bring down heavier consequences for players involved with PED use in addition to suspensions. In the case of Ryan Braun and his hefty contract, MLB should enable teams to void certain guarantees to a player if they are caught using banned substances. This would strike fear into players that think they can use PEDs and not have to worry about their current financial situation because it would leave the player without a job until another team is willing to take a risk in signing him. Another contract modification would allow teams to cut a player who may be detrimental to its franchise’s image and fan base. In terms of personal achievements, records and awards held by players involved in banned substances should be relinquished. Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers who was the runner-up to Braun for the 2011 MVP award said Braun should be stripped of the honor. Further, any players who have used PEDs should not be mentioned in the record books and should not be able to join the Hall of Fame. Lastly, as stated in a Bleacher Report article MLB should treat these incidents just as the NCAA does with their incidents involving cheating. That is to vacate wins, titles, or even championships won by teams who had an active player on the roster that was guilty of using PEDs, that season. This would be a very harsh penalty as there are a large amount of players on each roster and the organization typically consists of many individuals but this would put an emphasis on integrity of the sport above winning.

As of right now MLB is not doing enough to maintain the game’s integrity. The current testing programs and consequences for drug use are not powerful enough to stop players from taking banned substances and keep the game clean. With the recent Biogenesis scandal involving as many as 20 MLB players it does not seem that the players respect the rules and purity of the game. MLB should impose heavier consequences on players who decide to gain an unfair advantage despite the rules in place by the league. This would communicate that Major League Baseball has zero tolerance for anyone who decides to harm the integrity of the game.

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3 Comments to “MLB Too Soft on Cheaters”

  1. I don’t usually read or watch sports stuff, but I know enough about sports in general to agree that using PEDs is cheating. I think it’s taking the fairness out of the sport, and if one person is taking PEDs, then they all should be to equalize it. IF a person uses PEDs, and their teammates or opponents do not, then that is highly unfair. In sports, it’s usually physical, attributes, fitness and power that will determine capability. PEDs shouldn’t be a factor.

  2. PED use has been an issue in Baseball for decades. Anyone who argues that the “Steroid Era” is the only time in Baseball history where PED and cheating has been taking place is uninformed. Amphetamine is the 1950s-1980s was today’s HGH and Synthetic Testosterone. While not as performance enhancing as steroids, more than half the league was using it and receiving an advantage. PED use has been an issue for decades in Baseball.

    I do agree with you that the penalty for getting caught is not nearly harsh enough. Players are constantly injured and miss close to 50 games on the DL. 50 game suspensions are not even 1/3 of the season. If players believe they can use without getting caught and face a maximum of 50 game suspension they would and do. Bud Selig needs to establish a harsher ban if they want to clean the game up even more. I suggest a minimum one year ban (162 games) for first time offenders, and life-time ban for second time offenders. This still might not even be harsh enough but will at least be better than what is in place right now.

    Just to add: Pete Rose was black balled from baseball and will never be in the Hall of Fame despite being one of the greatest hitters of all-time. He bet on his team to WIN will coaching. That is nothing in comparison to what the likes of A-Rod and Ryan Braun have done in my opinion.

  3. I do not follow Baseball very closely, but even I hear about baseball players getting caught using steroids. And I could be wrong, but I feel like I hear about it happening in baseball more than in other sports. I think that you have a really good point in that while there are consequences for getting caught using PED, because the substances enhances their performance so much, the pros to using it outweigh the cons. Other than their reputation, that players don’t have much to lose. I mean I think about Lance Armstrong and his use of illegal substances. True, it eventually caught up with him and he was stripped of his medals, but he is still famous and lived for quite some time as a hero to many people.

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