I've decided to take a break from all the bad news and grief on the political scene. Today I want to focus on an issue that has been grinding away at my last nerve for years: juicing in baseball. I love sports, from hockey to football, but my real love is baseball. I played it as a kid. I snuck into games with my brother when I was a kid, often skipping school to do so. I loved the Brewers while that team was in Milwaukee, and I love the Dodgers since moving to Southern California, but I follow all of the teams, especially this time of year with post-season games looming.
And I'm appalled at the recent news of the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs by players. They have decided to pollute their bodies and the game so they can pull in the big bucks. That makes me furious.
Major League Baseball suspended a dozen players — including three all-stars — for the rest of the regular season Monday for violating the league's ban on performance-enhancing drugs, and it ordered one of the game's all-time best sluggers, Alex Rodriguez, off the field through 2014. It was a headline-grabbing crackdown that, in an encouraging sign, drew cheers from some big-league players. But it also suggests that baseball needs to do still more to deter players from trying to advance their careers by enhancing their body chemistry.
The 13 players suspended Monday — all of whom, save Rodriguez, accepted the sanction without appealing — are the latest to be brought down by the scandal at Biogenesis, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in southern Florida. None of the players were tripped up by the league's vaunted drug-testing regimen; instead, they were exposed by a whistle-blower and the Miami New Times tabloid.
That's not to say the league's testing program, which has gotten steadily tougher since it began in 2005, is ineffectual. Four other players connected with Biogensis failed drug tests in 2011 and 2012 — three of them all-stars too — and all were handed suspensions ranging from 50 to 65 games.
Still, the scandal shows that determined cheaters can often stay a step ahead of testers, even when the regimen is as stringent as baseball's. Some fans argue that the league should admit defeat and let the players do as they please. But that's ridiculous. It would turn the game into a competition between doctors, not athletes, and would send a dangerous message to kids around the world, whose path to adulthood is challenging enough without steroids, human growth hormone and synthetic testosterone. [Emphasis added]
First of all, the regimen for testing is most assuredly not stringent. If it were, more of these freaks would get caught from the get-go. The owners and staff know who's juicing, as do the player's teammates. The signs for most PEDs are pretty blatant: personality changes (" 'roid rage"),shriveling testicles, acne lesions on the face, stomach, back, sudden growth of the shoulder, back, and leg muscles. Someone else is taking the juicer's drug test, which is pretty hard to do in secret.
Second, those doing the juicing are making a mockery of a game which relies on skills which take years to hone. Kids see this and feel justified in starting the drug regimen early, in high school and certainly in college. For many of those kids, it's a way out, a way up.
So, what's the answer?
One thing that might help is to impose a huge fine on any team with players caught cheating, a fine so steep that owners have to flinch and make certain their drug testing programs are real, not easily circumvented. Next, the owners and players' union should negotiate a clause that any player caught and suspended for the use of PEDs cannot collect salary or salary insurance from any source, no matter who paid for the policy.
That's just for a start, but I hope baseball is finally willing to take some steps.
Labels: Performance Enhancing Drugs