At first the steroids scandals were disheartening. Then they became disappointing. Then hysterical, then irritating and now we can officially call them a big, fat waste of money.
News broke yesterday that MLB will attempt to suspend 20 players connected to the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic that made headlines earlier this year for selling supposedly performance enhancing drugs to its patients. Among the players who may soon feel the full wrath of Bud Selig include Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and Nelson Cruz. The penalty? A 100-game suspension – the punishment for violating two drug tests according to MLB’s current Drug Policy.
The problem of course – is that none of these players actually tested positive for anything.
Should MLB choose to move forward with the suspensions, it will almost guarantee a legal challenge from the Player’s Union, who won’t take kindly to the Commissioner’s office simply side stepping the agreed-upon rules, ignoring the results of their own tests and imposing their own, arbitrary sanctions on the players without credible evidence or cause to do so.
And truth be told, the Player’s Union should step in. Why? Because baseball doesn’t have much of a case.
For those of you out of the loop, here’s the (incredibly) abridged history of how this has all gone down:
Tony Bosch was the Doctor who owned the Biogenesis clinic connected to selling baseball players (supposedly) performance-enhancing drugs back in January when the story first broke. MLB launched their own investigation into the matter and all arrows pointed to Bosch as the source of the problem. When questioned about his role, he refused to cooperate with investigators, citing that he had a fiduciary responsibility to protect the confidentiality of his patients and not the interests of baseball.
Again feeling the intense pressure of bad press, MLB did the only thing they could do, and that was take Bosch to the bathroom and stick his head into a toilet bowl until he told them what they wanted to hear. Or in other words – sue the heck out of him. Drowning in debt and under investigation by Florida law enforcement officials, Bosch was in no financial condition for a long, drawn out legal fight. So under extreme pressure from all sides, he caved and offered to cooperate with MLB investigators in any way they needed him to in exchange for their withdrawing their suit.
Having forced what they believed to be the smoking gun out of Bosch’s hands, baseball aims to suspend 20 of the players involved in the scandal for 100 games. The MLB Drug Policy states that the first violation of any test is subject to a 50-game suspension. So simply put, this would be a double penalty. MLB’s rationale is that this was akin to failing a test (50 games) and that a penalty should be levied for lying about it (another 50 games). The problem is, there’s no rule in the policy about lying nor is there any punishment for such an infraction. Furthermore, there’s nothing on the books about MLB using drug scripts to suspend players who also, by the way – have yet to fail any tests for using said substances. To make matters even stickier, the players are accused of purchasing HGH – a drug that has yet to have been proven to have any measurable effects on player performance.
What we’re left with is that MLB wants to suspend players for 100 games for violating a rule that doesn’t exist and failing a test that they didn’t actually fail for using a drug that has no proven effects on baseball players.
Of course, the Players Union will sue and sue hard. And after a long, drawn out charade that we as tax payers will get to pay for, the union will win, no one gets suspended and this whole thing will be a colossal waste of time and money that leaves us no closer to the truth or a solution to a problem that no one seems to want to see go away.
In fact, no one involved will receive any kind of positive bump from any of this. While MLB might think it’s saving face by being proactive, all they’re really doing is incriminating the credibility of their own process – seeing as their tests caught all but one of the players associated with the Biogenesis scandal. Even worse, they’ll be undermining their own credibility with the MLBPA by essentially deciding to scrap the agreed upon drug policy and enforcing whatever made-up rules they want, whenever they want with out any reasonable cause to do so. The Players Union will be viewed as obstructionists, the media will be deemed opportunistic & shrill while the fans will be left scratching their heads, wondering if this is Groundhog Day all over again.
That’s probably because it is.
Back in 2003, the Mitchell Report was intended to not only ebb the flow of negative publicity, but also to put the mounting issue of steroid abuse in baseball to rest once and for all. Instead, MLB opted to hang a few players out to dry and kick the can down the road for another day. And that’s exactly what they’re doing here. Having built and negotiated a drug policy that worked for both sides, the commissioner’s office has again decided to scrap their approach and arbitrarily enforce rules that don’t exist and punish players for using drugs whose effects are still unknown – all for the sake of looking tough to the media.
And just like 2003, all we’re really left with in the end are the same questions we’ll keep asking until someone is willing to do the actual legwork in order to get this stuff right: Is this testing credible? What effects, if any – do these substances ACTUALLY have on baseball players? What can we catch? What can’t we catch? And for all that is holy, why is anyone agreeing to any kind of testing procedures if we’re going to ignore the results they produce?
Until baseball gets past what a select group of self-important sports writers might think (I see you, Shank), the PED problem will keep peaking its head up from its hole, and just like a game of Whack-A-Mole, owners will keep hitting moving targets with a soft mallet in hopes of running up the score in a PR game that they can’t and won’t ever win.
So here we are again, left with no answers, the same questions and a bunch of (mostly) crappy players who are guilty without actually being proven so. How lame is that?