Despite Nailing A-Rod, No End in Sight For MLB's Doping Problem
The Alex Rodriguez year-long ban from baseball is clearly a major black eye for the game as a whole. And with Rodriguez filing a lawsuit against Major League Baseball and its player's union in order to overturn his unprecedented suspension, this mess is just getting started. A-Rod clearly put himself in this bad situation by probably using performance-enhancing drugs and by associating himself with such a seedy character like Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch. However, Major League Baseball's handling of the Biogensis scandal has been even more damning to the legacy of the sport than anything done by Bosch or A-Rod.
All told,14 players were found to have been involved in the Biogenesis scandal and were suspended a grand total of 827 games. However, out of the 14 players who were involved, there was only one failed drug test amongst the entire group. The only failed drug test from a player involved in Biogenesis was taken by Brewers outfield Ryan Braun, who faced a 50-game ban before the start of the 2012 season. However, Braun's positive test was overturned during his appeal and the Brewers slugger was able to play the entire 2012 season without penalty. Given the proven ineptitude of Major League Baseball's anti-doping policy, is it any wonder that Rodriguez is trying to get his suspension overturned as well?
As the Biogenesis scandal unfolded, it was revealed in 2013 that Tony Bosch had financial dealings with Braun. As a result, Major League Baseball had decided that there was enough circumstantial evidence to eventually suspend Braun 65 games for PED use. Sure, Braun had lied about his initial drug use, deceived the public, and won the appeal of his suspension on a technicality. However, I put more blame on Major League Baseball and specifically Bud Selig for mishandling the Braun case and allowing a cheater to walk free to begin with. It has also been revealed that in A-Rod's case, he had tested negative for PED's 12 times from October 2010 to August 2013. If MLB's drug tests are that easy to circumvent, there is no telling how many other players are currently using banned substances outside of the Biogenesis umbrella.
What I also find unsettling in the case of Rodriguez and Braun is the number of games each player was suspended for. While the other 12 players involved in Biogenesis all received 50-game bans, Braun received a 65-game ban, and Rodriguez received a 162-game ban. According to Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, all first time PED offenders will receive 50-game bans. How then did Commissioner Selig come up with larger than normal punishments for first time offenders such as Braun and A-Rod? It is assumed that both players have been using PED's for long periods of time. Therefore, it looks as if Bud Selig had an axe to grind against Braun and A-Rod since both players have probably been beating this flawed system for so long. I believe that Selig had stooped to a new low by coming up with an arbitrary amount of games to suspend these players because it clearly goes against the mandated rules stated in the CBA. This will obviously set a dangerous precedent for similar cases in the future.
I also find it laughable that known PED users are cashing in during free agency. After serving a 50-game ban for PED use in 2012 as a member of the San Francisco Giants, Melky Cabrera signed a 2-year, $16 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013. His average salary of $8 million per year during this new contract is $2 million more than the salary he was previously earning with San Francisco. Right-handed pitcher Bartolo Colon signed a 2-year $20 million deal with the New York Mets in 2013 after also serving a 50-game ban for PED use in 2012. This was quite a raise for the soon to be 41-year old Colon who earned an estimated total of $6.9 million during his last four seasons in the Major Leagues.
How can we logically expect PED's to be eradicated from the game when players are getting significant pay increases after taking drugs? In my opinion, if Major League Baseball really wanted to crack down on drug use in the sport, teams should be forced to pay some sort of luxury tax when signing PED users in free agency. Imposing a financial penalty to teams who sign such players would obviously lower the incentive to cheat.
Finally, the credibility of Tony Bosch must also come into question. The MLB has no shred of positive DNA evidence linking any player in the Biogenesis scandal to PED use. All the league has is the testimony and documents from a sociopathic quasi-doctor who is obviously looking to save his own tail. I am all for punishing players who break the rules, and I do believe that Bosch probably supplied all of these players with PED's. However, I am not willing to suspend players based on probability, and without a single drop of dirty DNA to attach to any of these players, the MLB is completely embarrassing themselves by handing down these suspensions.
I have absolutely no sympathy for A-Rod as he continually amazes me by finding new ways to soil his reputation with each passing day. But in my estimation, A-Rod is just a small part of a much larger problem in baseball. As the players in this high stakes PED game come and go, the names of yesteryear like Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire have simply been replaced by the likes of A-Rod and Ryan Braun. The drug kingpins of these doping scandals will also come and go, from Victor Conte to Tony Bosch. And as long as Major League Baseball continues to make a highly-flawed and perfunctory effort on eliminating PED's from its game, the cheating in baseball will continue no matter how many games A-Rod is suspended for.