Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

MLB drug-testing works, but it doesn't deter cheaters

The Marlins’ Dee Gordon was hit with an 80-game suspension Friday.

AP

The Marlins’ Dee Gordon was hit with an 80-game suspension Friday.

Well, who would guess that the hot topic in baseball would be, yet again, steroids?

It's deja vu all over again, but it really shouldn't be a surprise. This issue is never, ever going to leave us, much as MLB would like to see it go the way of the flannel uniform. I'm always reminded of the opening words of the Mitchell Report, designed to be the final word on the topic:

"A principal goal of this investigation is to bring to a close this troubling chapter in baseball history, and to use the lessons learned from the past to prevent the future use of some substances."

Fat chance of that, as recent events have shown yet again. That naive sentiment was expressed by Sen. George Mitchell — in 2007. And in the subsequent nine years, there have been a steady stream of players trying (and failing) to circumvent MLB's ever-stricter drug policy.

The desire by some to try to cheat the system is always going to be part of human nature. And the ability of clever chemists to enable that inclination is always going to challenge, and occasionally surpass, the ability of the watchdogs to stop them. And so the drama is never-ending.

Toronto's Chris Colabello, whose rise from independent ball is the sort of redemption tale that people love (but which sometimes come with an unpleasant asterisk), was nabbed early last week after testing positive for an anabolic steroid. And then, even more stunningly, came the announcement Friday morning that reigning NL batting champion Dee Gordon of the Marlins was being suspended as well for a positive steroids test.

In between, on Wednesday, Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta of the Cubs addressed the rumors he was hearing — from fellow players, no less — that his stunning rise from an inconsistent starter in Baltimore to the best pitcher in the game had to have been fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

And that, ultimately, is the greatest scourge of the steroids era. Namely, that every historic achievement or heartwarming career resurrection is bound to be tainted by whispers of PEDs. Virtually nothing is fully trusted anymore, which is what baseball has brought upon itself by years of benign neglect.

The irony, of course, is that baseball currently polices itself more vigilantly than any other major sport. The fact that players as prominent as A-Rod, Ryan Braun and Gordon keep getting nabbed shows the program is working — and also that it's not the deterrent MLB was hoping for.

That reality is bringing calls for yet another toughening of the penalties, much of it coming from within the player fraternity, with Justin Verlander leading the charge. I wouldn't mind seeing busted players getting a full-year suspension for a first offense, rather than the current 80 days, and I'd like to see more testing done in the offseason. Yet I'd urge the players to think long and hard about giving up their hard-fought rights while attempting to combat what is a nagging problem, but falls short of an epidemic.

Verlander complained about players continuing to remain active while their appeals are being heard, but that's a cornerstone of due process.

All that's left is to hunker down for the eternal process of trying to stay ahead of the PED users, who we should realize now come in all shapes and sizes — behemoths like Jose Canseco and lithe speedsters like Gordon.

Gordon, who signed a new five-year, $50 million contract in January, took his positive test in spring training. Though he reportedly decided to drop his appeal, he also said in a statement that he didn't knowingly ingest the banned substance. Colabello said the same thing: "I don't do it. I haven't done it. I won't do it."

This sort of denial is not new. I watched from 5 feet away when Braun forcefully and passionately denied using PEDs, about a year before he meekly submitted to a 65-game suspension. No player ever seems to know how it happened. Yet it keeps happening, over and over again.

— Seattle Times (TNS)

MLB drug-testing works, but it doesn't deter cheaters 05/01/16 [Last modified: Sunday, May 1, 2016 7:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:45: Cash said Robertson was taking better swings Friday and so he wanted to move him up today, liking the idea of having three straight right-handers vs. a LHP they don't know much about. ... Souza was still smiling this morning about his failed dive attempt last night, and the reaction it got. .. The …

  2. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  3. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule

    Tennis

    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]