It didn’t take long to catch the first violators of the season.

Just days away from the opening of the 2015 season, the performance-enhancing drug monster that Major League Baseball cannot escape from has snatched up its first wave of offenders.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana received an 80-game suspension from MLB on Friday for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The 32-year-old right-hander tested positive for an anabolic steroid called stanozolol, per Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports. Atlanta’s Arodys Vizcaino was suspended 80 games on Thursday for the same drug.

Stanozolol is also the drug that netted 25-year-old pitcher David Rollins his own 80-game ban on March 27. The left-hander was in line to win a job in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen when news of his positive test and suspension broke.

That is three suspensions for the same, old-school kind of drug that Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for in 2005. In the two seasons before Palmeiro’s positive test, MLB reported 37 positive tests for stanozolol, which Lee Jenkins, then of The New York Times, said indicated a “changing trend” in the drug of choice for cheaters.

It is also the same substance that got Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s Olympic gold medal stripped in 1988.

It’s baffling for this era’s players to be risking games, reputation and money for this kind of steroid, but MLB’s recent rash of suspensions show it is on to at least a section of its offenders.

The drug was popular in the early and mid-2000s among baseball players, but that has obviously not stopped its use these days. Stanozolol basically replicates naturally occurring testosterone and promotes muscle growth and blood cell count.

When Palmeiro was busted for stanozolol, he claimed he unknowingly took it. However, it was reported way back then that the drug is not used in dietary/workout supplements.

Santana went with the same excuse Friday, in 2015 when teams and players are well-versed in what they can and cannot take into their bodies. And if there are ever any questions about something, they are advised to not use it or get a quick answer by calling team trainers, even during the offseason.

Santana said in a statement, via NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra:

I would never put baseball, my family, or my country in a position where its integrity is jeopardized. I preach hard work, and don’t believe in short cuts. I am very disappointed that I tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body. I would never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance. What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance. That’s just not me, never has been and never will.

These days, that kind of after-the-fact statement is seen as a lame and glaringly weak attempt to skirt responsibility. It is a player’s job to know what he is taking, and there is enough information available a couple of thumb clicks away that not knowing isn’t good enough.

Santana was coming off of a mediocre season with the Atlanta Braves but still landed a four-year, $55 million deal from the Twins. He was expected to be one of their rotation pillars, but the PED bug showed up to eat about half his season.

The good news about all this is that MLB is still catching its cheats, although at what rate or percentage we will never know for sure. What is bad is that the game has not had a PED suspension resulting from a positive test since 2012, when seven players tested positive for banned substances—Biogenesis suspensions did not result from positive tests—but now, before the 2015 season has even started, there are three in the books.

Opening Day and all its pageantry cannot come soon enough.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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