Tag: Performance Enhancing Drugs

Andrew McKirahan Suspended 80 Games for PEDs: Latest Details and Reaction

Atlanta Braves reliever Andrew McKirahan has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, the latest in what’s becoming a rash of pitchers testing positive for PEDs.  

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the news Monday, which Mark Bowman of MLB.com supported:

According to Kevin McAlpin of Braves Radio Network, the team recalled Ian Thomas on Tuesday to fill McKirahan’s roster spot.

David O’Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution continued with a synopsis of Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart discussing the situation:

McKirahan, 25, is the third pitcher suspended by MLB this month. New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia and Minnesota Twins starter Ervin Santana were both suspended for taking Stanozolol, a synthetic anabolic steroid. Rosenthal’s report did not include the reason for McKirahan‘s positive test.

The left-hander appeared in three games for Atlanta this season, compiling a 4.15 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in 4.1 innings. He was active for 0.2 innings in Sunday’s win over the Toronto Blue Jays, earning his first career hold.

The Braves acquired McKirahan off waivers from the Miami Marlins on April 1. Miami had previously selected him in the Rule 5 draft after he went unprotected by the Chicago Cubs. Under terms of the Rule 5 system, McKirahan must stay on Atlanta’s 25-man roster for the entire 2015 season or risk being reclaimed by Chicago.

It’s unclear how McKirahan’s suspension will affect his status with the team overall. 


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David Rollins Suspended 80 Games: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

Seattle Mariners relief pitcher David Rollins has been suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball for violating the league’s drug policy.  

MLB Communications confirmed the ban, which will cover essentially the entire first half of the 2015 regular season:

Buster Olney of ESPN provided some insight into the situation:

The Mariners selected Rollins away from the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 draft during the offseason. He was considered a contender to earn a spot in the team’s bullpen to open the season, likely filling the role of a lefty specialist.

He bolstered his case with a strong spring training. The left-hander had given up just one run in eight innings while allowing just five hits and no walks. He also struck out seven batters.

Bob Dutton of The News Tribune passed along comments from the reliever, who admitted his mistake and said he won’t appeal the suspension: “Just accepting it and trying to move forward from it. It’s been heavy on my heart. It hasn’t been easy for me the past couple of days. I’m just glad I’ve gotten an opportunity to show what I can be. I just made one bad decision. It’s costing me.”

Rollins also released a statement through the Players Association, per Evan Drellich of The Houston Chronicle:

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is quoted in The News Tribune report as saying the organization plans to keep him despite the setback.

“He’s our property during the 80-game suspension,” Seattle’s GM said. “He will be allowed to stay here in Arizona. He will be under our supervision, and he can pitch and continue to work with the extended team.”

Rollins can get placed on the restricted list until the suspension comes to an end, but then, the team will have to decide how to move forward.


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Biogenesis Founder Anthony Bosch Reportedly Will Surrender to DEA

Anthony Bosch, who founded the company at the center of MLB‘s Biogenesis scandal last year, is expected to surrender to the Drug Enforcement Administration on charges of conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids.

T.J. Quinn of ESPN broke the news:

He also reported several associates close to Biogenesis were being brought in for their role with the company. It’s alleged the group provided performance-enhancing substances to athletes ranging from professionals to high school students.

While Bosch was working with Major League Baseball, the possibility of being charged was discussed, per Quinn:

Bosch wasn’t the only person arrested Tuesday:

Quinn reports even more players could be involved:

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports later reported that there likely won’t be any new suspensions handed out by MLB:

More than a dozen MLB players ended up getting suspended for their connection to the Bosch clinic, including prominent hitters like Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz. All of them aside from Alex Rodriguez, who received a longer ban since the league considered him a repeat offender, have served their full punishment.

In February 2014, Greg Botelho and Quand Thomas of CNN reported the league had dropped its lawsuit against Biogenesis and its founder. That was the expected outcome after Bosch agreed to help with the investigation into players using PEDs.

Of more interest now might be his role in providing steroids to high school athletes.

Julie K. Brown and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald report Porter Fischer, an employee working for Bosch, provided information that suggested players as young as 16 were getting illegal treatment at the facility:

In July 2013, the Miami Herald published a report that Bosch had also been providing minors with steroid “concoctions.” Fischer, in an interview, claimed that 16- and 17-year-old high school players were getting injections at the Coral Gables clinic, a clear violation of the law.

The report also states Bosch and his associates are all expected to go through their first court appearance Tuesday afternoon. More information about how the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA plan to move forward should be known after the initial hearing.

It’s also noted that no athletes are named or charged, which means no professional leagues should be expecting any further scandal to come from the situation, at least currently.


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Johnny Damon Hits the Nail on the Head with PED Talk

After an 18-year career in the majors, Johnny Damon feels he was forced to leave the game of baseball before he was ready to hang up the spikes. The reason for that, according to Damon, is because he never used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

In an interview with 810 CBS Sports, the 40-year-old was asked to consider his place in baseball history. In addition to the stats and the accolades, Damon said the following should be considered:

I played it clean. That’s what everybody’s going to be looking at. I think I’m one of the only players to come out and say, “I guarantee you there is nothing I’ve done that enhanced my baseball career.”

Over the course of those 18 years, Damon played with a handful of notable players tied to PED use. To name a few: Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Andy Pettitte, David Ortiz, Roger Clemens, Magglio Ordonez and Gary Sheffield. 

He makes an interesting case for his enshrinement amongst baseball’s greats. With 2,769 hits, a .284 average, 1,139 RBI and two World Series championships (2004 and 2009), Damon certainly had an above-average career with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians. With no evidence or speculation contradicting his claimed cleanliness, he might just have a case for Cooperstown. 

However, that debate is for another day. The rest of the interview was far more notable and worth talking about, as Damon looked at more than his own career, focusing on some of the problems with Major League Baseball as the game tries to move past the PED era:

The game today, it’s a slap on the wrist for people, and it sends a bad message to kids, the families. You can’t fault someone who has a chance to make $20 million, $50 million, $100 million for going against the system to get to where they are. You can’t fault them.

There are certain guys who cheated the system and they’re still being patted on the back. That’s not great for our kids, especially my son. He’s playing high school baseball now and these kids are very influenced, and if you tell a kid, “You do something and you’re going to have a chance to make $100 million,” people are going to sign up.

I don’t want my son or anybody else’s kid to get involved with it. But it seems like Major League Baseball is allowing it.

Now, who might Damon be talking about? Who fits that mold of getting a slap on the wrist for cheating the system? A few players come to mind, including Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera.

After being suspended 50 games in 2013 as part of the Biogenesis scandal, Peralta signed a lavish four-year, $53 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals this past winter. Cruz, who was also suspended as a part of the scandal, signed a more modest but still generous one-year, $8 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. And after being suspended 50 games as a member of the 2012 San Francisco Giants, Cabrera agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

These players cheated the game, yet following their suspensions, they were welcomed back with open arms and millions of dollars. Damon is right—that does send a bad, bad message, especially to youth ballplayers.

Two of those guys came back to make an average annual salary of $8 million, while the other, Peralta, got over $13 million a year. In what other profession can you break the rules and hurt your organization, yet somehow get such a grand reward? 

Any young ballplayer, whether he be in high school, college, the minors or the 25th man on the big league roster, is looking at these cases and thinking, “Hey, this (PEDs) is worth it. Even if I get in trouble, I’m going to get paid. I could make millions.”

This, as Damon said, is something Major League Baseball needs to look at. The league needs to strengthen its substance-abuse policy, because as much as it says it cares about cleaning up the game, the way Damon and so many others see it, it’s still beneficial for players to cheat. The consequences have yet to outweigh the rewards.

That means going beyond suspensions and public shaming and hitting players where it hurts, their pockets. One way to do this that frequently comes up is to limit suspended players to a certain salary, say the league minimum, come their next free-agent contract. It’s a great idea, one that would truly make players pay for their actions and would tell other players to stay clear of PEDs.

The problem with this is that the player’s union would never agree to it, because, well, there are still cheaters out there. Those cheaters want to get paid if they get caught, just like Peralta, Cruz and Cabrera did.

The best option available, as far as cleaning up the game goes, is for the league, its teams and its players (the clean ones) to take a moral stand against PED use. Back in November the Arizona Diamondbacks made headlines for their tendency to avoid players with ties to PEDs.

Arizona’s Brad Ziegler made his personal thoughts known as well following the Peralta signing:

This is what Major League Baseball needs. More players, active ones, have to come out and shame those who disparage the game of baseball. More teams have to refuse to bring these guys aboard. The suspensions do no good if teams are still lining up to pay the cheaters.

Damon is on to something here. Baseball is sending mixed messages about the pitfalls of PED use. Getting caught is not teaching players the lesson the league wants them to learn. It’s time the MLB as a whole got on the same page and started sending the right message.

There can be no reward for cheating the game.


All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference.

Question or comments? Feel free to follow me on Twitter @GPhillips2727 to talk the Yankees and Major League Baseball.

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Despite Lawsuit Dismissal, A-Rod’s Irreparable Damage Already Done

Alex Rodriguez has given up on his pursuit to play Major League Baseball in 2014. For a player who has made a career out of negative public relations, the sport gave up on him a long time ago.

After filing a lawsuit against his own union, watching his fellow union members attempt to kick him out and alienating every ally left in the sport, Rodriguez has waved the white towel in his fight against a 2014 suspension. 

Yes, the news, reported by Jim Baumbach of Newsday and confirmed by the MLBPA, is a major story as the sport ascends on spring-training destinations. 

Unfortunately for a player so enamored with the history of baseball, there’s no way for Rodriguez to rewrite his own history or reverse the damage that his career-long infatuation with success and on-field dominance created. 

For the last 20 years, Rodriguez has made a mess of himself, his respective teams and Major League Baseball. To be honest, some of the vitriol against him is blatantly unfair. One of the greatest players in the history of baseball is a product of his environment. From steroids to money to personality, Rodriguez grew up in a game that set him up for success, but also failure.

The news came as a surprise, leaving those around the game wondering why Rodriguez would give up in his pursuit to play this season. Without a lawsuit against MLB and MLBPA, the full-season ban for 2014 can’t be lifted. Baseball fans won’t see Rodriguez again until 2015, at the earliest.

That was assured when one of Rodriguez’s lawyers, Joe Tacopina, confirmed that his client won’t be attending New York Yankees spring training, with Ken Davidoff of the New York Post sharing the revelation. 

If Rodriguez and his legal team think that a year away from the game will lessen the anger toward the former three-time AL MVP, they could be right. Fans will find a new villain or another scandal to latch onto, and the media will cover it with the same vigor that overtook the Rodriguez story.

Yet, a year away or waving the white flag can only alter the present. The past is in the record books.

When Rodriguez resurfaces in 2015, the MLBPA will be required to back its member. The lawsuit, despite only lasting for a few weeks before this dismissal, won’t be allowed to be a detriment or impact Rodriguez’s rights within the CBA. If the Yankees release Rodriguez before the end of 2017, expect the union to make sure that its member receives every penny he’s owed.

In a statement issued by Major League Baseball, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the league acknowledged Rodriguez’s path back to the field of play when his suspension is over.

“We believe that Mr. Rodriguez’s actions show his desire to return the focus to the play of our great game on the field and to all of the positive attributes and actions of his fellow Major League Players,” MLB said.

But don’t expect the union to ever go above and beyond for Rodriguez again.

If the Yankees write Rodriguez a $61 million check to walk away after the 2014 season, he’ll be free to sign with any team in baseball. With the Yankees paying his salary, he could be had for the league-minimum rate. Even after a year off, half the teams in baseball should be willing—from a strictly baseball perspective—to bring him into camp next spring.

Yet that scenario is highly unlikely.

Instead, there’s a chance that he receives the Barry Bonds treatment. In other words, a form of collusion between owners in which it’s agreed that no one signs the player. When a situation like this arises, the MLBPA should fight for its member. 

If it happens to A-Rod, don’t expect much of a fight to take place.

As the waning days of Rodriguez’s baseball career slowly drip away, it’s amazing to reminisce about the career and legacy that he seemed destined to have. From the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to phenom in Seattle to dominance at such a young age, predicting Rodriguez to be remembered as the best and most famous baseball player in the modern era wouldn’t have been crazy. 

Now? His career and legacy look worse by the hour.

Despite moving on from a PED admission in 2009, Rodriguez wasn’t close to beloved. Yet he was playing out his career on the field, climbing up the record books and in position to be rememberedPEDs or not—as one of the best ever. 

That may still be the case, but the roller coaster ride that is A-Rod’s career has been, well, bumpy since January of 2013.   

Over the last calender year, per the New York Post, Rodriguez has been implicated in the Biogenesis scandal, feuded with his own organization over an injury comeback, been hit with a 212-game suspension, denied using any performance-enhancing drugs during the period in question, called out Bud Selig, granted arbitration, had his suspension reduced to 162 games and sued both the MLBPA and MLB.

When Rodriguez’s lawyers dismissed the latest lawsuit in a year full of embarrassment, they did nothing but spare litigators time, effort and money. 

The irreparable damage was already done.

Agree? Disagree?

Comment, follow me on Twitter or “like” my Facebook page to talk about all things baseball. 


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Why the Chicago Cubs Should Reconcile with Sammy Sosa

The year was 1998.

Bill Clinton had just announced that the United States was experiencing their first budget surplus since 1969. “Armageddon” and “Saving Private Ryan” were topping the box office and setting records of their own.

At the same time that the American economy was experiencing a new realm of success, the economy of the American pastime was on the same pace thanks to the thrilling season-long home run derby between Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.

Like the economy and Bill Clinton, both baseball stars would come crashing down from their high. All three individuals would later be called to testify in the United States Congress, with all three individuals narrowly avoiding any severe punishment.

Clinton was able to miraculously save his marriage and continue his political career.

McGwire would soon retire from playing baseball in 2001 but would return to St. Louis as their hitting coach in 2010. Shortly after being hired, McGwire admitted and apologized for his steroid use. He made a mistake, admitted it, and moved on. McGwire is currently the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sosa’s case is not so positive. After a harsh breakup between the Cubs and Sosa that ended in a trade that sent Sosa to Baltimore, the slugger’s interaction with the organization has been like that of an unfaithful ex-boyfriend. After a disappointing 2004 season, Sosa stormed out of the clubhouse during the last game of the season and drove off. He had alienated his team, his fan base and the entire Cubs family. He went from the head of the table to that one relative that no one liked to talk about.

At one time, the relationship was a honeymoon. 1998 was a year-long Academy Award winner for best picture for both the Cubs and baseball as a whole. The game had been struggling since the lockout in 1994 that saw the cancellation of the World Series for the first time ever. Baseball survived both World Wars, the Great Depression and the sixties, but it couldn’t overcome the greed of owners and players in ’94.

Enter the home run race.

Sosa and McGwire quickly became the poster children for America’s pastime, capturing the nation’s attention and saving a game that only a few years ago was dead to many fans. The two giant teddy bears were impossible to dislike. Biceps bulging, smiles shimmering and records shattering, the two stars were battling for a record like siblings fighting over the last piece of chicken.

It was the perfect fuel for the game. The Cubs and Cardinals rivalry had been established long ago. Sosa and McGwire were just pouring the lighter fluid on the nearly extinguished fire.

There’s no debating the impact that the home run race had on baseball. Sosa led the Cubs to a Wild Card berth, the team’s first playoff appearance since 1989. MLB attendance totaled over 70 million, up nearly seven million from the previous year. It was only the second time in history that the attendance was over 70 million.

The season ended with 136 home runs between the two sluggers. McGwire totaled 70 and Sosa smacked 66. Roger Maris’s record of 61 home runs was broken by not only one but two people. Fittingly, the record was broken by McGwire as Sosa watched from right field in St. Louis. The two embraced as the world watched on. It was like Hollywood had written it up.

However, the glory didn’t last long for Sosa. Five years later in 2003 he would be busted for using a corked bat, raising the question of just how many of his home runs were legitimate. That same year, he would test positive for steroids as revealed in 2009. The Cubs suffered one of the most humiliating crashes in postseason history and would fail to make the playoffs in 2004, prompting the breakup between the Cubs and Sosa.

Though he may not have been at Wrigley Field, Sosa’s mark hasn’t been erased. Flying high atop Wrigley’s roof is a flag bearing the number “66,” a tribute to Sosa’s historical season.

There’s no debating that Sosa took baseball and the Cubs to uncharted territory. For the second year in a row, Sosa is on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. Though Sosa’s votes are few and far between, a formal apology and acceptance of his responsibility for the fallout that happened from 2003-04 would be a great place to start. McGwire did it. A-Rod did it (once already). Now it’s Sosa’s turn.

The records will always have an asterisk next to them, but there will always be ambiguity in terms of who used, who didn’t use and who was a fraud.

Sosa has already gone on record to say that he would like to be welcomed back to Wrigley. If he accepts responsibility, there is no reason that he shouldn’t be. His contributions to the team and the game are indisputable. He may not get the statue that he mentioned, but he can at least earn the respect of the team and fans in some ways.

After recent years of futility, Cubs fans have had little to celebrate. Two seasons of more than 95 losses has dampened the spirits of Cubs fans itching for a World Series and a chance to be five outs away from the World Series like they were in 2003 with Sosa. It may be another few years until the team is a contender, so now may be a good time for the team to reconcile with Sosa.

The Cubs have nothing to apologize for. For years, the team and its fan base worshipped Sosa only for him to storm out like a five year old being denied candy. But once Sosa offers an apology and comes clean, the Cubs would be making a great move by thanking him for the great years that he brought to Cubs fans and the organization.

While we’re at it, can anyone find Steve Bartman? That’s someone that the Cubs do owe an apology to.

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Alex Rodriguez’s Appeal Hearing Will Reportedly Begin on Sept. 30

The process to decide New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez‘s fate reportedly begins on Sept. 30. 

The news came courtesy of Newsday‘s Steven Marcus:

Marcus added a few more details:

Following an investigation into the Biogenesis of America clinic, which had reportedly supplied MLB players with illegal performance-enhancing drugs, the league suspended 13 players, including Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was given the harshest penalty, a 211-game suspension that would keep him away from the game through the end of the 2014 season.

He was the only one to file an appeal. 

It was originally suspected that arbitrator Fredric Horowitz wouldn’t make a ruling until November or December, thus allowing Rodriguez to play through the rest of the season and potentially in the postseason. 

With the arbitration process now scheduled to begin on the day after the last game of the regular season, things may change significantly, depending on how long the process takes.

The polarizing 38-year-old has given the Yankees far more stability at third base than they’ve had all season, hitting .275/.368/.451 with four home runs, 10 RBI and 14 runs scored in 28 games since returning from a hip injury. 

New York currently trails Tampa Bay by just 2.5 games for the second wild-card spot, and if the Yankees are able to crack the postseason, having Rodriguez at the hot corner will be crucial. 

For now, we will play the waiting game while Rodriguez’s future hangs in the balance. 

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A Sports Fan’s PED Dilemma: How Great Do We Want Athletes to Be?

When I heard the news that Major League Baseball had finally suspended Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun for using performance-enhancing drugs, forcing him to sit for the remainder of the 2013 season, my first reaction was, “Huh, that really sucks for the Brewers, I guess.”

While some may feel a sense of accomplishment or an overwhelming feeling of karma catching up to a guy who cheated and defiantly lied about it time and again, I felt, “Huh.” Apathy. 

My tenor has changed on this over the years. I used to be one of the people who would pound on a table when player needed to be exposed for cheating. “The truth has to come out, dammit.”

I’ve long since resigned myself to the belief that players are always going to look for an edge, and it may be better for everyone if we all just sit back and let them find it.


The Braun Suspension

In a way, suspending Braun isn’t all that bad for the Brewers, as Milwaukee is way out of the hunt for the playoffs. It sucks for Braun, sure, as his reputation has been eternally sullied in the eyes of those who care about a clean game. If there is a winner in this whole mess, one might suppose it’s MLB itself, whose crusade to clean up the sport has now accomplished a significant milestone, with its own DEA-style photo opportunity to frame in the office break room.

What’s the baseball equivalent of a table full of drugs, guns and cash? Braun’s urine in a cup next to an open FedEx box, Alex Rodriguez‘s bat and a notebook full of Tony Bosch’s hand-written records?

The more I read into Braun’s suspension and the comments from MLB and the MLB Players Association, the more I was convinced that this drug crusade is, in a very real way, doing more harm to the sport than good.


Drugs are Bad

Before we delve too deep into the hypocrisy of performance-enhancing drug enforcement in major sports, it’s important to note that these drugs can be bad for your health and are illegal. The average youth player or even high school star at home shouldn’t read this and think, “Hey, I’m going to do drugs and make it to the majors.”

You probably won’t. (If my 10-year old nephew who is really good at baseball is reading this, I did not say you could do drugs.)

This is more about the tail-chasing nature of drugs in professional sports, and what it takes for a professional athlete to become the best. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best (as the old saying goes), and sometimes that means doing things to your body that could eventually kill you.

In a way, though, this is about everything. We are taught the mantra from a very young age that drugs are bad. “Say no to drugs”… unless the drugs are prescribed by a doctor, sanctioned by a national medical board and provided by a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical brand through an equally rich insurance company. Then, by all means, say “yes” to drugs.

Do you have problems focusing at work? Your doctor may prescribe Adderall. Major League Baseball players take Adderall with an MLB therapeutic-use exemption every day, while others have been suspended for taking the exact same pills, just without a prescription from a doctor.

Drugs are bad, unless you can find a doctor who says those same drugs are good.

Steroids are particularly bad, unless you have an injury that warrants a shot of cortisone to get back on the field. Cortisone, last I checked, is a steroid and yet doctors and scientists have classified cortisone differently from anabolic steroids, so in sports circles, the product is seen as a miracle drug. From the Mayo Clinic:

Cortisone shots usually include a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. In many cases, cortisone shots can be administered in your doctor’s office. However, the number of cortisone shots you can receive in one year may be limited because of potential side effects from the medication.

Nobody would ever call Derek Jeter a cheater, but he reportedly got shot up with cortisone during the playoffs before his ankle snapped last year. So did dozens of other players who are revered for trying to play hurt.

Steroids are bad, except the ones that are good.

Barry Bonds used to rub an ointment on his knees to help recover from the wear and tear of the long season as he got older. Bonds, who was a noted jerk, is viewed as the biggest cheater in the history of the game in some people’s eyes.

Would people have made such an issue with Bonds’ affiliation with BALCO if he was a nicer guy? Would reporters have been more willing to look the other way if it was Ken Griffey Jr.?

And do we, as a public, confuse anger over cheating with anger over lying? Dozens of players have cheated, but we always seem the most upset with those who lie to cover it up.

Which is more upsetting, the drugs or the lies?


Cortisone and HGH

Andy Pettitte, who is still pitching at age 41, said this week he would still support Rodriguez if he gets suspended by MLB. Pettitte, you might recall, was connected to Roger Clemens in the 2007 PED scandal, and admittied to using HGH in 2002 when he was injured. Remember, HGH was not banned by baseball until 2005.

At the time of his admission, Pettitte delved into a deep sea of justifications and moralizations, via ESPN.com

“In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow,” Pettitte said in the statement released to the Associated Press by agent Randy Hendricks.

“I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone…I wasn’t looking for an edge. I was looking to heal.”

So…wait…Pettitte wasn’t trying to cheat, he was just trying to get back on the field, which is ostensibly no different than a cortisone shot. If some anabolic steroids and HGH help your body recover so you can get back on the field faster, and a cortisone shot is a steroid that masks pain so you can get back on the field faster, why are players lauded for taking one type of steroid but suspended for taking another?

Drugs are bad, unless MLB says they are good.


Bigger than Baseball

Drugs are bad, unless any governing body in sports say they are good.

While the performance-enhancing drug scandal has repeatedly rocked baseball, most other professional American sports remain unscathed. The NFL and NFLPA are working on a program to include HGH testing this season. Why? There has been no clamoring for a clean game in the NFL, to judge from daily reading of the media.

Perhaps football fans don’t care if the players are on PEDs as long as whatever the players are taking helps their team win. (Note: Some baseball fans feel the same way, as any talk-show host could tell you, but it’s still an enormous issue in that sport.)

The NFL is more popular than it has ever been in history, so why would the league want to mess with that popularity by instituting a drug policy that could lead to more and longer suspensions for key players? This is a noble idea in theory, but it won’t be received with as much support when more Pro Bowl-caliber players start missing more time.


The War on Drugs in Sports

Somewhere within the “drugs are bad, let’s ban those who use them” world of sports (and media), there’s a sense of celebration whenever new drug policies are implemented.

To some, having a clean game is more important than having a good game.

Judging by public sentiment, though, more people want a good game by any means necessary. Are there really that many people who care about a clean game?

Is cleaning up the game a media crusade—the investigative arm of sports media sees a “clean game” as its white whale—or is it a public relations spin by the leagues to reach out to parents and kids who will grow up to be the next generation of great players?

Is that really what it is? Are we concerned about the message we’re sending to the kids?

Hey, little Billy, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs one year and IT WAS AWESOME and none of us will ever forget it, but it turns out that a few years later people who didn’t like him because he was a jerk went to great lengths to out him as a cheater even though dozens and maybe hundreds of other players in his game were also cheating and the cheating he did wasn’t even a suspendable offense at the time, so now a group of self-righteous fans and media want to ignore those 73 home runs which, at the time, WERE AWESOME, to go back to an era when 61 home runs was the record. Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves. 

Whitewashing the history books is a slippery slope. It is incredibly precarious to pretend like an event didn’t take place because admitting it happened makes us feel bad. Punishing the cheaters is one thing. Revising history is entirely another.

Why do we allow the hand-wringing to attempt to force sports to “clean up their act” when the game is more exciting when the players are enhancing their performance by artificial means?


Historical Perspective

This never-ending crusade to level the playing field in baseball is laughable. The game has never, in its history, been level.

Many of the game’s greats played in an era where black players were not allowed in the major leagues or Latin American players had yet to come to the U.S. to play the game professionally. Some played in an era where amphetamines and uppers—call them “greenies” if you like—were snacked on like Skittles in the clubhouse. 

Hank Aaron said in 2009 that he thinks anyone who was suspected of taking PEDs should have an asterisk on their plaques if inducted into the Hall of Fame, and those proven to have taken drugs should be banned. Yet Aaron, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle have said they took amphetamines, according to T.J. Quinn of ESPN. Players like Mike Schmidt have also been open about how prevalent amphetamines were in previous decades of the game.

Should we go back and ban these all-time greats? Should they be kicked out of the Hall of Fame because the drug they took is illegal now?

No?…What does that say about a level playing field, then? 

Amphetamines were banned from MLB in 2006, which led players to find other ways to “up” their performance, increasing the use of drugs like Adderall. Should the statistics of players who used to pop “greenies” be taken out of the record books because it’s a banned substance now? 

If players in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s were allowed to take drugs—or at least not tested and punished for them—that players today can’t, how are we in any way able to judge history fairly?

Baseball has gone through a dead-ball era and a juiced-ball era and neither were, contextually, fair to the hitters or pitchers of each respective time period.

In this current and ongoing era of steroids, people have made the case that performance enhancers have given the hitters a clear advantage over the pitchers—look at all the home runs by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Bonds, for example—and yet, Roger Clemens is still the most prominent name other than Bonds to be associated with PEDs

(It’s worth noting that since 2005, there have been 32 different major league players suspended for PEDs—36 suspensions with four players dinged twice—and 15 of them have been pitchers.)


Rationalizing, Moralizing & Sanitizing

The latest moral argument you hear from reporters is that most of the players want the game clean, and that is why it’s so important to eradicate the game of performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, that line of thinking takes the leap some of us are unwilling to make—trusting the players who haven’t yet been caught.

Ryan Braun was adamant about his innocence for years, until he wasn’t. Mark McGwire fought for his good name for nearly a decade, until he sat down and admitted everything to Bob Costas in 2010.

We talked about BALCO briefly, but the ringleader behind that PED-pushing outfit, Victor Conte, said in 2011 the number of players still cheating is incredibly high, via the Herald Sun:

Seven years after BALCO‘s demise, Conte believes that over half of top athletes are still doping.

“I believe that before the BALCO affair, 80 per cent of athletes were using steroids, today that figure stands at about 65 per cent,” Conte said in the hard-hitting interview.

It may be hard to believe someone like Conte, but he would probably be more reliable at this point than an athlete with everything to lose. With that, it’s certainly fair to ask if most of the players really do want the game clean or are just saying that to avoid suspicion.


Hell on Wheels

Lance Armstrong is the biggest villain in all of sports because he systematically lied and cheated and destroyed people’s lives in an effort to avoid being caught. Armstrong is a monster, not for the cheating as much as for the lying.

Look at the rest of his sport. Armstrong was only taken down because nearly every successful rider of his generation got caught first and rolled over on him.

Is cycling better now than it was then? Fans of the sport seem happy that it’s “finally” clean and speak to the ratings being up this season over previous years. When you look at the numbers, however, it’s fuzzy math to make a failing point. The ratings for the 100th running of the Tour de France were up this year in America, thanks in part to NBC putting several legs of the race on its main network, as opposed to the ratings-poor NBC Sports Network on which the race has traditionally aired.

If you look at the Tour from a general interest perspective in America, it’s non-existent. The only time anyone might talk about cycling in a non-niche setting is if Armstrong says something obnoxious or another rider gets caught cheating.


The Race to the Top

This fight to clean up sports goes back an entire generation, mind you. Ben Johnson was stripped of the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, which, at the time, was the biggest scandal in the sport’s history. It didn’t hurt that Johnson’s disqualification meant Carl Lewis, an American, won the gold.

Ben Johnson’s time in 1988 was 9.79, shattering the world record of 9.83. In history, only seven men have run faster than 9.8 seconds, eight if you include Johnson. Of those other seven men, five have been linked to some form of doping, with two—American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell—testing positive just last week

Justin Gatlin, who has run two of the fastest times this season, including a victory over world-record holder Usain Bolt in June, was out of racing for four years after failing a test in 2006. Now, we celebrate him again, just like Gay and Powell and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake and many other runners who wow us with their blazing speed.

And yet, with all the scandal surrounding the world’s top sprinters, the 100-meter dash is still the marquee event of the World Championships and the Olympics. Why? Because people want to see records being broken by the best sprinters of all time and all the top runners were (conveniently) clean at the time of the last Olympics. 

People want to marvel at a man running 100 meters down a track in 9.58 seconds. People don’t care how it’s done, it’s just amazing that it was done. If it turns out that Bolt was cheating, it shouldn’t lessen the amazing feat. Hell, if it turns out he’s an alien, it shouldn’t matter. Speed is what matters.

Johnson is still remembered as a pariah in Olympic sports—a cautionary tale of sorts. Today, he would likely be Bolt’s biggest rival.


Drugs Are Bad (Unless…)

Racing to become the world’s fastest man. Mashing 73 home runs. It can seem that drugs are bad, unless they make things more awesome. Then, drugs make sports a whole lot more fun to watch.

The issue, moving forward, becomes how to level the playing field for all athletes. Wouldn’t making all performance-enhancing drugs legal level that field? If there were no punishments for any performance enhancer, the playing field would essentially be even for everyone. 

From The Guardian:

Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist, has even called for stimulants to be legalised – with steroids, human growth hormone and blood doping remaining banned – warning that athletics “was not even bleeding any more. We have to get out the paddles because we have to be resuscitated now.”

Why stop at stimulants, honestly? If HGH can help players recover faster, which gets the best players back on the field faster, doesn’t that help everyone in the game?

While catching the cheaters is indeed a noble effort, doing so still sullies the game and poisons fans against the product.

Even Jeter, who has been widely regarded as Mr. Clean in his long MLB career, realizes what these PED scandals have done to his sport, via Newsday:

“Watching the game, that’s all they’re talking about,” he said of the TV commentators. “I get it, I understand it, but it’s not good for the game.”


Plausible Deniability

People don’t really care how the sausage is made, just that it tastes delicious on (or in baseball terms, at) the plate.

Owners would be happy if their best—read: highest paid—players are on the field more. Fans would be happy to see the best possible lineup each and every night in an effort to win championships. The players, themselves, would be happy because their playing field would actually be level.

There are just two factors stopping this from happening.

First, some think—scientists and doctors, not crazy fans—that steroids and PEDs are bad for people, creating a short-term benefit with long-lasting physical ramifications.

Is that different than any other facet of sports?

Thousands of people around this country strap on a football helmet knowing the technology is not advanced enough to properly protect their brain and neck—knowing they could be paralyzed or killed at any moment—and most of the people playing and watching are fine with that.

Race car drivers strap themselves into rockets on wheels week after week, defying death while rubbing bumpers with cars going 200 miles per hour around a bend. We are fine with that too.

We could sit here and think up any number of asinine things in sports that could impact an athlete’s physical well-being that fans are totally fine with witnessing. Why, then, do some people care about the effects drugs might have on our athletes later in life?


Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Second, our comical allegiance to history has created this system where major athletics are swimming upstream in an effort to keep the game clean.

We want 62 home runs or a 10-second 100-meter dash to matter because those records allow us to compare generations through numbers in a wildly arbitrary manner.

Players are already bigger and stronger and faster today even without PEDs. Jesse Owens may be the greatest Olympian of all time, but he wouldn’t even qualify for today’s Olympic Games, clean or not.

Owens ran a (hand-timed) world record of 10.2 in 1936. In 2012, Japanese sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu ran the fastest youth time in history at 10.19, when he was 16 years old. Times have changed.

In sports like baseball, golf and even basketball, the technology behind the equipment used is so far beyond what players a generation ago were using that it’s ridiculous to suggest the playing field is in any way historically level.

If baseball wants the home run record to have sanctity, it should do what golf has done and make the course longer. Move back the fences to 450 or 500 feet. That will protect the old home run record far more than dinging a few players for PEDs ever could.

Sure, making the outfield bigger could lead to more base hits which would lead to more runs but…wait a minute…more runs means more excitement and that might lead to (gasp) more interest in the sport.


Marketing the Product of Excellence

Baseball’s ratings are dwindling. The World Series gets nearly half the ratings it used to—in 1995, the year after a strike, baseball averaged 29 million viewers for the World Series, while over the last three seasons, MLB is averaging just over 14 million viewers—and even marquee events like the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby are down in viewers.

Baseball won’t stop trying to clean up its game, and in the process, it may actually be turning people off to the product.

Some have rejected the game because of the cheaters, angry at the sport’s best players for taking advantage of the fans’ trust. Others have rejected the game because, simply, it’s not as exciting anymore.

Blame drugs one way or the other, but the numbers are what they are.

All the while, the NFL becomes more and more popular. That is, until it screws things up by starting to suspend the game’s best players too.


The Never-Ending Fight

The war on drugs in this country has created a culture in sports that trumpets cleanliness over competitiveness. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

There are, admittedly, athletes who stay away from PEDs not because using them will lead to getting caught, but because morally, ethically or scientifically they feel that filling their bodies with production-boosting chemicals is wrong. That is immensely commendable, truly.

Not all players have to use drugs. Even though some performance enhancers are legal, it doesn’t mean everyone has to do them. Some athletes might prefer water to Gatorade, too. There’s a sliding scale of what people put in their bodies to make them run at maximum efficiency.

Imagine how amazing sports would be if everyone was able to maximize the most from their bodies without having to hide in the shadows, look over their shoulders and lie.

The cheating will never stop, unless it isn’t cheating anymore.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Should A-Rod, Ryan Braun, Others Be Scared of MLB’s New Star Witness?

Introducing Porter Fischer, the latest key witness for Major League Baseball in the league’s ongoing investigation into the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal.

MLB‘s goal in this endeavor, as you know by now, is to gather enough evidence and testimony against players like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and almost two dozen others, in an attempt to suspend them for violating the sport’s drug policy.


Fischer is a former employee of Tony Bosch, who is the founder of the now-defunct Miami-area clinic that reportedly has supplied and distributed performance-enhancing substances to major leaguers.

Fischer was the man responsible for the notes and records that could potentially implicate players, according to the Miami New Times, the publication that broke open this entire scandal in the first place.

Monday brought news, first reported by TMZ, that Fischer has agreed to meet with the league to disclose what he knows as well as hand over any material evidence.

This report was then corroborated by the New York Daily News, which spoke with Fischer’s attorney, Raymond Rafool, who said:

“Of course my client is going to talk with MLB. My client wants to do the right thing.”

The Daily News report quoted Rafool as saying the meeting with the league will occur in Florida “extremely soon.”

So what does this all mean?

Getting Fischer to agree to testify has to be seen as yet another win for MLB in its dogged investigation against players it believes violated the drug policy.

This is similar to the events of early June, when the league persuaded Bosch to meet and share what he knows and what information he has.

Bosch, though, only agreed to talk to MLB after first trying—and failing—to get financial help from Rodriguez, according to a previous Daily News report.

Also per that report:

…baseball officials have agreed to a series of demands from Bosch that include dropping the lawsuit MLB filed against him earlier this year and paying his legal bills, indemnifying him for any civil liability that arises from his cooperation and providing him with personal security.

Whether Fischer is getting any such deal, though, is unclear at this point.

TMZ‘s initial report claimed that Fischer will, in fact, receive a “consulting fee” from MLB for cooperating. In the Daily News report, however, Rafool denied as much, saying “My client has not agreed to any consulting fee—I don’t know where (TMZ) is getting that information. That has not been discussed yet.”

Would it really be all that surprising, though, if Fischer is granted some form of immunity or financial restitution by MLB in exchange for his knowledge?

After all, MLB is doing everything in its power to stack the deck with as many cards as possible when it comes to going after A-Rod, Braun and others.

Presumably, the league will want Fischer to corroborate some of the information Bosch has already offered up. And if Fischer has anything new to add to the equation, well, that would be a bonus for MLB.

It’s an odd coincidence—or maybe not—that all this came out the same day that Rodriguez was finally granted permission by the New York Yankees to begin his minor league rehab assignment, which started Tuesday night.

While A-Rod makes his way back to the field, there’s still no telling just how long the investigation will take.

For that matter, there’s no telling whether Bosch and now Fischer really have the goods for the league to take action.

But if they do, Major League Baseball may be getting even closer to finding a way to keep Rodriguez, Braun and others off the field.

Maybe even for good.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Ryan Braun, A-Rod PED Case Shows MLB Will Fight by Any Means Necessary

This is a confusing time in baseball’s history. ESPN’s Outside the Lines is reporting that Major League Baseball is prepared to suspend roughly 20 players for their alleged association with Miami-based “wellness” guru Tony Bosch and his now-defunct business Biogenesis. Some of the players, including Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, could each face a 100-game suspension—some without ever failing a test.

This story gets confusing, certainly, but one thing is very clear: Major League Baseball is willing to cut a deal with a drug dealer who allegedly supplied its biggest stars with performance-enhancing substances in order to catch and suspend the very stars the drug dealer was in business to supply.

In other words, when the money ran dry and Tony Bosch had nowhere else to go, MLB was happy to lend a helping hand. Per ESPN.com:

In exchange for Bosch’s full cooperation, sources said, Major League Baseball will drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March; indemnify him for any liability arising from his cooperation; provide personal security for him and even put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that may bring charges against him. Sources said negotiations over the agreement, which lasted several weeks, stalled over the last point, as Bosch wanted the strongest assurances he could get that MLB would help mitigate any prosecution.

Forget for a second the issue of whether or not these 20 players cheated; I’ve long been under the assumption that nearly every player in baseball is on something, and some are just stupid enough to get caught. The ESPN report clearly indicates that MLB investigators are willing to work out a deal with Bosch in an effort to further their investigation.

Why should anyone, let alone MLB, trust Bosch in this situation? Moreover, how can anyone trust MLB if they are willing to trust Bosch now that he’s run out of options?

Bosch had no problem gaming the system and making his money off of baseball’s top stars, despite knowing full well he was helping them cheat the system. But now that the system has caught up with him and he’s reportedly broke and bouncing around from couch to couch of whatever family and friends he has left, MLB is willing to trust the guy?  

Again, per ESPN.com:

But sources said Bosch has been feeling pressure from both the MLB lawsuit, which claims tortious interference, and a potential criminal investigation, and that he sees full cooperation with MLB as one of his only refuges. Several attorneys have said they don’t think the lawsuit could survive a legal challenge, but Bosch likely would have to put up a costly fight in order to have the case dismissed. Several sources have told ESPN that Bosch is nearly broke, living alternately with family members and friends, and has tried unsuccessfully so far to revive his “wellness” business.

MLB found out about Biogenesis through media investigations, turned their own investigative team loose on the company and Bosch’s known associates for months and concocted a strong-arm lawsuit to pressure Bosch to cooperate, ostensibly forcing him out of business and squeezing him dry with legal fees until he had no options but to cooperate.

It’s pretty damn savvy, honestly. Baseball’s legal tactics are shrewd, if Bosch cooperates by telling the truth. If.

Honestly, why in the world would Bosch cooperate by telling the truth?

Is it not more likely that Bosch—who reportedly worked extensively in cash and had handwritten records with code names for high-profile clients—would tell investigators whatever the hell they want to hear so he can get himself out of trouble?

Baseball is suddenly willing to believe a drug dealer who peddled in lies, deceit and misdirection for years right under the league’s nose. Baseball is willing to file lawsuits with questionable legal bounds in an effort to scare this drug dealer into suddenly—after all this time and all these lies—telling the truth.

On top of that, MLB is willing to suspend some of the top stars in the sport—who very well may be taking performance-enhancing drugs previously supplied by Bosch or a hundred other “doctors” for all we know—50 or 100 games, based almost expressly on the records and testimony from a known and reputed drug dealer and liar.

Remember, there are no failed tests for some of these players, by the way. Forget about blood-testing, this process is akin to MLB throwing its players in the river and waiting to see if they sink, then lighting those who float on fire. Via ESPN’s report:

Corroborating evidence against some players could prove difficult to come by, however. Several sources told ESPN Bosch dealt only in cash, and usually used friends as couriers, sometimes never seeing some of the athletes he served.

In a recent interview with ESPN, his only one since the scandal broke, Bosch said he knew nothing about performance-enhancing drugs, and that media accounts of his PED distribution amounted to “character assassination.”

“I have been accused, tried and convicted in the media. And so I think [I] have been falsely accused throughout the media,” he told ESPN’s Pedro Gomez. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Less than three months ago, Bosch was just a wellness guru in Florida who may have been on some people’s radars as a decent hookup for PEDs.

After his world imploded, Bosch went on the record, on camera with ESPN, to say he knew nothing about PEDs, suggesting the media was bordering on libel. Now…now it wasn’t libel; it was true, the whole time.

Bosch lied to reporters and investigators when it suited him and there’s no reason to think he won’t lie and do the same again if it keeps him out of court, or out of jail.

If all the accusations are true, Tony Bosch is at best a liar, a scoundrel and a stain on the game of baseball. And he might also be the biggest whistle-blower in the history of the game. This is, indeed, a confusing time in baseball’s history, where the league is willing to get in bed with drug dealers—the very people who have screwed MLB the hardest—in a last-ditch effort to clean up the game.

This news is damning, but it’s important to remember that ESPN broke the story of an MLB investigation that could lead to the biggest ring of suspensions in league history well in advance of Bosch meeting with the league, with MLB knowing the whole thing could fall apart.

Bosch is expected to begin meeting with officials — and naming names — within a week. The announcement of suspensions could follow within two weeks.

Investigators have had records naming about 20 players for more than a month. But without a sworn statement from Bosch that the records are accurate and reflect illicit interactions between the players and the self-described biochemist, the documents were little more than a road map.

Within a week, Bosch will begin meeting with MLB—an agreement that may or may not be contingent upon the league facilitating a deal with local and federal law enforcement to guarantee Bosch some kind of immunity from incriminating himself straight to jail.

If Bosch corroborates the information MLB has obtained through its investigation, suspensions could follow by the middle of the month.

Why, then, did this story get out now? Why is the story broken before Bosch talked to the investigators and not after that meeting? Why are the names of some of the 20 players out in public, again, without Bosch’s confirming testimony?

It could be that ESPN’s investigative team of T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish is just that damn good. It could also be that MLB isn’t upset about the names getting out, nor is the league upset at the news of a meeting with Bosch taking place in the near future.

Now that the news is out, Bosch really has no other options. And the players on the list who are primed for a long and arduous legal battle to determine if they can be suspended because a “wellness” professional in Florida had their name written in a notebook have already lost the fight in the only court that really matters: the court of public opinion.

The current system won’t curtail the cheaters, and anything short of a lifetime ban won’t stop the players from continuing to try for whatever edge they can find. But sullying the names of Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and other high-profile players like, potentially, Robinson Cano, may not garner suspensions, but we won’t remember those players for anything other than (allegedly) using drugs, either.

Baseball will go to some dark places to protect the game from its own players. This is a really confusing time. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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