Opinion Pieces

The Problem with PEDs: Three MLB Players Who Received Suspensions for Drug Policy Violations This Season

Ah, the Major League Baseball season brings the smells of fresh cut grass, hot dogs, and positive steroid tests. So far this year, we’ve had three major violations of MLB’s drug policy that warranted 80 game suspensions.

Enter in Robinson Cano and Welington Castillo. (At least it’s not as bad as the start of the 2016 season when six players were suspended for positive tests—with multiple players testing positive for Turinabol—and one was dumb enough to get a lifetime suspension. Looking at you, Jenrry Mejia.)

Robinson Cano was the first player this season to get an 80 game suspension without pay straight from the desk of Rob Manfred, and I think everyone was shocked. I mean, Robbie Cano used to play for the New York Yankees—he’s definitely the poster boy for clean playing. (Cough, cough, A-Rod.) Cano is in the middle of a 10 year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, after turning down a 7 year, $175 million offer from the Yanks.

According to ESPN, he tested positive for the diuretic Furosemide, which violates MLB’s drug prevention and treatment program. He said he would accept the suspension, which begins immediately. He got the diuretic from a doctor in the Dominican Republic, and according to a quick Wikipedia search, Furosemide is used to treat fluid build-up due to heart failure, liver scarring, or kidney disease, and it can also treat high blood pressure.

So unless Robbie was experiencing fluid build-up due to heart failure, living scarring, or kidney disease, or wanted to decrease his high blood pressure, he was definitely using it as a masking agent. (I mean, rumor has it that Manny Ramirez took estrogen to mask his steroid use.) The use of Furosemide as a masking agent set off red flags with MLB, and thus the suspension.

It had more to do with his intent of taking it, rather than the fact that he was taking it:

Under MLB’s drug policy, a player is not automatically suspended for use of a diuretic unless MLB can prove he intended to use it as a masking agent. (ESPN)

He says he didn’t know what he was taking, or rather that it was on MLB’s banned list. I’m sorry, but if you’re making millions of dollars, how hard is it to check the list before putting something in your body? He didn’t appeal his suspension but is very very sorry that he took it. Cano and the M’s are saying he made a “mistake”.

TAKING A SUBSTANCE THAT COULD VERY LIKELY BE BANNED IN THE SPORT YOU PLAY PROFESSIONALLY FOR A LIVING ISN’T A MISTAKE.

On May 13, Cano was hit on the hand by a pitch, landed on the DL the next day, and had surgery by that Tuesday. He can serve his suspension while on the DL, which seems stupid to me. Apparently, it’s allowed because “baseball’s drug program doesn’t distinguish between a healthy and unhealthy player.” Which is dumb.

His suspension shouldn’t count while he’s on the DL. He’s already not playing, but not because of the positive test. His suspension should start the minute after he gets off the DL and is medically cleared to play.

Cano will lose almost half of his 2018 salary: $11.85 million of his yearly $24 million, and he won’t be eligible for the postseason and All-Star Game. Whoo whoo. Ironically, Dee Gordon, who was suspended for 80 games in 2016 for violating MLB’s PED policy, will most likely fill in at second base while Cano is out.

Meanwhile, Welington Castillo will also spend 80 games off the field this season after testing positive for erythropoietin (EPO), a performance-enhancing substance. Again, from my quick Wikipedia search, it’s a hormone secreted by the kidney and stimulates red blood cell production in bone marrow. I don’t have a science degree of any kind, but apparently, that’s not good when used as a performance-enhancing drug. BUT this was the drug of choice for Lance Armstrong, who was ultimately stripped of his biking titles and engagement from Sheryl Crow.

Castillo’s statement was very fill-in-the-blank, and we’ve heard it all before:

“I was recently notified by Major League Baseball that I had tested positive for EPO, a substance that is prohibited under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement,” said Castillo via statement. “The positive test resulted from an extremely poor decision that I, and I alone, made. I take full responsibility for my conduct. I have let many people down, including my family, my teammates, the White Sox organization and its fans, and from my heart, I apologize. Following my suspension, I look forward to rejoining my teammates and doing whatever I can to help the White Sox win.” (ESPN)

At least he’s taking responsibility for it? But STILL. AGAIN I ASK, WHY TAKE IT IF YOU KNOW IT’S ON THE LIST? I guess I’m assuming that the players actually check the list, but MLB has to make it readily available to players, if not teams’ medical staffs.

OR CHECK THE (NOT EXHAUSTIVE) LIST ON WIKIPEDIA.

Castillo will lose half of his $7.25 million salary while serving his suspension.

And then, just for fun, Fernando Abad—yes, he’s apparently still playing professional baseball—received an 80 game suspension for testing positive for Stanozolol. It’s a straight up anabolic steroid, so I have no sympathy for him.

I’m happy to see that the players aren’t taking the Ryan Braun approach and appealing drug tests, winning the appeal, involving FedEx, being linked to Biogenesis and Anthony Bosch, being suspended for the last 65 games of the 2013 season because of said link, and THEN releasing a statement saying he used PEDs to “nurse a nagging injury.”

I have to applaud MLB for adopting the stronger punishments in recent years—after I gave a speech in my freshman year of college for my public speaking class about MLB’s weak PED and steroid punishments in which I recommended a one season suspension for a first offense, two seasons for a second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third.

Under the current rules, players receive 80 games for the first offense, 162 (or a full season) for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third. So I guess Rob Manfred and I compromised in 2014. It’s better than the joke of suspensions MLB was handing down in the early 2000s: 10 days—not even games—for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense, 60 days for a third, and one year for a fourth.

Not even following the three strikes you’re out rule.

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