Major League Baseball needs to throw the book at the players associated with the Biogenesis Clinic and to take the offensive once again on the war on PEDs.
Initial reports are that MLB has the paper trail and testimony of disgraced PED pusher Anthony Bosch, giving them enough evidence to suspend perhaps more than 20 MLB players for violating the PED policy even without any of them testing positive. And the powers that be in MLB want punitive damages added to these suspensions due to the players lying about PED use and knowingly gaming the system.
The suspensions they can certainly do, although appeals from the Union will almost certainly be filed and maybe one or two of the accused will be able to dodge suspension. But the punitive part of the suspensions MLB supposedly would like to give probably won’t fly unless they are covered by the current CBA.
That’s not to say it’s not impossible that they could get it. A number of players accused including Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal have already tested positive once and could be given second offense penalties of 100-game suspensions. And they might even be able to apply that logic to convince an arbiter that Ryan Braun, who never claimed to be innocent but attacked the chain of evidence, deserves to be in that group too.
However it’s proof that MLB’s anti-drug policy isn’t working. That's the sad part. There is too much money involved in pro sports for any PED policy to ever really work. Too many players are greedy and even one big free agent contract can set a player and often his family for the rest of their lives. The lure is just too big, the testing too erratic and the penalties are still too small to dissuade players from trying to gain a chemical edge.
That’s why MLB needs to once again go on the offensive. They need to go back to the Major League Baseball Players Association and get them to reopen the CBA when it comes to performance enhancing drugs and then to up the ante significantly. Hopefully the clean parts of the rank and file in the union will force them not to fight the idea but to embrace it. And that rank and file is a growing force of players who want a clean game. If that doesn’t work MLB should try once again to get governmental pressure to try to force the issue.
Baseball needs to take the lesson it’s always denied it needed and adopt stronger penalties, either the World Anti Doping Association recommended penalty of a two-year ban for even a single positive with a lifetime ban to follow for a second offense or something more creative.
Finding a penalty severe enough is hard. After all you can look at Melky Cabrera who missed 50 games last season and still was able to make over $4 million and was able to then sign with the Blue Jays for $8 million per season.
Clearly 50 games and the salary he lost wasn’t enough to convince him. Two years might be. Something that affects the payday players enjoy will have to be the key to a workable penalty. One alternative might be a penalty which essentially immediately voids the dollar amount of any contract and reverts to league minimum, or a fraction thereof, and allows the team involved to extend the contract by the length of the contract that was signed (i.e. one year could be two, seven years could be 14). The player then could opt to leave the game or play at salary that still dwarfs that of the average fan but is punitive in terms of MLB salary.
Ideally the team wouldn’t profit by that either. The owners don’t need the boost and shouldn’t be rewarded for having PED cheats on the team, but the difference of the salary could be donated to a baseball-related charity.
Another option might be to make the player liable for damages, essentially the reclaiming of all or most of the money paid under a contract, if the player knowingly cheats through the use of PEDs and limiting where they could play and how much they could make for a certain amount of time.
This is when baseball fans everywhere should miss the days of Kenesaw Mountain Landis and the commissioner having the power to do what is best for the good of the game. And maybe it’s even time for Selig and MLB to go to the courts or to the union and to ask for that power back, at least when it comes to PEDs, lying under oath, gambling and possible fixing of games.
Yeah those last two haven’t happened recently that we know of, but baseball needs to have the ability to punish those egregious infractions without the instances dragging on for years in the court system.
Defense attorneys might argue that such a thing would be illegal and against current labor laws. Maybe, but baseball’s has been the exception in many court rulings before because of its unique place in American history. Certainly there is precedent there too.
I don’t expect baseball to get away with handing out 100-game suspensions to those who haven’t actually tested positive before, except maybe in the case of Braun. But certainly this should help convince the Union hardliners to soften their stance and join the rank and file in permitting more testing. It also clearly illustrates that the penalties for PED use need to increased dramatically.
This story isn’t over, not by a long shot. While MLB might well suspend the equivalent of a full team worth of players over this scandal, Biogenesis wasn’t the only game in town. There are plenty of sophisticated ways of avoiding PED detection. You only need to look at Lance Armstrong and how he and his teammates dodged what was considered to be the toughest drug testing of any sport. There are plenty of sleazy doctors willing to offer athletes a little help. And you can bet that there are some players to be named later who’ve already made their acquaintances.