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Don’t slam baseball over drugs: an MLB investigation is what led to all of this

Jan 29, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT


As has been the case with every single positive PED test involving a notable player over the past several years, I have no doubt that in the coming days we’ll see some variation of the following from a baseball writer:

Baseball wants you to think its drug problems are gone, but they’re not. With this latest story we now know that it’s as if it were 1998 all over again. Everyone is cheating and juicing and if you think that what you’re seeing on the field is genuine, think again.  Don’t let Bud Selig and Michael Weiner tell you that they have faith in the drug testing program. It’s all p.r. and it’s all bunk. We’re still in the Steroid Era.

I embellish, but only a little. We’ve all seen that sort of thing before and I assure you we’ll see it again.

But before you buy into that, go read Michael S. Schmidt’s report of this Miami business in the New York Times.  In addition to the things we already know, Schmidt reports that the reason this all came to light in the first place was because of an MLB investigation into an employee of Melky Cabrera‘s agents in the wake of his positive test last year.

The upshot: MLB caught a cheating player with testing. Its investigations arm got involved and sniffed out the baloney in his story.  They dug deeper and made connections to past information they had on PED use but which was unactionable at the time. They brought in law enforcement to assist in the investigation.  The heat from that investigation led to this information coming out, and now they’re pledging to investigate further, with possible discipline to follow.

Some people may look at all of this as evidence of some epidemic and Major League Baseball being asleep at the switch.  I look at it as a pretty damn proactive and robust testing and investigative program doing the job it was set up to do.  Maybe that doesn’t make baseball 100% clean, but nothing in society is.  Heck, not even all sports is.  When was the last time the NFL, NBA or NHL was seen as being on top of things with respect to performance enhancing drugs as Major League Baseball is?  The most famous player in the Super Bowl just got linked to a banned PED today. We’ll hear little of this compared to the A-Rod business over the next week, I assure you.

Yet I expect people will still take their shots at MLB over all of this.  They’re so used to doing it, it’s hard to stop.


  1. paint771 - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Good post. Agreed 100%. I just posted this in another thread:

    MLB will, probably forever, be in a no-win situation in regards to PEDs. If you find too many players using PEDs, the problem is epidemic and MLB needs to do more. If you find too few players using PEDs you are turning a blind eye and need to do more. And if you find just some, you just get a rolling series of “PEDs in baseball!” “scandals” wherein everyone is reminded that professional athletes use PEDs omg.

    Can anybody, particularly folks really bothered by PEDs – and I mean this seriously – indicate to me a scenario in which they’d deem MLB to be doing exactly enough?

    Me, I’m done being worked up over PEDs. I really just don’t care. But, for what it’s worth, I am, in fact, one of those that think MLB is basically dealing with it on the “just right” level, and hope they continue as-is (and hold their heads up high to boot). It’s just unfortunate that taking it seriously, as MLB does, means that you draw more attention to it and just increase the perception that your sport is tainted (whereas other sports that take it much less seriously have to hear about it a lot less because of it).

  2. samgod13 - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    I didn’t know Piazza was a baseball writer.

  3. mgflolox - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    I thought Colin Kaepernick was the most famous player in this year’s Super Bowl.

  4. unclemosesgreen - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Making fun of MLB’s drug testing protocols may be superannuated, but it’s still fun. Take the curious case of Ryan Braun for instance.

    They really do have the best drug testing program in American pro sports though, CC. Your point is well taken.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      You mean the curious case of ESPN forgoing any journalistic integrity by announcing someone got caught in a web of lies before all proper protocols were taken in order to make sure that the results were indeed as they were initially reported?

      Drug testing is a joke. From Lance Armstrong to Schedules I, II, and III.

      If it weren’t for kids all propped up on anabolics killing themselves none of this would be happening.

  5. dcfan4life - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    To say the Steroid Era is still alive is just plain dumb. Clearly its over. During the era there was no testing, no consequences aside from health, and it was obvious people were juicing. Now, you get caught using a drug, your punished badly, and in some cases, Rafael Palmeiro, your career ends prematurely. Home runs are down, with the most last year being 44. Just because the era is over doesnt mean people wont get caught using steroids. They all think they wont be caught, until they are.

  6. paperlions - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    The NFL has real problems. PEDs (especially crap that has no measurable effect like HGH or IGF-1) in football or baseball aren’t a real problem. The quick decline in the quality of life associated with brain injuries is a real problem. The fact that the NFL willfully ignored this problem for decades is a problem. For many years, the NFL’s “experts” were the only specialists in the world that claimed more research was required to link repeated concussions to long-term brain health. The NFL has real problems. These things that people are getting their panties in a bunch is just moral outrage by the bored.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:43 PM

      The fact that the NFL willfully ignored this problem for decades is a problem.

      Don’t forget that many of the same NFL “Analysts” are the ones perpetuating the “tough guy” act that almost forces these guys to go out and play injured. FFS, Merrill Hoge, who lost his career due to multiple concussions until a doctor said the next one would probably kill him, thinks players need to “man up” and “get out there and play”.

      • paperlions - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:46 PM

        Yep, that aspect is a football culture problem, which starts long before players hit the NFL, or even the NCAA. The fact that the NFL tried to cover up and ignore mountains of information about the long-term damage repeated concussions can do is on the league though….it is essentially their version of the tobacco industry and cancer or the power industry (coal, oil, etc.) and climate change.

    • badintent - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      What if some PED caused brain trama . more brain trama? Faster brain trama?What if ……………………. it’s all connected and The NFL found out but didn’t want us to know ???conspiracy ????

  7. flavas - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    What a company man!
    How much supplementary income do you get from MLB for your PR efforts, Craig?

  8. noozehound - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Jesus, do you realize how much of a blind apologist you’re becoming? It’s getting sickening.

  9. randygnyc - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    Paint77- zero tolerance would convince me baseball wants to be clean. Lifetime ban on the first failure, with mandatory, random weekly testing cleans up the game overnight.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      The game will never be clean because people will still look to cheat. Look at Track and Field, where a person’s peak is essentially one olympic cycle (4 years). Players are still getting busted all the time.

      Now it’s possible if the CBA were amended to void contracts for positive tests, with restitution made, could be enough of a deterrent. But the MLBPA would be idiots for agreeing to something like that.

    • paint771 - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Hey at least that’s an answer. Appreciate it.

      Two things though:

      1. You must have a lot more confidence in the fool-proofness of drug testing than I do. Weekly testing of every MLB player, statistically, guarantees that there will be false positives. Just for the broad stroke, 54 weeks x 30 clubs of 40 man rosters (this is not counting minor leagues), a test with a 99% certainty rate would net you 480 false positives a year. Hell let’s call it 99.9% and 48 a year. That’s a helluva lot of people to have their live’s work decimated purely because of chemical margin of error. To put that another way, for just the 40 man rosters of major league teams, you’ll have one player banned for life every week of the year save six – and again, that’s just straight-up false positives.

      2. And that’s even assuming you know what you’re testing for. What’s the baseline for testosterone? What about a guy who tests positive for a substance that would be okay if he had a prescription (like Adderral, say?), but he is without one? Deer antler powder? Marijuana? What about testosterone cream that doesn’t raise your longitudinal levels over your monitored baselines? Etc. etc.

      There isn’t some cartoon syringe labeled “steroids” that you either take or don’t take. It’s a constantly changing line, and every ballplayer is going to have constantly different levels. The process of identifying what is banned and what is not is necessarily entirely arbitrary and ever-evolving (seriously, go dive into what MLB drug testing actually entails – it’s an incredibly complicated process). And, incidentally, even the ballplayers that any reasonable person would call “clean” are ingesting a metric shit-ton of “performance enhancing drugs” on a daily basis – that’s true of any professional athlete. Go into even just your local GNC and start reading bottle ingredients, or talk to any athlete and ask them to list out what they ingest as part of their completely on-the-level training. The difference is just what PEDs they’re doing, and whether it raises certain hormonal levels to 1% over the line or 1% under.

      No, it’s too complicated an issue to be pat about in that way, though I get the impulse.

      • dowhatifeellike - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:08 PM

        1) this is why samples are run multiple times. Using your numbers and a backup sample to run for confirmation (standard practice), the 48 false positives will be rerun and 19 out of 20 times, every one will come back clean. Less than 3 false positives per year.

        2) Any endocrinologist will always know what to look for if they participate in continuing education. The issue is figuring out how to test for it. This is outside of MLB’s control so they have an obligation to work with what is available. If people only did things that worked pefectly, we’d still be figuring out the wheel.

  10. Old Gator - Jan 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Three weeks and change to pariahs and catchers….

    • historiophiliac - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:25 PM

      Only two more Mondays! You have to look at it positively.

  11. manchestermiracle - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    It isn’t so much being used to calling out MLB on PEDs as much as how long MLB was asleep at the switch and how players are still getting away with it, i.e., unclemosesgreen’s comment about Braun.

    It’s an arms race. While MLB struggles to catch up on something it ignored for years, the chemists are coming up with new ways to chemically alter PEDs in order to produce false negative tests. When tens of millions of dollars are at stake you will always find cheaters trying to game any system.

    The proposed solution of draconian measures (lifetime ban, voided contract, etc.) is over the top. One false positive and your career is toast. Half a season suspension without pay would be a good place to start, but testing would have to become virtually foolproof. Didn’t Braun skate away on a technicality?

    Paint771’s attitude is quickly becoming mine as well. I’m just out of outrage on this issue. In time it will solve itself: PEDs mess up your body. Kids will get this as they watch the steroid-era players having to deal with the aftermath of juicing, but there will likely always be young men willing to roll the dice for lifetime financial security even if the practice wrecks the rest of their lives.

    • Roger Moore - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      Didn’t Braun skate away on a technicality?

      Braun was acquitted because his samples were mishandled in a way that’s known to produce false positives. Letting the guy off because you can’t honestly know if he’s guilty or if you screwed up the test isn’t a technicality.

      • thebadguyswon - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        Braun cheated and got away with it. Go ahead and convince yourself he didn’t.

        “Off the charts” levels of testosterone were in the sample. They mishandled it or he would have had 50 games on the street. But he’s a golden boy, so people get offended when others state the obvious.

      • thebadguyswon - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:22 PM

        That said, I am a Braun fan. Love how he plays the game. But he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

  12. buffalomafia - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Who cares! Steroids & HGH are all over every gym in every country!

    Whether you are an athlete or not everybody wants a better body whether they look good or feel stronger!

    When Bonds & Big Mac were blasting balls out of the park fans were going crazy!

    Why does it seem only the guys with the best numbers are the ones in trouble? What about the other 200+ players mentioned in the steroid scandal?

    Goes to show you reporters steroids doesn’t help everybody!

    Since half of the sports reporters either never played a sport or are not in shape why don’t they experiment with either HGH or steroids & get back with us?

  13. ajcardsfan - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Didn’t read the post, so this is pretty off-topic, just saw the photo and it made me really miss Harry Morgan, RIP. I’ll always love Colonel Potter.

  14. BigBeachBall - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    Lets talk about ped use in baseball every day….. No really… I think we should do it because i like drugs… Can we also mix in some tits and fast cars because i like tits and things that go fast too…. Yea. Baseball is soooo young and hip.

    -14 year old boy

  15. blingslade - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    75%-85% of all players easy before they sign the big contract.

    Afterwards? prolly “only” 50%.

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