Skip to content

Columnist calls for enhanced drug testing, chooses to discredit results of drug testing

Jul 12, 2013, 8:56 AM EDT

Bartolo Colon Getty Getty Images

Christine Brennan’s latest column for USA Today decries the fact that Bartolo Colon is in the All-Star Game. Why? Because he tested positive for PEDs last year:

Colon, and every other performance-enhancing drug user in baseball, should never be allowed to become an All-Star, or win any MLB award. No Cy Young, no MVP, no batting title, no nothing. It doesn’t matter that he was caught and suspended last year, not this year. (Although with the reported Biogenesis suspensions still looming, the year is young.) The bottom line is, you don’t suddenly become a non-cheater once your suspension is over.

It’s her right to believe that someone who cheats once must always be cheating, regardless of what the drug tests say. But it is curious coming from Brennan, because for at least six years now her PED hobby horse has been all about getting Major League Baseball to adopt the USADA’s drug testing regime. How one can call for enhanced testing while simultaneously dismissing the results of drug testing (and while failing to point out how MLB’s drug testing program is lacking) is a neat trick, but I guess I can’t understand it given that I’m not a trained journalist living in a major city.

But the worst part of this column is how it completely misrepresents the role of the union with respect to baseball’s drug problem. Brennan says:

Because as much as MLB’s leaders try to clean up their game, the players’ union lags years behind, fighting harder for the cheaters than it does for the players the cheaters shove off All-Star teams and awards dinner stages, and out of record books … Why the players’ union doesn’t speak out for people like [Matt] Moore is mystifying. It will fight harder for Colon and his alleged Biogenesis buddies — Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, et. al. — than it ever will for the poor non-cheating players who continue to quietly accept their fate.

She may have had a point a decade ago when the union was still hostile to drug testing, but she’s completely ignoring current reality. On multiple occasions over the past several years the union has agreed to stiffer drug testing penalties and enhanced testing. Indeed, just this past winter they ratcheted things up significantly adding unannounced HGH testing and testosterone baseline tests, the likes of which Brennan herself has long called for. That baseline testing, by the way, is being supervised by the WADA, which Brennan said in 2007 must get involved and which she herself considered to be the gold standard of anti-doping efforts. Moving goalposts is hard work, of course, so maybe she was just distracted and forgot that she wrote that column.

She is also ignoring the fact that every public statement the union makes on drug matters acknowledges the importance of the drug testing program. And that players and the union have repeatedly and increasingly given voice to their desire for a clean game and the protection of players who do not use performance enhancing drugs.

All of that would get in the way of a good, outraged column, of course. So I totally understand why she ignores it.

  1. koufaxmitzvah - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    I wonder how much scotch it takes her to get through a season. Not that booze is illegal…. but it sure tends to help the prose.

    • skids003 - Jul 12, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      I agree, she’s a complete hack.

  2. chacochicken - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    They shall be made to wear a scarlet “C” so the world knows. Except for the Cubs since they already use a C and need all the help they can get.
    I think anyone who hits 4 home runs in 5 days should be tested and definitely anyone who hits two or more in a single game should be tested. Also have to bargain for increased power over the course of a season so a player will automatically be suspended if he increases his home run total by more than say 12 to 15%. Better go low.

  3. vallewho - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    copious fake outrage

  4. banpeds - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    No one knows the long term benefits of using PEDS. Colon had Stem cell Treatment 3 years ago in the Dominican and speculation has long been, mixed with HGH. As for Colon, now, there is no reasonable explanation that after being washed up for 5 years and at age 41 now, he is now throwing 95-97 and consistently 92 the past 3 seasons since his Stem cell treatment 3 years ago and then his PEDS/HGH use in 2012 that he ultimately tested positive for and suspended for. The reporter appears to be saying and reasoning, once caught cheating, you lose certain accolades the rest of you career like awards, All star games, as another form of deterrence/penalty. Right now the Union and MLB CBA allow the cheaters back in the game for PEDS use after thier 25-50 games. As many have said, they need to and have to increase the punishment to at least 1 year for a first offense and lifetime for a second. There are some that advocate, lifetime bans for the first time.

    Her comparison to Matt Moore is appropriate. The Clean kid deserves to go to the All Star Game over the admitted and proven CHEATER!

    • number42is1 - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      so what you are saying is

      “I don’t care if you just got out of prison and served your time, you are a gddamn convict and I’ll be damned if i hire you over an under qualified person that does not have a criminal record” ?

      • jwbiii - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:37 PM

        My source, http://www.bizofbaseball.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=996&Itemid=85 says 24 for 2013. Here they are:

        Jonathan Singleton, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (AA, 1B)
        Alan Farina, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (A+, P)
        Mark Hamburger, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (FA, P)
        Vaughn Covington, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (AZL, P)
        Carlos Ramirez, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (AA, C)
        Miguel Pena, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (A, P)
        Daniel Tuttle, Drug of Abuse 100 gms (A, P)
        Alan Williams, Drug of Abuse 50 gms (AA, P)

        Daniel McCutchen, Methenolone, metabolite of Trenbolone 50 gms (AAA, P)
        Pedro Silverio, Metabolites of Stanozolol 50 gms (DSL, P)
        Gerson Bautista, Metabolites of Stanozolol 50 gms (DSL, P)
        Jose Disla, Metabolites of Stanozolol and Nandrolone 50 gms (DSL, P)
        Brandon Brown, Metabolites of Stanozolol 50 gms (FA, 3B)
        Juan Arias, Metabolites of Stanozolol 50 gms (DSL, P)
        Angel Yepez, Metabolites of Nandrolone 50 gms (VSL, P)
        Michael O’Connor, Metabolites of Trenbolone 50 gms (FA, P)

        Bryan Henry, Methylhexaneamine 50 gms (FA, C)
        David Wendt, Methylhexaneamine 50 gms (AA, C)
        Gary Daley Jr., Methylhexaneamine 50 gms (AA, P)
        Austin Gallagher, Methylhexaneamine 50 gms (FA, 1B)
        Ryan Acosta, Amphetamine 50 gms (FA, P)
        Chris Retherford, Amphetamine 50 gms (FA, 2B)
        Dillon Howard, Amphetamine 50 gms (AZL, P)

        Kolby Copeland, Refusal to test 50 gms (A-, OF)

        It seems that baseball’s testing program is good at catching 20-ish guys for smoking marijuana. Thirty years ago, it may well have caught me. Your modal steroid abuser is a teenage Dominican Summer League pitcher.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      As many have said, they need to and have to increase the punishment to at least 1 year for a first offense and lifetime for a second

      Why do they need to do that? When you look at the actual percentage of players who are caught cheating vs total population of the MLB, this isn’t as big an issue as the media makes it out to be. Why do penalties need to be increased?

      • banpeds - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM

        People liek to shoot from the hip without researching anything they are talking about.

        88 Minor and Major league players suspended from 25-100 games each in 2010.
        71 Minor and Major league players suspended from 25-100 games each in 2011.
        113 Minor and Major league players suspended from 25-100 games each in 2012.
        22 players in 2013 suspended for at least 50 games, almost all for PEDS.

        294 players suspended in 3 years and some say there is no problem

        By my math thats about 10% of all players in the minors and majors (approx 3000) governed by Baseballs Drug testing policy.
        Most people feel the use could be as high as 40% today, with the new generantion of hard to detect PEDS and PEDS that leave the body within hours.

        And if anyone thinks it’s just some clinics in south Florida, Start looking in Texas, AZ and a few other states. MLB is on to all of them.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:18 AM

        [citation needed] on that 294. I’ve seen multiple links were the total number isn’t even 100. This link says it’s 36 total MLB players since ’05 (1). This link says it’s only 34 players (2).

        Remember drugs of abuse != PEDs. And players that aren’t on the 40 man roster are drug tested for things like pot which players on the 40 man roster aren’t.

        1 – http://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/steroids_baseball.shtml
        2 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Major_League_Baseball_players_suspended_for_performance-enhancing_drugs

      • paperlions - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:35 AM

        Your math is horrible.

        Most teams have about 8 affiliates and those teams have at LEAST 25 players on the roster, many have many more than 25. There are at LEAST 6000 minor league players not on 40 man rosters, and there are another 1200 players on 40 man rosters.

        The vast majority of the suspended players are from the DSL and GSL and are teen aged latin american players getting bad advice or tainted supplements that are legal and freely distributed in their countries.

        Care to list how many players at the AA to MLB level are suspended each year? There are more than 2200 players just at those levels.

      • cohnjusack - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM

        Okay, so here’s where we get to question some of your math.

        1. You can’t add up the players from *4* different season and then say 3 different seasons.
        2. Each team has about 7 minor league affiliates. So far this year, the Rangers have had *252* players play for their organization (I just picked a random team). Would add up to *7560* players. Let’s be conservative and say it’s about 5000.
        3. You can’t add up testing number from 4 different seasons and then divide them by the total number of players in one season!. How many of those players are out of baseball? How many new players came in? There are 40 rounds to the draft, plus international signings, etc.. Again, let’s be really conservative and say 500 new players each year.

        That means you’re dividing your total by about 13,000.
        294/13,000 = ….

        2.26%

        Oh NO! What a crisis!

      • cohnjusack - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        Source for Suspensions:

        http://content.usatoday.com/communities/dailypitch/post/2012/08/players-suspended-for-failing-baseball-drug-policy/1#.UeAUa2R4ZvY

        banped doesn’t bother to differentiated between PEDS and drugs of abuse.

      • pdowdy83 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        banpeds,

        You are off on your numbers. Steroid suspensions are 50 games or higher. You have cherry picked some additional suspensions to inflate your numbers. From 2010-2012 10 MLB players were suspended for 50 games or higher.

        Of the 22 players you mention for 2013. 8 of those were for Drugs of Abuse, 1 was for refusal to test and the other 13 were steroid or amphetamine related.

        In 2012 113 players were suspended for 25 or more games. 26 of those were for Drugs of Abuse, 13 were for refusal/unkown and the other 74 were steroid or amphetamine related.

        in 2011 71 players were supspended for 25 or more games. 7 of those were for drugs of abuse, 9 were for refusal/unknown and the other 55 were steroid or amphetamine related.

        In 2010 88 players were suspended for 25 or more games. 7 were for drugs of abuse, 2 were for refusal/unknown and the other 79 were steroid or amphetamine related.

        I don’t see how you can say “people like to shoot from the hip without researching” and then include 73 suspensions in your “294” figure that were A. not PED related or B. undisclosed reasons. That takes the number down to a total of 221 suspensions for amphetamines and steroids. Also you’re number of 3,000 is incorrect. On average there are at least 7 levels of MILB baseball per team (AAA, AA, A+, A-, SS-A, GCL/AZL and DSL.) Each team carries at least 23 players and some up to 30. Even if you take it and round it out to a 25 man roster for each level plus the MLB roster per organization you are looking at about 200 players per organization. Multiply that by 30 teams and you get 6,000. That is also just in 1 season. With the huge numbers of players drafted and retiring each season in the minors you obviously have a much larger pool than that.

        If you were to say that there was a 300 player turnover each year over that 3 year span from 2010-2012 you would have a pool of about 7,000 players. 221 minus the 13 from the 2013 season brings the total for 2010-2012 down to 208. 208 players out of roughly 7,000 ballplayers governed by MLB’s drug testing policy is 2.97 percent. Nowhere near your 10% total.

        And don’t even get me started on your “Most people feel the use could be as high as 40% today, with the new generantion of hard to detect PEDS and PEDS that leave the body within hours.” line. That is completely baseless.

      • cohnjusack - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        Nothing like admonishing someone for bad math and then doing it yourself.

        That means you’re dividing your total by about 13,000.

        That should be *7,000*.

        294/7000 = 4.2% (which, is using a very conservative estimate of the number of players and counting EVERY player who violated drug policy, whether via PED or drug of abuse as the same).

        That’s it, 4.2% at the very, very most.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        Spreadsheet of similar numbers from what pdowd83 said. I used the link that cohnjusack gave. Feel free to manipulate as you see fit.

        https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ApZZhwNFk6sYdFpIVldzazVnSzA5RlFkQUY1M1o1VUE#gid=0

        Note, 2013 numbers aren’t out yet, but I think we’ve thoroughly disproved banpeds bullshit already.

    • paperlions - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      Um, you realize that most of the things used for performance enhancing have actually been around since the 50s, right? And that, in fact, a LOT is known about the long-term effects of “PEDs”.

      • banpeds - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:15 AM

        you mean Greenies/Amphetamines and such, yes, but Roids/PEDS does all that they do, and a lot more in terms of strength, reflexes… . Doesn’t mean any of it was right even back then, but you didn’t have Brady Anderson averaging 8 HR’s a year until he takes 6 months of PEDS and hits 50 the following season… Oh and Bonds big head and McGwires skinny bones turning into tree trunks….

        Lon term affects- shrinking testicles? Acne? big heads? heart issues? Those are the negative affects, what about the positive ones such as increased strength, quicker reflexes- how long to those stay part of the equation after someone stops using?

      • paperlions - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        First, the long-term effects are tiny to non-existent for most PEDs. The shrinking testicle thing is short-term because the added testosterone means the body stops producing it on its own…which is why guys cycle. As soon as you stop, the nuts return to normal.

        Second, using Brady Anderson’s outlier season as an example of PED use is just moronic. Are you suggesting that he deciding hitting HRs sucked and he stopped using them the next year? Because his HR total returned to their previous levels….so….either you think that PEDs stopped working or he deciding that hitting HRs and making a lot of money wasn’t what he wanted.

        Third, hitting a baseball hard is a highly derived skill. Adding strength does not necessarily result in adding bat speed or power to one’s swing. 1000s of guys took PEDs over the 60s-00s, most of them likely saw little benefit beyond staying healthier and stronger throughout the season instead of wearing down.

        All of the research on the relative effects of PEDs on baseball production suggests that steroids helped pitchers more by adding velocity, whereas amphetamines helped hitters more since they play everyday and needed the immediate energy and focus boost.

        If you want to “banpeds”…at least learn something about them that isn’t mis-information spread by lazy baseball writers.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        Second, using Brady Anderson’s outlier season as an example of PED use is just moronic. Are you suggesting that he deciding hitting HRs sucked and he stopped using them the next year? Because his HR total returned to their previous levels….so….either you think that PEDs stopped working or he deciding that hitting HRs and making a lot of money wasn’t what he wanted.

        Please never stop posting this statement. It’s so simple, yet no one can refute it.

      • grumpyoleman - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Mountain Dew has been around since 1940.

      • paperlions - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:43 PM

        ….and the original is far superior to the modern corn syrup version. Mountain Dew Throwback is awesome and should make a permanent comeback.

    • MattJanik - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      You’ve all done a phenomenal job picking apart Mr. banpeds’ shoddy math, and I applaud your efforts… I’d like to add this to refute a different part of his argument:

      – The death penalty exists. As in, in some places, if you’re convicted of first-degree murder, they kill you. Dead. The penalty for the crime ends your existence.

      – First-degree murder still happens in these places.

      – Ergo, in what world do tougher penalties create a better deterrent?

    • scatterbrian - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      @banpeds

      Wrong. Colon has been averaging 91.2 MPH on his fastball over the last two seasons:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=375&position=P#pfxpitchvelocity

      He’s been successful because he’s walked 15 batters in 120+ innings.

      Are PEDs now responsible for improved control/command?

      • paperlions - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        Yes, yes they are. PEDs are also responsible for any random variation between seasons, for typical aging curves, and for variation in BABIP.

        Interestingly, PEDs can both keep you on the field by preventing players from wearing down during the season….AND simultaneously lead to more injuries. The first part is true, but there is no evidence that steroid use leads to more injuries other than the fact that steroid users may work out more (because steroids don’t have any effect if you don’t work out regularly and strenuously) and more physical activity in and of itself increases the likelihood of soft tissue injuries regardless of PED use.

      • txraiderfan - Jul 13, 2013 at 6:11 PM

        She’s not familiar with the terms “walk” and “command”

  5. brazcubas - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    So she believes that anyone who cheats while playing a game should be treated as a pariah, even as they are allowed to continue playing said game, though their contributions will not count for anything.

    I can only imagine the punishment she advocates for drunk drivers and wife beaters. Perhaps she’d have their entire existence erased, renamed as numbers and sent to spend the rest of their lives among penguins in Antartica

    • banpeds - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      True, its jsut a game, but, What is your proposal to discipline the players who cheat and break the rules they agree to abide by? And after they do everything they can to avoid getting cuaght and then lie about it until the proof is shown to them.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM

        Drug testing procedures are a big part of the rules that they agreed to abide by. Not to reiterate, but your perspective is a bit skewed and not at all as reasonable as you claim it to be.

      • brazcubas - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the JDA, other than perhaps some tweaks in implementation.

        I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone seriously propose lifetime bans or striking all their stats from the records for someone caught with a corked bat, or for scuffing the ball or using too much pine tar or any of the other varieties of cheating that are to be found in baseball. Other than as a knee-jerk reaction to the steroid era, I don’t see why PED use should be treated differently.

  6. sdelmonte - Jul 12, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    So I ask, will she quit covering baseball because it’s a sport full of dopers and cheaters?

    I continue to wait for the first sportswriter to say “no more baseball for me, it’s dirty.” I somehow doubt it’s about to happen.

  7. paperlions - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Ah yes, moralizing from a “trained” and “professional” journalist. How novel.

    I think the railing against “amateur” sports writing is quite cute. You can see the fear in their commentary as their less informed (but “professional”) opinions are pushed aside for opinions that are more informed and more articulately conveyed and supported by actual facts and research.

    The majority of good and interesting baseball writers across the country don’t seem to have journalism degrees, they are just smart men and women who loved baseball, provided free content online, and were hired by bigger web sites after their writing and research attracted large audiences and fostered healthy discussions and debates about the sport.

    Too many “journalists” confuse reporting with other aspects of sports writing. Having access to people in the business allows you to report news, it does not, however, legitimize your opinions or give you special privilege with respect to understanding or insight. The double standard levied by “journalists” against “bloggers” while ignoring the crap regularly spewed by “professionals” is glaring and pathetic.

  8. Bob - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Sorry, you lost me at Christine Brennan. I make it a point not “to read the ones that come from newspapers, come from legitimate trained journalists (who have their own preordained agendas and favorites that they wouldn’t dare criticize and report on criticially) and I would encourage anyone who listens to us or anyone who cares about this issue to do that.

  9. yahmule - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    It’s Bartolo’s cholesterol tests that concern me.

  10. APBA Guy - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    The discussion about trained journalist versus basement blogger begins and ends with Bill James: he is everything she abhors, from a “small” town, not a trained journalist, worked in his basement.

    Who has made a greater contribution to the understanding of baseball? Bill James, or the Northwestern trained Christine Brennan?

    • skids003 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:55 AM

      Well said.

  11. txraiderfan - Jul 13, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Publicity whore. Never heard of Christine Brennan before today. Enjoy your 15 minutes

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Patience finally paying off for Royals fans
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. R. Castillo (3066)
  2. D. Ortiz (2286)
  3. J. Hamilton (2244)
  4. N. Arenado (2206)
  5. C. Kershaw (2166)
  1. G. Stanton (2129)
  2. A. Pagan (2083)
  3. M. Trout (2065)
  4. A. Pujols (2059)
  5. A. Rizzo (2007)