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Doping experts would prefer to give athletes lenient punishment in exchange for information

May 15, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT


After the Mitchell Report came out, I argued that maybe baseball would have been better served if it had used such opportunities and efforts to learn about players’ doping habits, suppliers and incentives rather than merely produce a list of players for the media to tear apart and which the league itself could hold up to show just how much it was doing.

Back when the Biogenesis stuff hit I similarly argued that  baseball would maybe be better served to talk to the players involved and cut deals in exchange for information about what could be a big drug pipeline into the sport. To stop treating the users as 100% of the problem and actually look to the dealers and others as a means of actually stopping the drug problem rather than merely (ineffectually) policing it.

Most people call me a crazy, druggie-loving apologist when I say stuff like that.

Know who else is saying stuff like that? People on the vanguard of anti-doping efforts. From Pacific Standard:

Anti-doping officials have learned that drug testing cannot catch the most sophisticated cheaters. Marion Jones passed over 160 drug tests; Lance Armstrong passed even more. Incentivizing athletes to become informants, as Gay did, has become a critical component of enforcement. According to people familiar with the Gay investigation, the sprinter told investigators that his former coach Jon Drummond, a gold medalist and chair of USA Track and Field’s Athletes Advisory Committee, encouraged his use of the banned products and transported them for him. They said that Gay also gave information about the chiropractor, as well as NFL players and other track athletes he believes were using the same or similar products.

Gay’s seemingly light punishment, anti-doping officials say, will ultimately serve the greater good, because intelligence gathering accomplishes what drug-testing never will.

If you want to solve a problem, go to its root. If that means losing out on the opportunity to put a big famous person on public trial to make an example out of him, well, maybe that’s a price worth paying.

Of course, I don’t think baseball, its players or its fans will accept that. We get too much joy out of looking tough and there is too little reward, apparently, for actually being effective.

  1. gothapotamus90210 - May 15, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    snitches get stitches

    • SocraticGadfly - May 15, 2014 at 2:27 PM

      Actually, I’ve long said this on my blog, specifically that if I were a BBWAA voter for the Hall, baseball and the Bondses of the world making deals would let me then vote them in.

      At the same time, I’ve also said on my blog that I’d like managers who oversaw roiders, including a couple the veterans committee voted in, to also be honest before THEY go into the Hall. Because I don’t believe Tony the Pony and Joe Torre never saw nothing.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      ARod kept his trap shut and Dumpster STILL threw at him. Roid rage?

      • SocraticGadfly - May 15, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        Ortiz bitched about an official scorer’s ruling a week ago. Roid rage?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        Or just massive ego.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 15, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Ummmm….we use the term “PED-apologist”.

    “druggie-loving apologist ” is too vague – hell, that could mean Lipitor

    • paperlions - May 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM

      Give me two Lipitor, an order of eggs and a dozen slices of bacon please.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - May 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Mmmmm, Bacon

  3. pappageorgio - May 15, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    The problem is that the agency(s) involved are really only looking for the big fish. They don’t want a no name supplier…..they want the big-name athlete that they can crucify.

    Your theory here wouldn’t have saved ARod because he was that big fish, as was Armstrong. These are the guys who thumbed their nose at the rules for years with kind of a “you can’t catch me na-na-boo-boo” attitude. This idea would have helped a guy like peralta….because he would have given information on how to get ARod.

    It all comes down to this…..if ARod jusr admitted he cheated, instead of thinking he was above it all, his suspension would be over by now. MLB wanted Braun just as bad but he took his meidcine and he’s playing baseball right now.

    • anxovies - May 15, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      Actually, he did admit he cheated in 2003, but people started regarding him as History’s Greatest Monster anyway, while giving others like Braun, Papi and Melky a pass. Where’s the incentive for him to admit to PEDs now?

      • pappageorgio - May 15, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        Poor Arod…..MLB didn’t give him enough “incentive” to admit to cheating after he was caught.

        Poor guy….my heart is bleeding for him.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        Poor guy….my heart is bleeding for him.

        So you make up a scenario you think would have benefited Arod, someone tells you he actually did it, and then you proceed to belittle Arod…

        I’m confused.

      • pappageorgio - May 15, 2014 at 1:50 PM

        Instead of serving a suspension that is an entire season he could have served less than half of a season and been done with it by now.

        There is the incentive. 65 games (or whatever Braun served) is less than 162. The people who call him a “monster” would do so no matter how many games it turned out to be……the difference is that fans would mostly be talking about what a crime it is to pay him an obscene salary for his mediocre play than what a crime it is that he’s been blocked from collecting his obscene salary.

    • paperlions - May 15, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      The point is that within the context of PED usage, the big fish are NOT users, they are the suppliers…without which, no one could use. The problem is that the agencies THINK ARod is a big fish because he is famous, when he is just a little fish…because catching him doesn’t affect the ability to obtain or use PEDs in baseball….using people in his situation to maximize information to get to suppliers is actually going after the big fish.

      • pappageorgio - May 15, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        Big names= Headlines= Funding.

      • paperlions - May 15, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        MLB doesn’t need funding, in this case it is MLB going after headlines to appear tough on PEDs, when actually being tough on PEDs would have meant doing their best to get to the dealers, which would have a bigger effect on PED use by baseball players.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      Obviously, you don’t like ARod, so you club away at the PED issue, his “mediocre” play, “obscene” salary. Me thinks PEDs have not much to do with it either way, apart from being a convenient weapon.

      ARod went out of his way to admit his PED use from 2003. Ortiz continues to “investigate” his appearance on the same list that outed ARod, but Ortiz skates free of criticism in the media. It is all about who the media likes and doesn’t like.

      • pappageorgio - May 15, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Curious? Did the media omit Ortiz’ name from biogenisis?

        Ortiz doesn’t get a ton of criticizm because he didn’t have steroid rumors following him year after year and didn’t show up in the middle of the biggest steroid ring since BALCO.

        I have no love for the media but they didn’t make this whole thing up because they’re out to get poor ARod

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        ARod got plenty of flak before Biogenesis.Ortiz just smashes bullpen phones and bullies official scorers. He is beloved.

      • clemente2 - May 15, 2014 at 3:31 PM


  4. schmedley69 - May 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    “Anti-doping officials have learned that drug testing cannot catch the most sophisticated cheaters. Marion Jones passed over 160 drug tests; Lance Armstrong passed even more.”

    But let’s give all the baseball players who have previously tested positive a free pass and assume that they aren’t cheating anymore.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      Let’s arbitrarily decide who we think is using something and who isnt!! I think any player who weighs more than a swallow should be BURNED!

    • nbjays - May 15, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      Hey and let’s give all the players who have never tested positive a free pass and assume that they’ve never cheated.

      • schmedley69 - May 15, 2014 at 3:53 PM

        I assume that most of the Blue Jays roster is cheating.

      • nbjays - May 15, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        Of course they are, that’s why we have the best record in baseball right now…

  5. bluesoxbaseball - May 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    MLB doesn’t care about being effective in cleaning-up the game. MLB cares about a appearing to clean-up the game and actually breaking the union.

  6. Old Gator - May 15, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    Prisoner: Where am I?
    Number Two: In the village.
    Prisoner: What do you want?
    Two: Information.
    Prisoner: Whose side are you on?
    Two: That would be telling…. We want information…
    Prisoner: You won’t get it!
    Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
    Prisoner: Who are you?
    Two: Number Two.
    Prisoner: Who is Number One?
    Two: You are Number Six.
    Prisoner: I am not a number; I am a free man!
    Two: [Laughter]

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      Not a prisoner, I’m a free man. And my life is my own now!

  7. El Bravo - May 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Sounds like the U.S. government’s m.o. regarding the war on drugs.

  8. sdelmonte - May 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Frankly, if I doped and were caught, I would rather take my lumps than be a snitch on my friends. Assuming you are telling the truth about who else is doping.

    This smacks of McCarthyism, as usual.

    • Old Gator - May 15, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      Cormac would have nothing to do with it either.

    • 18thstreet - May 15, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      The important thing about McCarthy was that he was a United States Senator attacking people for their political beliefs. So unless MLB is an agent of the government, going after people for what they believe (as opposed to what they do), it doesn’t smack of McCarthyism.

    • dan1111 - May 16, 2014 at 2:03 AM

      I think you are right that players would be reluctant to snitch on other players. I’m not sure they would feel the same way about dealers, though.

  9. unclemosesgreen - May 15, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Craig – you are the biggest mother-hugging steroid-lover out there. That’s why you want leniency for players and more enforcement – just more meat for the apology machine. Give us full warp speed, so Craig can pilot this ship right into the wormhole, get this chronosynclastic infundibulum party started. Right. And quickly.

  10. jimmyt - May 15, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    I don’t believe one single player would agree to talk to Mitchell about PED use in MLB. They had all the chanches it the World to help with the Mitchell Report and collectivly decided not to in order to protect the cheaters, something I think a lot of them wish they could have a do-over now.

  11. bh192012 - May 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    I agree that we should have lighter punishments for people who cooperate. The issue next then needs to be how do we codify that between the owners and union?

    MLB gets discretion to lower a penalty up to ???? 25% with a players cooperation? Cooperation meaning actionable evidence? How do you get it to work out fairly so that “monsters” are not screwed over no matter what, while “nice” players always get leniency? Is 25% enough to get anyone to turn? Wouldn’t 50% lesser sentence be a bit unfair to non-cheaters. Is it fair if say Peralta wants to help, but just doesn’t have the connections. If A-Rod cooperates enough to get a small time stimulant guy, but not his horse steroid guy? How would any of it work?

  12. term3186 - May 15, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    Sooooo this was kind of my exact point from yesterday. We can’t tell who is doping when. Which makes studies like the one that came out yesterday completely pointless and a waste of time.

  13. musketmaniac - May 15, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Old Gator, Do wake up thinking the constatine wire is going to fail you and the cong are closer than you think.

  14. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2014 at 3:08 PM

    It would be a difficult thing to accomplish. Even if MLB identifies the supplier of PEDs, the supplier may not be breaking any laws. I suppose MLB could sue, but that would not be terribly effective, and guys like Bosch and McNamee don’t seem to have piles of cash lying around.

    It seems the only enforcement MLB can do is against the players.

    • paperlions - May 15, 2014 at 3:38 PM

      If they are giving people medications without prescriptions or for non-approved uses, they are breaking the law….and I guarantee if they were doling out testosterone or HGH to athletes…they were breaking the law.

  15. clydeserra - May 15, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    I am ok with softer penalties, but a snitch ladder is too easy to abuse.

  16. chip56 - May 15, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    The point that Craig’s rant misses is that it’s not within MLB’s mandate to put Biogenesis out of business or Tony Bosch behind bars. That job falls to the federal government. MLB’s job is to police its players which is what they are doing.

    If the Federal Government wants to cut a deal with Alex Rodriguez; say no jail time for the purchase and distribution of illegal performance enhancing drugs across state lines in exchange for information on Bosch – that would be wholly reasonable.

    My issue here is that Craig has, at various times, accused MLB of overreaching in their prosecution of players, yet his suggested course of action is a huge overreach given that MLB is not a law enforcement agency of any kind.

    • dan1111 - May 16, 2014 at 2:09 AM

      MLB would not conduct the investigation itself, but it still could ask a player to reveal who he bought steroids from–which would provide evidence needed to start a criminal investigation. That isn’t overreach.

      • chip56 - May 16, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        Except that law enforcement doesn’t need MLB’s help. Using Biogenesis as an example: If the feds need Alex Rodriguez to testify about Biogensis they can subpoena him to do so. On the flip side, if law enforcement has no interest in Biogenesis then MLB reducing Alex’s suspension to gain evidence isn’t going to do anything.

        Fact is, the same is accomplished when the media reports on the story – Sun Times posts that Biogenesis is selling illegal PEDs. The story gains steam and the government checks into it.

        It’s completely unnecessary for MLB to offer the players any deals unless the payoff is revealing other players.

  17. rcj22001 - May 15, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    the benefits far outweigh the punishment, and until that changes guys are going to cheat to make it, or to keep their MLB job… that’s a fact. You get caught once- two seasons, get caught a second time- lifetime ban. Then you’ll see players turning in their sources and strategies. And snitches get stitches is for people in prison, not the civilized world.

  18. jwbiii - May 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM

    The Mitchell Report was a 350 page tome, based on four sources and a few random occurrences. All of their four main sources (BALCO, Signature Pharmacy, Kirk Radomski, Brian McNamee), were either subject to subpoenas or were willing to trade information for leniency. Biogenesis is the first major source since then, and they were caught by the Miami New Times. Surely offering busted players a carrot to roll over on their suppliers would result in more drug sources being outed, wouldn’t it?

  19. disgracedfury - May 15, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    Well MLB worked with a man(Bosch) who gave drugs to children to catch a drug user so why not learn there habits.

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