Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

A-Rod, MLB, and PED Suspensions

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Folks, over the last week or so, I’ve been riveted by the current contretemps over Major League Baseball’s suspension of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (“A-Rod”) being upheld by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz . . . albeit not for the 211 games MLB wanted. Instead of 211 games, Horowitz reduced the suspension to 162 games — the length of a major league season — and further said that if the Yankees make the playoffs next year, Rodriguez would be ineligible for that as well.

I’ve written extensively in the past about Ryan Braun’s struggle with MLB over the same issues (go here, here and here for the three latest blogs on the subject), so if you’ve read my blog before, you know what I’m about to say.

But in case you haven’t, here goes:

I don’t approve of what MLB has done in paying off witnesses like Anthony “Tony” Bosch. I don’t approve of MLB purchasing stolen documents, either. And while I don’t approve of performance-enhancing drugs in the main, I think it’s wrong for MLB to go after one person — whether it’s Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, or anyone else — with so much vigor that they’re willing to do practically anything to “get their man.”

Stooping to the defense of “we’ll do anything necessary to stomp out PEDs” is not good enough.  It’s a witch hunt, just as Rodriguez has said on many occasions. And I think Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra was right when he said:

. . . I would not, if I were running Major League Baseball, have permitted my investigators to purchase the stolen Biogenesis documents. Maybe that costs me valuable information. Maybe that blows my case entirely. But I see no end result, including the possible failure to punish A-Rod, that is worth an organization under my command breaking the law, which I believe happened in this case. I also do my best to get better sourcing for the information my investigators obtained than guys named, simply, “Bobby.”

Even with the knowledge that Rodriguez could’ve and perhaps should’ve taken a much lesser suspension last spring (he apparently was offered a fifty-game suspension, this being the standard length for a first-time offender), I still believe that MLB’s actions were completely and utterly absurd — not to mention wrong.

That the World Anti-Doping Agency has come out in favor of the tactics behind the Rodriguez suspension only adds fuel to the fire.  As discussed in this article from A.J. Cassavell over at MLB.com:

“The ‘clear and convincing evidence’ found by arbitrator Horowitz in this case proves that non-analytical methods have an increasingly important role to play in uncovering those athletes who have breached anti-doping rules,” (WADA President) Reedie said. “Sharing information and intelligence is something WADA continues to encourage its own stakeholders to do in order to help protect the rights of the clean athlete.”

Um, even when “non-analytical methods” include intimidating and browbeating witnesses in the court of public opinion, then paying the very witnesses MLB just spent a fortune to vilify? Even when MLB is buying stolen documents of unknown veracity, then using them to back up their claims that the athlete in question — in this case, Alex Rodriguez — is guilty as sin of using PEDs?

How could any of those things ever be right, regardless of what Rodriguez actually did while a patron of Bosch’s Biogenesis clinic?

Granted, MLB wants to rid the game of PEDs — but why do it this way?

Because there is another way, and that way is called education. If you let all the players know exactly what these various banned substances do in the body — if they’re truly deleterious in their effects — that should take care of a good part of it.

And maybe that’s all MLB can do.  Because as broadcaster Keith Olbermann has said many times, there will never be a way to remove everything considered a “performance enhancer.” (KO has famously referred to an player who was known to have taken monkey testosterone — back in the 1890s.)

Years ago, baseball players took amphetamines to cope with the rigors of a 162-game season, and no one blinked an eye. Then, some players coped with the same rigors of a 162-game season by taking steroids — legal and illegal — because that was the only way they knew to keep their bodies in shape to play. (Note that the first player who admitted he took a steroid — a then-legal steroid called androstenedione — was Mark McGwire, who had well-known back problems.) Finally, some players — such as the recently-retired Andy Pettite — admitted using human growth hormone (HGH) in order to recover from injuries faster.

Now, all three of those substances are banned from baseball — though there are some workarounds for amphetamines in small doses with a doctor’s prescription. (For example, some baseball players have been approved to have Adderall to treat ADHD and/or narcolepsy; Adderall is a stimulant.)

Considering MLB’s current zeal and their scorched-earth philosophy when it comes to PEDs, will energy drinks that give players a natural “high” be banned next?

Don’t laugh. The World Baseball Classic banned albuterol because it helps asthmatic athletes breathe, so it obviously gives asthmatic athletes an unfair advantage. (I hope you can see my eye-roll from there.) And MLB has banned certain types of over-the-counter cold medicines, mostly because they contain a small dose of some form of stimulant.

All I know is this: Shaming people into doing something never works. MLB needs to educate the players in order to keep them away from PEDs, rather than shame them.

Maybe then, they’d actually get what they want — a PED-free game. And they’d not look so much like villains in the process.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

January 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm

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