Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig defended the league’s drug-testing protocol a couple days after Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season because of performance-enhancing drugs.
Many may look at Selig and see example No. 1 of why, after years of battling PEDs, the game of baseball is still not clean. He has always been seen as a do-nothing commissioner, one who is reactive instead of proactive.
Baseball owners are the second-most blamed culprit in the failed war to rid the game of PEDs. Why would they want to see players stop hitting 500-foot home runs or linebacker-sized pitchers throwing in the high 90s? The fans love it. They can’t get enough of it and they will pay to watch it.
In actuality, it is probably the players who should have their feet held to the fire.
If the general rank and file of the MLB Players Union — the clean ones — are really intent of getting cheaters out of the game, they need to speak up and start demanding real, hard changes be made. The first one I can think of is make it a rule of MLB that as a standard in any contract, failing a drug test voids a contract and, on first failed test, an automatic one-year ban. A second failed test? Two-year ban. A third test failure is a lifetime ban — from all professional baseball activities, which would include coaching, front office, scout, broadcaster, anything.
Want to get tough on drug use in any sport? Threaten the players with their jobs. That will get their attention.
Granted, there would be a ton of legal and logistical hoops to jump through and a lot — I mean A LOT — of people would have to sign off on it, but if clean players are so adamant about significant changes, these are the type of punishments for which they need to push.
The thing about the current testing is there are no real teeth in the punishment. Fifty-game suspension for first offense? Pssh. That still allows players to return that same season if caught early enough. Braun getting 65 games? Heck, he’ll work out for the next eight months and come back to a $12 million contract next season.
Where is the incentive not to try and push the envelope?
I think the deep, dark, dirty secret that no one in baseball will ever admit is that they kind of like PEDs in the game. It keeps people interested and talking. There is a lot more discourse about players, about the game on the field. And let’s face it, people are still awed by the long ball and pitchers who can blow smoke. They still want to see it. They still pay to see it.
And when a big-name fish gets caught in the drug-testing net, the sports world is up in arms, but there is no denying the interest and intrigue that goes along with it.
So let’s just accept the fact there are drugs in baseball. MLB will continue to try and catch the cheaters, fans and clean players will continue to be indignant and rattle their swords but will continue to support the game, and the cheaters will continue to try and stay ahead of the testing.
It’s standard operating procedure in the world of American sports.
And while on the subject of PEDs, a story came over the Associated Press wire Wednesday stating Tour de France officials have determined 1998 champion Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ullrich doped. To which the world replied: duh!
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.