Monday, July 22, 2013

Drug Wars: The Other Side of the Tracks

This post has become a challenge. I really wanted to look at other sides of the story and see if anything else has been put out there when it comes to players' views on drug use in Major League Baseball. I also knew I was going to have a hard time sitting down and putting all of this together. When you're out of school, you tend to avoid that lifestyle as much as possible. That's okay, I've been saving myself for this. Here we go.

"Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been suspended for the remainder of 2013 and came clean Monday about violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, an outcome of the league's extensive investigation into a Miami wellness clinic." -- Adam McCalvy,

The early 2000's was an edgy time in Major League Baseball. There were numerous findings that a number of professional baseball players were not playing the game fairly. While people thought that the game had been upped in cases that records were being shattered and injuries were fewer and in quick recovery, other officials didn't think the same way. Something was wrong. Very wrong. An investigation began and names from the likes of Roger Clemens to Jason Giambi were being thrown around as being suspicious players to have been growing in numbers as well as growing in size. During this period, suspensions and fines were thrown around the league and to its alumni, but records were never reset, and some of these men are still eligible to be inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

Back in late January, there was a monumental finding that shook the baseball world again, and this time, things would be cracked down even harder. A drug clinic in Florida named Biogenesis of America had been targeted by sporting officials, claiming that they were selling supplements that contained performance-enhancing drugs (PED's) among other illegal substances that are banned in MLB. Four players--Ryan Braun (mentioned above), Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, and Alex Rodriguez--were considered main links to the Biogenesis clinic. Although the business is no longer functioning, MLB sued a number of personnel from the company in March claiming that they had provided banned substances to players. Weeks later, ESPN broke that as many as 30 players' records were under investigation, and particular MLB staff were checking whether these athletes had been provided illegal drugs or had any other link to Biogenesis. As it stands, investigations are still being performed, and while the baseball season is officially in the second half, fans and followers are wondering when the gavel will come down on the case.

Since then, questions have stemmed from the timing of these investigations and news breaks, such as why they are waiting until after the All-Star Break to announce definite suspensions, and how did this get so bad and so immense so quickly. With all of the fuss over illegal substances in baseball looming over the heads of the athletes, why are athletes still taking these drugs and thinking they can get away with it? Theories of this span of time include the revenue and ratings of programming such as the Home Run Derby (which didn't seem affected either way) and the MLB All-Star Game and people's opinions over MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, his handling of his job, and his imminent departure from his position.

People who are fans of teams who have no players involved with the scandal are standing back and awaiting these hearings with curiosity and "I'm not surprised" remarks, while there are fans who follow and admire these players asking "Why?" and are expecting disappointment and disgust.

Any drug that promotes growth, strength, or affect of hormones is considered an illegal substance. Some of these illegal substances can even be found in the smallest of doses in prescribed medications or in various muscle treatments. This means those little steroid packs too, ladies and gentlemen. It shows up in your urine, and it's a small amount of PED's. No player can have anything that affects physical performance in the system at any time. An example of this was when Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended by Major League Baseball for use of illegal substances found in Adderall, a stimulant most commonly used for people suffering from ADHD or narcolepsy.

While the investigations are ongoing and people are placing questionable players under the microscope, professional ballplayers from all around the world are letting their opinions known on the scandal, as well as their views of certain kinds of drug use in sports. While some praise the system, others question it, stating that it shouldn't be as harsh, and that these drugs are needed when it is a strenuous atmosphere.

In praising the system, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee stated: "I think this is just proving that the system works ... You’re not getting away with it anymore. It’s not like it’s a lingering issue. It’s proven that we’ve taken care of the issue," and he even stated that he's glad he wasn't a pitcher in the 1990's when the PED was in full-swing and flying under the radar (

While pitchers like Lee are supporting the system, others are somewhat against it, stating that not all PED's are bad, and some may actually be useful in the rehabilitation process. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Ryan Madson, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, would like to see a change in the system, believing that there are no harsh side-effects in the use of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is currently banned by Major League Baseball. In an article, he says: "But I will still believe, even if I get healthy without that, that it should be legal, in the right dosage, under supervision, with doctors, for the only purposes to help heal and get players back in the Major Leagues ... I think it would be good for the game; I think it would be good for the fans" ( 

From another perspective, substances such as HGH and other performance-enhancers still exist because of the length of the season in a particular period of time, the finances that come with the sport, and the extreme competition of the game. Former Colorado Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who is currently playing for the Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional League in Japan, wrote a lengthy blog post about the Biogenesis scandal, his insights on particular drugs such as Adderall, and why he himself never desired to experiment with PED's. In a nutshell, he writes: "...I am not condoning the use of anything, but merely pointing out that some of the events and sports we’ve created (MLB, NFL, NBA) are pushing athletes too far without giving enough proper rest to allow them to recover. Again why are seasons so long? Money! Because sponsors, cities, owners and networks all make money ... When the risk so far outweighs the reward, it’s no longer a serious issue, even if the punishment doesn’t quite fit the crime" ( 
[NOTE: I highly recommend reading this article. Do it when you're done here. You won't be disappointed.]

Only time will tell when the harsh penalties will be thrown down on baseball players accused of illegal substance use. Yes, it is obvious that the MLB season is extremely strenuous, and there are numerous factors as to why money is very important in a game like this. There are also players out there with a clean conscience that are grateful for their skills, and would like to not only play fairly, but play because they enjoy it and know they can make a living off of what they can do. There are players that disagree with this philosophy, but that's life. People will try to make the most of it in any way possible, and if they're caught cheating, the damage has already been done.

The Biogenesis scandal, in my opinion, is being handled extremely well by Major League Baseball, and it has taken me a while to accept that it's going to take longer than most people would wish to make sure that the final verdicts are handled and determined as effectively as possible. When this is a large-scale investigation, there certainly isn't any cutting corners in the matter. Of course, the purist in me thinks that a scandal like this is dirtying the game and exposing it for having underground practices that have destroyed reputations and records, but you will see an equivalent like that in any kind of business you will encounter (hopefully not, but just stranger things happen). In the meantime, analysts and fans alike are on the edge of their seats looking to see how the game will change from this point forward. It's a tough time for the front offices of Major League Baseball, and the next couple of weeks will either make this sports organization higher above the rest or make it look like a big joke that waited entirely too long and didn't do enough for the players or their audiences.


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