Friday, April 29, 2016

By Christian Ilten, Staff Reporter - 

Thursday's late night revelation of the Miami Marlins second baseman's 80 game suspension for the use of two different performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) has forced many more questions when it comes to what is known about steroids in the game of baseball. Gordon, 28, is a career .291 hitter that would not be accused of being a power hitter on any day, and yet, the news broke late Thursday night (early Friday morning on the East Coast) that he failed a drug test administered by Major League Baseball. Gordon is just the latest in the list of players that have failed the test, but his failing has raised a lot of questions regarding steroids in the game.

Fifty and sixty home run seasons were nothing out of the normal for sluggers like Sammy Sosa (CHC), Mark McGwire (OAK, STL), and Barry Bonds (SF) during the steroid era. In 2004 Major League Baseball started random drug testing for players, and there would be consequences in place if a player tested positive, and gradually numbers declined when it came to home runs. Gone are the days of sixty home run seasons.

The current Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) which is set to end on December 1st, along with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that Major League Baseball has with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), has been highly regarded in the sports world as the best testing program to this point, and due to that, the amount of PEDs has decreased significantly. There have been some cases, most significantly Ryan Braun's failure and denial of failure with his drug test in 2011.

Braun, and other players (including Gordon in 2016) show a new face to PEDs though, as it is no longer the giant arms and huge home run numbers that had been seen some 10+ years ago. Now there are different types of Performance Enhancing Drugs that do not change a player's physical appearance, yet still can have an effect on their play. Players like Bonds, Giambi, Sosa, and the like's physical appearance would change so much so that they almost looked super human. Dee Gordon, not so much. The slender second baseman would never have been accused of using PEDs due to the size of his body compared to those who are most known for using.

Dee Gordon's statistics in 2015 were definitely something to be proud of, as he hit with a Batting Average of .333, the highest of his Major League career. He also had 58 stolen bases in the year as well. While Gordon's power in his bat may not have been affected, as he only hit 4 home runs (a career high), it is unknown if Gordon's speed or hitting ability were affected by the performance enhancing drugs that he tested positive for or not. The new face of Performance Enhancing Drugs is a hidden face, as it is not as easily pointed out just looking at a player anymore.

Gordon, on his testing positive and the suspension: "Though I did not do so knowingly, I have been informed that test results showed I ingested something that contained prohibited substances. The hardest part about this is feeling that I have let down my teammates, the organization and the fans. I have been careful to avoid products that could contain something banned by MLB and the 20+ tests that I have taken and passed throughout my career prove this. I made a mistake and I accept the consequences."

Jason Giambi was praised for coming out and saying that he was guilty, that he made a mistake, and that he was sorry. Meanwhile it is seen more and more that players, instead of owning up and admitting, are in the habit of denying it and saying things will be proven innocent, and then aren't. Ryan Braun (MIL) promised that he would never do such a thing, and that there must be a mistake in the system when he tested positive in 2011, only for it to come to light that he did in fact test positive. Braun was scrutinized for his denial, and it has been seen since with other players as well.

With the JDA coming to an end in December of this year, it can be expected that the repercussions for failing drug tests in Major League Baseball will be looked at by both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. The current consequences are as follows: First Offense; 80 Game Suspension... Second Offense: 162 Game Suspension (Full Season)... Third Offense: Lifetime Ban.
The Lifetime Ban has only been issued once to Jenrry Mejia (NYM) in February of 2016.

It has been argued that the consequences should be heightened, because despite the threat of being suspended, there are still players that are willing to risk suspension to make sure they can make some extra money and have bigger numbers.
Another argument is that teams should have the ability to option out of some of all of a contract if a player tests positive for banned substances. While getting an agreement from the players association on this would be difficult, it could begin to rule out anyone still thinking that PEDs are their best option.

It remains to be seen if things will be changed to help strengthen even more the consequences for failing a drug test for Major League Baseball, but look to Major League Baseball to enforce such an issue more and more until the discussions of performing enhancing drugs are a thing of the past.

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