In some ways, Monday was a sad day for Major League Baseball, but in some other important ways, the suspensions handed down to 13 players represent a very positive step for the future of the all-American sport.
Monday’s announcement brought to 18 the total number of players punished for their connection to Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Florida that’s accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. On Monday, 12 players accepted 50-game suspensions that will allow them to return to their teams in time for the playoffs. The 13th player, Yankee Alex Rodriguez is a special case, both because of his playing prowess and his alleged obstruction of the Biogenesis investigation. He plans to appeal a 211-game suspension that would cover the entire 2014 season.
Whether these punishments are severe enough is open to debate, but they nonetheless indicate that Major League Baseball is trying to deal with a PED problem that is tarnishing its reputation and, hopefully, its fan support. Winning obviously is a high priority to both teams and fans, but the desire to provide a level playing field also is gaining importance.
Getting drugs out of baseball is a simple matter of fairness. Developing players shouldn’t feel pressure to chemically abuse their bodies in order to advance their baseball careers. Hard work and discipline should be rewarded, not steroid use.
The huge salaries some of these players are receiving provide a big incentive to pursue whatever substances may enhance their performance. The punishment for using those substances needs to be severe enough to offset that attraction.
Detecting PED use isn’t easy, but when illegal drug use is confirmed and, in some cases, acknowledged, Major League Baseball is right to impose sanctions that are both tough and public. It’s a good sign, in a way, that fans in the stands audibly booed Rodriguez when he took the field in Chicago Monday night. Fans like a winning team but they also are fed up with players who should be role models for youngsters across the nation but choose to abuse their bodies in ways no parent should support.