The suspensions related to performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) are disappointing not only because of the players involved, but also because they confirm what an ugly truth about professional sports, especially baseball.
An investigation of Biogenesis, a Miami clinic, revealed that it provided drugs to some of the most recognized and best-paid athletes in Major League Baseball (MLB). Once again, the sport is at the center of a steroid scandal that requires immediate action and significant changes to salvage what’s left of the baseball’s image.
The suspensions began weeks ago with one of the biggest names: Ryan Braun. Yesterday, it was Alex Rodriguez’s turn. Rodriguez, a third baseman for the Yankees and one of the highest paid and most famous players, was suspended for 211 games. He’s expected to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, Braun and 11 other players reached agreements with the League about their role in the Biogenesis scandal and will be suspended for 50 games, which means they don’t get paid.
By using PED’s, these professional athletes were able to boost their abilities and recover more quickly from injuries. This type of high performance allows some players to surpass their peers.
This cheating is not unique to baseball. Lance Armstrong, a champion cyclist who reigned over the sport for more than a decade, used PED’s. He also had advocated against them, disparaged his critics and lied to his fans.
The dependency on amphetamines and other substances is not new. For more than a century, performance-enhancing methods and substances have changed continuously and are increasingly harder to detect. However, the use is is a big open secret. And as with other controversial issues with many interests at play, doping isn’t a focus unless there’s a major scandal. A convenient lack of oversight fuels this problem.
What message does this send to aspiring athletes?
MLB has turned a blind eye and systematically sent mixed messages to players in minor leagues and international academies, and to children dreaming of a baseball career. The Major Leagues and the players’ union must take strict measures against substances that endanger health and put honest players at a disadvantage.
At the same time it tackles this scandal, MLB must launch an aggressive anti-PED campaign, led by exemplary players who have been overshadowed by overpaid celebritiesplayers who have been great ambassadors of the sport throughout their careers.
This would be a great way for the League to inform youths about the consequences of doping and recognize those who truly love and respect the game.