Much has been discussed about Major League Baseball’s intention of pursuing suspensions for any player associated with performance enhancing drugs through Tony Bosch’s clinic, Biogenesis. Bosch has agreed to assist MLB in their investigation and is prepared to name names. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun have been mentioned specifically as being targets for 100-game suspensions. However, getting those suspensions is going to be almost impossible.
Bud Selig and Baseball are intent on making examples of up to 20 players with Rodriguez and Braun mentioned as specific targets for 100-game suspensions. The 100-game suspension is for repeat violators of MLB’s substance abuse. The problem is neither Braun nor Rodriguez has been suspended for testing positive. Braun was able to overturn his suspension prior to last season after challenging the chain of custody of his positive urine sample. The arbiter in that case sided with Braun. Rodriguez has never tested positive for steroid use but did admit to using PEDs in 2009 during the 2001-04 seasons after he was linked to them in a report.
The problem is Major League Baseball cannot consider associating with an individual as a first offense. If they did then Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was cleared as only having bought legal substances from Biogenesis, would have to be suspended for 50 games for associating with Bosch. Secondly, are a few pieces of paper with vague references to ballplayers enough to actually connect them to steroids without positive tests? It sets a dangerous precedent. What is to stop a person in the future with access to PEDs from scribbling a few names on a paper and trying to extort ballplayers?
By choosing to pursue this Major League Baseball is going down a very slippery slope, one that can give the game an even bigger black eye. The fact is, if this case were to be tried in front of a jury there is no way the ballplayers would be convicted. The only evidence Baseball has is the word of a man who is facing federal prison time. Secondly, it seems as if Baseball paid for the testimony of Bosch which taints the case even further.
This isn’t about whether or not the players did steroids. There is evidence to suggest that they did but that isn’t the point. Major League Baseball has to prove to an arbiter that these players, beyond a shadow of a doubt, violated the substance abuse policy. Even if the arbiter rules on MLB’s side the players have the ability to sue Baseball and they would win in the court of law.
Major League Baseball’s pursuit of these players looks more like a witch hunt spurred by the embarrassment that has come to the sport in recent years after it was discovered that many stars were using PEDs. With Braun and Rodriguez it looks even more personal. To say that denial of a banned substance is a violation of the substance abuse policy is just ludicrous. Baseball would have to show that a denial of using a banned substance is included in the language of the collective bargaining agreement. On top of that, Baseball would need to prove that these players did, in fact, take these substances. So far, the tests show that they have not taken them recently. How can Baseball make a case against anyone when the only evidence is some hand-written notes on paper and the word of someone facing jail time?
There is no doubt Baseball needs to do something to stem the use of PEDs now and in the future. However, it cannot sacrifice its credibility in order to make examples of players. A lot more evidence is needed and if Baseball pursues the suspensions of Rodriguez and Braun on the current evidence it will harm the game more than it will help.