Yesterday, outfielder Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season for violating MLB‘s drug policy. Braun successfully appealed a 50-game suspension for having elevated testosterone levels in early 2012, but he is not contesting this suspension.
To anyone that has followed Braun’s career over the past few seasons, this suspension is no surprise.
His is one of a select few current players that are instantly associated with performance-enhancing drugs, the others being Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Manny Ramirez. Cabrera was suspended for 50 games last year for having artificially high levels of testosterone, and Ramirez chose a temporary retirement instead of a 100-game suspension for using PEDs in 2011. When Ramirez returned, his suspension was lowered to 50 games.
Rodriguez is currently recovering from both offseason hip surgery and a strained quad, but he is expected to return to the New York Yankees lineup sometime in the next few weeks. However, his name is inextricably linked to the Biogenesis scandal, and fans are just waiting for the hammer to drop in early 2014 in the form of a 100-game suspension that may end the storied slugger’s career.
Will the situations of these high-profile current players, combined with the tainted way fans remember the careers of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and especially Barry Bonds, serve as sufficient deterrents to younger players who are using or are considering using PEDs?
The league is hopeful that by dramatically shortening the careers of some of its star players (and perhaps even ending Rodriguez’s), they will remove thoughts of gaining a chemical advantage from young players’ minds. It remains to be seen if young superstar players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, or Yoenis Cespedes will choose to play the game without the benefits of drugs.
I think it is unlikely that the Biogenesis scandal will be the last we hear of steroid use in baseball. However, I am hopeful that it will be a high-water mark for the widespread use of these substances in baseball. The league must continue to punish players with ever-longer suspensions if they want to successfully deter other players from using PEDs.
Nobody likes seeing star players suspended: not teams, not the league and not fans. But, this is the price that must be paid if the game is to remain pure. The players that are most admired are those who put in the hard work and made their legend through feats of uniquely human achievement on the field, not those who chose to covertly give themselves an unfair advantage over their more talented peers.
It is my hope that the future holds more of the former player and less of the latter.