Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels thinks players should get a lifetime ban after a first PED offense. Lebron James told ABC that Alex Rodriguez is a bad example for kids.
While there is no doubt that A-Rod is a horrific example — for anyone, really — determining what is an acceptable punishment for first-time PED offenders isn’t as easy as Trout’s idealistic solution. The Joint Drug Agreement, as agreed upon by the player’s union and MLB in 2006, currently calls for a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders, and a lifetime ban after a third violation of the policy.
The recently revised agreement allows for MLB to suspend players based on evidence apart from a positive drug test. That revision was aggressively enforced in the highly-publicized BioGenesis scandal. Given that none of the player’s that were suspended tested positive for PEDs, MLB is definitely moving in the right direction — 15 years late, but at least there is movement.
Everything with baseball is traditionally slow: the game itself, implementation of new rules, etc. However, MLB’s hand is going to be forced in the near future on this issue. The public outcry of many players in and outside the game over PEDs is growing by the minute, and Bud Selig has shown he wants to leave his stamp on the game in his swansong. New negotiations are undoubtedly coming — and soon.
When they do, they have to get it right.
Getting it right not only means suspending the player for more games on a first offense, but giving a team the option of voiding or restructuring contracts retroactively if a player is caught cheating to earn their contract. As far-fetched as the idea may seem, it’s actually less idealistic than Trout’s, and would be the best move to discourage cheating in the game.
Until it stops paying to use PEDs, why not cheat?
A-Rod will have made close to $500 million in salary over the course of his career when it’s all said and done — because he cheated. Ryan Braun gained an edge on his opponents using PEDs and will get paid $100 million over the next six seasons for it. Both are completely guaranteed contracts in a sport that has no salary cap.
The chances of these players getting away with cheating moving forward is slim. That means they will more than likely stop using, and their production will inevitably decline The team will then be left eating an enormous contract for what amounts to be a marginal player. The team needs to be protected.
Taking the game away from a player 100 games without pay for a first-time offense is reasonable. Banning them from life on the second offense would seem like the right move, but even more needs to be done. Giving a team the power to void and/or renegotiate a contract because a player cheated to earn his contract is essential.
Let’s face it, even 100 games without pay is a slap on the wrist for a player who has a guaranteed $100 million contract over the next five-plus years, and 50 games is simply a joke. However, if a player knows their entire contract could be in jeopardy, the chances of them cheating would be next to nil. These guys may love the game, but they play to get paid.
That’s not to say that the players don’t deserve protection. False positives do still happen in the world of drug testing, and people do make mistakes.
If players can agree to having multiple samples collected during a testing session in order for them to be sent out to two different reputable testing facilities, they’re as protected as they’re going to get. With one facility acting as a check on the other, the occurrence of false positives will be drastically reduced.
If both samples come back positive for testosterone, HGH or anabolic steroids (other drugs should be treated differently), 100 games without pay and a team option to void or renegotiate their contract will definitively detour any player from using again. If they still choose to after this, a lifetime ban is the logical next step. The chances we see another A-Rod would be next to none.
If MLB is as committed to getting PEDs out of the game as they appear to be in recent months, it’s time for guaranteed contracts to be a thing of the past.