Alex Rodriguez is a third baseman, from time to time, for the New York Yankees. He was named in Biogenesis documents and other testimony as a user of performance enhancing drugs, one of these players, Ryan Braun, of the Milwaukee Brewers, was suspended for the rest of the 2013 season on a plea bargain last week.
The case against Rodriiguez is based on “non-analytical positive” evidence. This is evidence other than a positive drug test and includes oral testimony, documents, emails and the like. This sort of evidence was used by the United States Antidoping Agency in its succesful case against Lance Armstrong and is commonly used in Olympic and other doping cases.
What is significant here is MLB’s strong stance against doping. Over the long period that steroids have been present in the game, MLB has taken a soft position and the union has presented obstacles to a real doping policy. In fact, the union took the position that “steroids are no more damaging to a player than smoking.” This lead to the soft position on Barry Bonds following the BALCO scandal.
Now, however, MLB is taking the hard position and is considering a lifetime ban on Rodriguez based on his admitted PED use in the past that constitutes the three uses that allows such a ban. Rodriguez will appeal such a ban to Arbitrator Horowitz. Commissioner Bud Selig has said he may invoke special powers to by-pass this step under his “integrity of the game” authority. This marks a signiificant escalation in MLB’s scrutiny of doping and is allowed by public comments by players that they want the game cleaned up. The player sentiment is what gives MLB management the sense that this sort of action will be effective, and causes the union to be realistic.
This is all very good, but we can all lament the fact that it has taken so long. Baseball’s most cherished records for single season and career homeruns have been lost to a serial doper. At least it is taking the proper action now.