Various people in the media over the last week have been asking the members of the Major League Baseball community to come clean and tell the truth. With Alex Rodriguez owning up to using steroids, a new fervor has been created about what exactly is right and wrong with baseball and it’s policy towards steroids.
To this point, baseball has done one thing correctly and that is institute a strong testing policy. The penalties are harsh and the tests random which is hopefully leading to diminished usage amongst the players.
There’s greater issues here, though, that have yet to be addressed. In all of these cries for honesty, for acceptance of responsibility, the argument has always been that everyone is at fault. The commissioner Bud Selig and owners, the Player’s Union led by Donald Fehr and Gene Orza, and the players themselves all share in the blame for allowing steroids to become as rampant a problem as they have been in the sport. And obviously, the motivation for all of this wrong-doing is money.
Under the current policy, the only people in baseball who face any consequences for future problems are the players. It is the players who are tested. It is the players who are suspended. It is the players who’s entire careers come into question.
Now, this is fair in one sense, in that it is the players themselves who are choosing to take PEDs and they should be penalized for their judgment and actions.
My question is, why aren’t the owners receiving any type of penalty? The argument has been that the owners and teams sat around and did nothing while trainers and pushers like Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski walked freely through their clubhouses, in essence harboring criminal activity. And yet, the owners still bear no responsibility for what happens in their clubhouse or what activities their employees participate in.
It’s nearly impossible to get the truth about what has happened with PEDs in baseball over the last ten or fifteen years with so many people to blame. The sport is caught in a “Mexican standoff” of sorts, where everyone is pointing their fingers at someone else. One group taking the high road and admitting fault would only embolden the other groups to stay silent, deflecting the blame.
The current policy doesn’t change that scenario. The current policy is based on laying all of the blame at the players feet by making them the only party to bare any public responsibility or penalization due to continued usage. Conceivably, the owners could continue to be looking the other way, hoping their players won’t get caught, then pocketing their salaries for the 50 days they might get suspended.
All of this is made all the more possibly by the fact that HGH is currently undetectable in the current testing process. It is also reasonable to assume that there are steroids being created that haven’t truly been discovered yet, therefore making them undetectable as well. While the testing program is in place and is doing an adequate job, it’s safe to assume that there is a lot that is probably going to be missed.
In ten years, we could find ourselves asking the same questions we are today: how is it that player X took PEDs and we didn’t know? Why did it take the arrest of their PED provider to suddenly reveal all of this information? Where were the owners? Where was the player’s union? How can the commissioner say he’s doing everything he can?
Therefore, I submit these three proposals to try and alleviate some of these questions. We’ll never get the answers to all of our questions about the past, but we might be able to limit the questions we have in the future.
- Bud Selig needs to step down. It was a conflict of interest when an owner became the Commissioner of Baseball and it remains a conflict. Selig has accepted zero blame for what was fast becoming a major problem in his sport under his watch. To claim he knew nothing when multiple players were sounding the bell as early as 1999 and 2000 is simply Bud trying to save face. Clearly, the owners interests are Bud’s interests and that’s not what the game needs right now.
- Tougher testing and stronger regulation. Testing has to go beyond urine samples and become blood and hair testing. Players will claim it’s a violation of their rights, but if they haven’t done anything wrong, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Also, blood samples should not be destroyed, but kept on file by an independent lab. As more PEDs are discovered, the lab should have the ability to check samples from previous years. This should have a strong impact on players who feel they can take a drug now because it can’t be detected. Players should also be subject to criminal charges if they are discovered to have taken an illegal substance. Also, teams and the commissioner’s office need to regulate the use of private trainers and team trainers. If a player wants to use a specific trainer, that trainer has to be approved by MLB and subject to background checks and an audit. Any supplements have to be registered with MLB. If a player is found to be using supplements without registering them with MLB, they will be suspended.
- Teams have to be penalized when a player tests positive.The teams themselves have to take responsibility for their players. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that in the past, teams have had PED “cultures” in their clubhouses that simply could not have gone unnoticed by management. The fact that teams have let this behavior go on in their clubhouses is a crime in itself. When a player tests positive for PEDs, the team should face three penalties:
- the players salary (previously unpaid) will go to charity.
- the team will pay a fine, which will increase with each positive test.
- the team will lose a first round draft pick to the team with the lowest record in the league. In the case of the lowest record team being penalized, it will go to the team one slot above them.
These three steps would put Major League Baseball in a better direction regarding steroids. Greater responsibility needs to be taken from everyone in the sport, not just the players. Teams need to be liable for the actions of their own players. If there is to be any progress in rehabilitating this sport, the people closest to the problem need to take responsibility.
Anyone can learn how to recognize the signs of drug addiction by reading numerous articles and books written about the subject.