Another PED Assault On Integrity Of MLB
By Dr. James Palermo // August 9, 2013
IS IT TIME FOR 'ZERO TOLERANCE' AT ALL LEVELS?
ABOVE VIDEO: Ben Cohen from the Walll Street Journal’s sports desk discusses the details and ramifications of Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez’ 211 game suspension in connection with a performance-enhancing drug probe. Rodriguez, a pre-PED cinch for a Hall of Fame berth, epitomizes the tragedy of the defiant, arrogant ballplayer who has lost the luster of stardom to the reckless use of PEDs. (Video by WSJDigitalNetwork)
BEVARD COUNTY • MERRITT ISLAND, FLORIDA — In 2005, I wrote a four-part series of articles for WhenItWasAGame.net on the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs (PED) that threatened to undermine Major League Baseball (MLB) and all the greats who played by the rules.
It was a time when Bonds, McGuire and Sosa had finally been called out for PED use, and Bud Selig and his band of owners and the MLB Player’s Union were frantically searching for a way to save face by developing policies to discourage “juicing.”
At that time I wrote, “Selig’s proposal of a 50-game suspension for first-time illegal drug offense, 100 games for a second offense and a permanent ban from the game for a third offense is a good start,” and concluded the series with this: “Rest assured that the controversy over steroid enhanced performance and records will live on long into the future. However, let’s hope that the players will willfully collaborate with Commissioner Selig to approve and implement a program that effectively eliminates steroids and other illegal performance enhancing drugs from the game, and closes this disgraceful chapter in the history of the game.”
THREE STRIKES AND YOUR OUT NOT ENOUGH
Now, eight years down the road, it appears that the MLB PED-use “deterrent” punitive policies have been far less than effective in a sport where the average salary is over $3.2 million dollars with “stars” making in the tens of millions annually, and ten extra home runs a year or a few extra MPH on a fastball could command millions more at free agent signing time.
Make no mistake, most major leaguers are hard-working, honest athletes, and some have even been loud and vigilant in trying to identify and nail those who continue to besmirch the good name of baseball by using PEDs.
However, the lack of any real impact of Selig’s policies over the past two years (20 players suspended for PED so far over past two years–2012/2013, compared to six players suspended from 2008-2011) begs the question of how “tolerant” the PED policies should be. Selig has recently commented about the number of players who have come to him hoping the penalties get stiffer and the game is rid of the PED issue.
A-ROD POSTER CHILD FOR ARROGANT, DEFIANT ‘JUICER’
The arrogance, attitude and pathetic countenance of the highest profile player in the scandal, Alex Rodriguez, reinforces the characterization of MLB players as a union of rich, arrogant, entitled babies who always get their way–and their money.
Although all 13 players who were disciplined had the option to appeal, only Rodriguez and his legal team elected to challenge the suspension.
In nailing Rodriguez, MLB has caught the man it believes is the worst cheater of the Steroids Era, at least so far, based on evidence that he was guilty of doping over the “course of multiple years” and also engaged in a “cover-up” designed to “obstruct and frustrate” the league’s investigation into the Biogenesis scandal.
PUT CAREER IMMEDIATELY IN JEOPARDY
That brings me to what I think should be a serious consideration for MLB — a “Zero Tolerance” approach to the use of PEDs. The threat of being banned from MLB and losing a multi-million dollar/year career for the first PED offense would trump any temptation to “juice,” level the performance playing field, and send a serious message to baseball’s adoring fans, especially America’s youth, that the integrity of and respect for our National Pastime is its highest priority.
BIOGENESIS SCANDAL WAKE-UP CALL FOR FLORIDA HS OFFICIALS
In the wake of the MLB PED scandal and in light of allegations that some South Florida high school athletes received PEDs from the same Miami-area clinic, Biogenesis of America, as did the suspended MLB players, the head of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) recently asked the organization’s medical policy experts to conduct a top-to-bottom review of existing policies to determine what additional measures can be enacted to prevent the use of improper substances by high school student-athletes.
Dr. Roger Dearing, FHSAA’s executive director, asked the association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to conduct a thorough review of existing standards to determine how they can be strengthened to stop the trend of PED use among professional and college athletes from spreading throughout prep sports. Dearing noted that under existing FHSAA sportsmanship bylaws and policies student-athletes are, in fact, subjected to a zero-tolerance approach in which they can be suspended from competing if they have used PEDs.
‘ZERO TOLERANCE’ FOR BOTH ATHLETES AND COACHES
“The FHSAA’s overriding priority is the safety, well-being and constructive development of young student-athletes, whose bodies and character are still forming. Performance-enhancing drugs undermine every aspect of this goal, and so it is imperative that our student-athletes adhere to a zero tolerance policy toward these inherently unfair and dangerous substances,” Dearing said.
“Here is the bottom line for me: As executive director of FHSAA, I believe we must draw a line in the sand against performing-enhancing drugs. School districts simply cannot tolerate coaches who encourage or look the other way when athletes use PEDs. Therefore, these coaches cannot be allowed to keep their jobs or have anything to do with young athletes. This is about more than safeguarding fair play – it’s about saving lives.”
COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF PED POLICIES TO ENHANCE EFFECTIVENESS
The 15-member Sports Medicine Advisory Committee includes a cross-section of experts from across Florida, including 11 physicians as well as athletic trainers, former coaches and educators. The committee’s work has led to recent FHSAA policies to better protect young student athletes in the areas of concussions and heat/hydration.
“The Advisory Committee should consider all aspects of performance-enhancing drugs,” Dearing said, asking for a “thorough top-to-bottom review of existing policies and procedures regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs by those who break the rules in order to tilt the playing field to their own advantage.
Dearing asked the committee to consider the full range of issues related to PEDs, including but not limited to:
- Whether existing policies and procedures provide sufficient authority for schools to test and discipline student-athletes who may be using banned substances;
- The legal, policy and fiscal implications of heightened policies against performance-enhancing drugs; and
- Whether the FHSAA prohibition against performance-enhancing drugs would be more effective if set out as a stand-alone policy rather than existing only as a part of a broader policy on sportsmanship.
“Most young athletes have no idea the harm that can be caused by performance-enhancing drugs,” said Dr. Jennifer Roth Maynard, an assistant professor of family and sports medicine with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and a member of the FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. “Teenagers are still developing, both physically and mentally, and PEDs have no place in their lives. Whatever the FHSAA can do to stop PEDs from being used by high school student-athletes is a step in the right direction.”
PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES POWERFUL INFLUENCE OVER YOUTH
Don’t let anyone ever suggest, as many celebrity sports figures do today, that professional athletes are not role models to millions of people, with perhaps the greatest impact on our youth. Professional athletes cannot relinquish, off-hand, their responsibility to set an example by both word and deed.
I propose a Zero-Tolerance approach at all levels of competition. What do you think?