For the second year in a row, a big-name MLB star has seen his accomplishments thrown into the ever-growing garbage heap of tainted athletic performances.
Long gone are the days of the big-necked mammoths whose fat finger-pointing and ties to well-documented sleazeballs served only to mock what was truly a cupcake drug program. You used to be able to spot the “cheats” a mile away. Now, it’s not so easy.
The ever-growing scientific field and rigidity of drug testing have forced us to evolve our idea of what looks like a PED user. With the athletes and their suppliers smarter than ever before, it seems the only way we can suspect the use of performance enhancing drugs is by results. Virtually every great accomplishment must be held in question.
This is certainly nothing new—especially on the stage of international competition. But has it ever been more difficult to rule someone out? Can we really say, “No, not him. That record is legit.”
This is perhaps best summed-up by former World Anti-Doping Agency boss, Dick Pound (whose parents were either oblivious or downright cruel). Pound made national headlines at the beginning of the month for these comments reported by CNN.
Anecdotally, maybe 10 percent of athletes use drugs and we're catching one or two of them…People who have prepared in advance and used drugs coming here [to London] won’t get caught…If you get caught you fail two tests, a drugs test and an IQ test.
Pound went on to say that the sports world needs to adjust and improve its testing. "We know what's going on, but if you're going to disqualify someone you have to have evidence. We're going to need more resources and more commitment from the sports organizations."
Surely the likes of Braun and Cabrera would have been totally out of the PED picture 10 years ago. Does this mean Pound is wrong? Is the fact that baseball players continue to get picked out every year proof that the MLB is doing something right? ESPN’s Tim Keown thinks so. He recently wrote, “testing works.”
Not so fast.
What if those who do get caught are merely the ones who failed both the drug test and the IQ test? This still does not remove the possibility that hundreds of other players and their teams of mad scientists are just one step ahead.
The MLB says, “We are testing for X.” The PED world says, “Now it’s time to do Y.”
So what is the solution? Is there a solution? I wish I knew the answer.
Some argue that the only way to truly remove performance enhancers from sports is to create devastating penalties. Cabrera will miss 50 games and the mistake may ultimately cost him hundreds of millions of dollars during free agency.
He took an illegal substance; he openly admitted this. But Cabrera will play another day. He will come back next year and try to prove everyone wrong. Maybe if the penalty for getting caught—even just once—were a lifetime ban, he’d have thought twice.
Come on—that strategy could never work.
If the general public has learned anything from decades of steroid drama, it is that nothing is ever black and white. Does anyone actually know what happened with Ryan Braun? Actually? There will never be a "death penalty" for PEDs. Can't do it.
They say the only two things you are guaranteed in life are taxes and death. Well, barring some totally unforeseen development, I’m going to go ahead and add on “questionable sports performances.”