Alex Rodriguez is the Poster Child in MLB for Why Drug Testing Will Never Work

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Alex Rodriguez is the Poster Child in MLB for Why Drug Testing Will Never Work

If Alex Rodriguez ends up missing all of the 2013 season following hip surgery, it might end up being a fortunate development for him. That is, in terms of avoiding the media. 

Otherwise, the New York Yankees third baseman will likely be answering frequent questions about a report in the Miami New Times linking him to an "anti-aging" clinic run by Anthony Bosch. 

According to the story, Rodriguez was one of several athletes supplied with human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone and other performance-enhancing substances by Biogenesis, Bosch's clinic located near the University of Miami. His name or nickname (given as "Cacique") was listed repeatedly in Bosch's notes going back to 2009. 

What's interesting about mentions of Rodriguez as far back as 2009 is that it coincides with when he admitted his steroid use to ESPN's Peter Gammons. During that interview, Rodriguez confessed to using steroids from 2001 to 2003, but claimed not to have used any PEDs since joining the Yankees in 2004. 

Perhaps not coincidentally, 2004 is when MLB first instituted its mandatory testing policy for steroids

While this evidence seems compelling and Rodriguez has very little to no benefit of the doubt, what it amounts to is his name—and nickname—along with drug regimens and payment for services rendered scrawled in some notebooks. Rodriguez's cousin, Yuri Sucart, is also named on a client list.

Judging from the New Times report, there are no phone numbers or addresses, no credit card or bank information that serve as the smoking gun confirming that Rodriguez did indeed do business with Bosch and Biogenesis or that he took the substances listed in the notebooks. 

Thus, Rodriguez is still innocent until proven guilty—regardless of whether or not this report convicts him in the court of public opinion. 

As you might expect, Rodriguez has denied the accusations in the New Times report and claims to have never done any business with Bosch. The New York Post's Joel Sherman quoted Rodriguez's statement on Twitter.

Having said that, if these allegations are true, Alex Rodriguez becomes the poster child for why MLB's drug-testing policy is never going to be effective as the commissioner's office imagines it will be.

As I wrote in a previous article, athletes and the people who provide them with PEDs are always going to be a step ahead of the tests that are created to detect HGH, synthetic testosterone or whatever turns out to be the next trendy substance used to boost performance. 

Rodriguez's timeline—going by the notes mentioned in the New Times report—is an example of how the testing procedures could be avoided. By the time MLB began testing for steroids, he and other players apparently moved on to other PEDs that couldn't be detected. 

That appears to have continued in 2009 when Rodriguez was allegedly getting substances like IGF-1, commonly found in deer-antler sprays, that are banned by the NFL and MLB yet are undetectable in urine testing. 

Now that MLB has added random blood tests meant to detect HGH to its drug-testing program, perhaps some players will be caught using such substances. Steroid testing seems to have phased widespread use out of the sport, so maybe these new tests will have a similar effect.

Elsa/Getty Images
Alex Rodriguez says he stopped taking steroids in 2003.

But as the New Times story demonstrates, PED use has hardly been cleaned out of baseball. Players are always going to be looking for an edge to get them through the grind of a 162-game season played within 180 days. 

Companies such as Biogenesis—and BALCO back in the early to mid-2000s—are always going to claim that they have something new that yields better results and can beat any drug test. 

Interestingly, a look at Rodriguez's career numbers indicate a decline in his performance beginning in 2009. Perhaps that's what could have compelled him to consult Bosch and his clinic.

But 2009 was something of a career renaissance for him with the Yankees, when he helped lead the team to a World Series championship. That season, Rodriguez batted .286 with a .933 OPS, 30 home runs and 100 RBI.

In the postseason, he had a .365 batting average and 1.308 OPS, along with five doubles, six home runs and 18 RBI. That was the "Mr. October" type of performance the Yankees and their fans had been waiting for from their highly-paid superstar. 

Rodriguez had another strong season in 2010, hitting .270 with an .847 OPS, 30 home runs and 125 RBI. But his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all dropped noticeably. 

Over the past two seasons, the Yankees third baseman has suffered a notable decline due in large part to knee and hip injuries.

Rodriguez was an embarrassment in last year's playoffs, getting replaced by pinch-hitters and benched by manager Joe Girardi because of his poor performance. The hip injury that required surgery was surely the cause of that decrease in production.

Elsa/Getty Images
Has Alex Rodriguez's baseball legacy been destroyed?

But is this happening because Rodriguez's alleged PED use is catching up with him? Is his body simply breaking down because it's being pushed beyond its capabilities at this point? 

As ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand points out, if the allegations in the New Times prove to be true, Rodriguez could draw a suspension—even if he didn't fail a test under MLB's drug policy. The Yankees could also try to void the remainder of his contract—five years and $114 million—if he violated the terms of the deal. 

That would be a heavy penalty for Rodriguez to pay. Not only could this cost him financially, but it would destroy what credibility he may have left in the view of MLB, its fans and those who cover the game. Perhaps he's already disgraced beyond redemption.

Yet Rodriguez has already made hundreds of millions of dollars in his major league career. He has been a star for baseball's most famous team and on the sport's biggest stage. Augmenting his performance with PEDs has unquestionably paid off for him, even if it destroys his legacy.

How many players will look at Rodriguez's example and accept those consequences if it means a gigantic payday and lifelong financial security? 

 

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