Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is correct in his call to toughen the sanctions against players who fail tests for performance-enhancing drugs.
My view, is that it should be done as expeditiously as possible...We've made meaningful adjustments to our testing and now the time has come to make meaningful adjustments to our penalties. I feel very strongly about this.
This is for the best interest of this sport, and everybody in it.
For whatever reason, MLB is held to a higher standard against PED usage than the other major North American sports.
While some football and basketball players have been busted, it never seems to draw the outrage that baseball players get when they are caught. It can be successfully argued that baseball’s powers-that-be were much too lenient against steroids and other drugs after the strike of 1994.
The home run chase of 1998—believed to be the event that recaptured the interest of casual fans—is now known to be fraud.
Mark McGwire has (very reluctantly) admitted to steroid use while Sammy Sosa was named in the 2003 Mitchell Report.
For all the progress that Commissioner Selig has given to the game, he will be forever known for the '94 strike and not doing enough initially with the PED problem.
Selig, however, has learned from his mistakes. Major League Baseball and the Players Association will have 25 years of labor peace by the time the next collective bargaining agreement ends and, MLB, above all others, has the toughest penalties on the books for PED usage.
Under the current agreement, players receive a 50-game suspension for the first offense, 100 games for the second and a lifetime ban for the third. Selig, however, wants to go a step further. Via Nightengale:
Selig says he certainly would like to see the penalty for the first offense substantially increased, but did not divulge his specific desires.
"I would change everything," Selig said. "I have some very strong feelings on what they should be, but in fairness to [executive VP for labor relations and human resources] Rob [Manfred] and [players and union chief] Michael [Weiner], I'll let them do it. I believe in stronger penalties.
"We need to do everything possible to deter the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
If Bud Selig is to take the blame, which he should, for mistakes he made in the early days of his reign as commissioner, then he should get the credit for all the corresponding successes and progress as well.
He has taken the challenge that baseball should take the lead in policing against artificial performance enhancers. Selig also has a willing partner with Michael Weiner to come up with a policy that meets that standard.
Whether most casual fans would admit it or not, they do care about baseball. When things go wrong in the sport, there is genuine outrage and disappointment.
No sport has received the scrutiny in drug testing that baseball has. And no sport suffers more from public opinion when a player fails a test. If casual fans truly did not care by the numbers they claim to, these failures would be ignored.
But, talk radio and the mainstream media are always willing to expose steroid usage in baseball. Accepting the uncontrollable circumstances and challenge, Selig should be applauded.
In a sport that is unfairly considered behind the times, Selig and Major League Baseball have a chance to show that they can be leaders. If they can turn this into a positive in the court of public opinion, then that is a huge win for baseball.