Ron Washington Rips Larger Holes in MLB's Drug Testing Program

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Ron Washington Rips Larger Holes in MLB's Drug Testing Program
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

So let's get this straight. Current Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine just after the 2009 All-Star break, yet Major League Baseball did nothing to punish him, and the Rangers organization didn't—and won't—fire him because of the positive test.

Do you still believe in the strength of Major League Baseball's drug testing policy?

Since 2008, baseball managers, coaches, and trainers have been subjected to the same random drug tests as all MLB players. Not one non-player has been publicly outed as a user—until today.

Washington admitted to testing positive for cocaine midway through the 2009 season. Not only that, Washington stated that after the test, he knew the result would be positive and informed both his team and the league before it was conclusive.

Despite his impairment (and perhaps addiction), Washington never missed a game on the Ranger bench for the remainder of the 2009 season.

Thanks to the MLB's drug policy, a single positive test does not automatically result in any sort of league-mandated punishment.  Positive tests for "recreational" drugs are subject to discipline at the commissioner's discretion.

However, players—and now, coaches—are often quietly placed in the league's treatment program.  If completed successfully without another positive test occurring, the slate is wiped clean by the league's reckoning.  Forgive and forget then becomes the motto.

Of course, we should not forget what sort of sham the league's testing policy really is.  Players know when they are going to be tested. According to a New York Times report a couple years back, it was revealed that the league's testers often contacted teams several days prior to arriving for "surprise" tests in order to receive parking passes and locker room access.

Granted, with a two or three day warning, not all drugs can clear a person's system. Yet it is naive to believe there aren't ways around a standard drug test. And when a positive test doesn't mean any punishment will necessarily follow, does it really matter if the league catches anyone?

At the age of 57, Washington's positive test raises some eyebrows.  Although unstated, it makes one wonder what kind of habit he actually possessed.

Washington consistently played in the majors from 1981-1989.  That was without a doubt the prime period of cocaine use in the MLB.  Numerous players were arrested for cocaine possession during that time frame, others have since admitted to using during that era, and the long-forgotten 1985 Pittsburgh drug trial occurred in which several players (and even the Pirates' mascot) testified in court to using cocaine.  Those players who testified were subsequently punished by the MLB, though all the suspensions handed out were later rescinded prior to any player missing a game.

Did Washington acquire a taste for cocaine during his playing days?  One would hope not, but it's doubtful that his positive test in 2009 was from a one-time, experimental taste of the drug at some party. This would mean that Washington was at the very least a user of the drug.  How regular of a habit it was, we'll likely never know.

Cocaine is a Class A narcotic, and simple possession can lead to jail time.  If he was willing to use it and possess it despite this fact, then he had to be breaking another law in order to obtain it.

This means Washington had some sort of contact with a drug dealer.  Maybe it was a small-timer, maybe not.  But any sort of association like this between a major league manager and a drug dealer opens up all sorts of possibilities, including—if the habit was bad enough—blackmail, and even fixing games to pay off drug debts.

There is no way of knowing at this time the depths of depravity this did or did not reach, but to write off Washington's positive test as "no big deal" is foolish.

How much did Washington's usage affect his managerial decisions?  Did it cost the Rangers the playoff last season? Why are the Rangers sticking with Washington despite his admission?  Surely there are other qualified people within the organization who could manage the team. Why risk another season with Washington in charge?

This incident raises many unanswered questions that fans should have the answers to. However, as is often the policy of the major sports leagues, the truth of the matter will remain hidden behind the commissioner's doors.

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