Major League Baseball issued its long awaited suspensions for 13 players for violation of the drug program's protocols. Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games by Commissioner Bud Selig by his power under the Basic Agreement to act in the best interest of baseball. A-Rod was found to have engaged "in conduct to frustrate the commissioner's investigation." A New York Daily News story from April linked him to two men who attempted to broker a deal to purchase incriminating documents that connected A-Rod and others to the Biogenesis Clinic.
If his appeal is unsuccessful, It is unlikely to see Rodriguez return to play baseball again. He will be 40 years old when his suspension ends after the 2014 season and has been plagued with injuries. His performance when healthy has dramatically declined since his heyday as the best player in baseball. He may be able to play games during his appeal. The chances for its success are slight. Remember that MLB has an exemption from NLRB antitrust regulation, which was granted to them uniquely by Congress.
Some of the other players such as Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz are productive stars and All-Stars, and their suspension will likely alter the results of the ongoing pennant races. Everth Cabrera of the Padres was selected to the most recent All-Star squad as was Jhonny Peralta from the Tigers. Commissioner Selig deserves heavy praise for vigorously pursuing the violators in baseball.
Does the current policy go far enough? It is clear to every single player involved in organized baseball that steroids and HGH are banned. There is no chance that anyone could have missed the news. It is also clear that when some players use these substances it gives them a competitive advantage over others. It is cheating. It is clear that their use creates an uneven playing field, with some players able to hit the ball farther and pitch with more speed than others.
This leads to a lack of legitimacy to every single statistic achieved by a substance-aided player. No stat is equal, nor is any record. Moreover, team achievement is tilted by this practice. There is a rough equivalence in the talent level of players at a elevated level. Ten extra feet on a hit ball puts it out of the park rather than having it caught on the warning track. Four mph on a fastball may be enough to alter reaction time. Teams playing with steroid players have an unfair advantage and their record is suspect.
The reason that professional sports are so vigilant about gambling is the fear of player's with large debt shading their performance to repay the gamblers. This goes to the very integrity of the sport, and makes team records suspect. Athletes are role models to younger players and this usage may signal high school and college players that it is acceptable or necessary to use the substances.
With a practice this harmful, and the policy so clear, to really rid baseball of performance enhancing substances, shouldn't there be zero tolerance. What's wrong with one strike and a lifetime ban? This would send a deterrence shock wave that would rid the sport of this scourge.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.