The MLB issues 4,800 random tests per year to combat the use of PEDs. After teammate Steven Wright tested positive, Porcello openly expressed his views.
Let’s talk about PEDs in Major League Baseball. Ah, the controversial topic that seems to be an increasingly common conversation recently around the Boston Red Sox organization. Starting with Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis’ 80-game suspension for a positive test in April, to the controversial signing of previously banned from the MLB for numerous positive test results Jenrry Mejia, to the most recent 80-game suspension of Steven Wright.
Under the MLB Drug Policy, the league issues 4,800 random tests during a season (including 200 from Spring Training and 300 during the offseason). The testing includes the presence of Stimulants, Performing Enhancing Substances, DHEA (hormone supplements), Diuretics (water pills used to full the presence of other substances), and Masking Agents (hiding the presence of substances). How does the league deal with a positive PED test?
The MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program issue individual mandatory follow-up programs that players must participate in. The program includes random urine and blood collections. In addition, a player is suspended and receives salary retention penalties. A player is entitled to apply for reinstatement after two years (if they are banned) or to appeal a suspension. Is the league doing enough to test and punish players who have positive test results?
There are always two sides to a story. In a black and white approach, I’ve had to agree with Red Sox players like Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, and Dustin Pedroia who have been vocal about the downside of using substances and the lack of regulations in place to prevent or stop the use of these substances. Sale and Pedroia make up two of twenty-five MLB Advisory Board Members of the All Me (PED Free) League. The Taylor Hooton Foundation was created in memory of a 17-year-old high school athlete who took his life after using anabolic steroids. His family and friends created the organization in memory of him after realizing the shockingly increasing number of youths using PEDs.
Rick Porcello has been upfront and vocal about his opinion of PEDs in the MLB for years. Christian Red of New York Daily News wrote about Porcello’s views of the failed system back in 2016. Porcello experienced being on the opposite side of the unfair advantage given by PEDs when his Detroit Tigers lost a one-game playoff game to Minnesota. The star player of the game was a player who had tested positive for PEDs. Porcello lost to a player who had been caught cheating. He also referenced Mejia and the ineffectiveness of the league policy.
"“Trust me, I don’t have a conclusive way to figure out how to prevent (doping) from happening, but you’re talking about guys that have tested positive that are still impacting games, and you know that they’re impacting games. What are we trying to avoid? We’re trying to avoid that but it’s still going on. I know I’m working my tail off every day to do it the right way. And I’m playing against guys that are testing positive and it’s directly impacting myself, our team, potential playoff chances and all those implications. I just don’t think that’s right.”"
When recently asked if his feeling had changed, since the most recent suspension of Wright, Porcello said that he still feels the same way and that he believes Wright owes his teammates an explanation.
Was Porcello too early in voicing his opinions to the media? Possibly, but I have to respect his straight forward approach in the situation and his strength in sticking with his beliefs. Wright has announced that he did not knowingly take PEDs. Unfortunately for Wright at this point, he’s going to have to do some damage control in order to correct his reputation and the image that he now has regardless of if he knowingly took the substance or not.
Back in 2016, Blue Jays outfielder Chris Colabello and Phillies reliever Daniel Stumpf received 80-game suspensions for a positive test. The two players tested positive for the same substance (Turinabol), which has not be commonly found in MLB players systems. Both players stated that they did not knowingly take the substance and were confused about how it had ended up in their system. Stumpf was able to make his way back into the majors and regain his reputation, but Colabello is buried in the minors. There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to PEDs in sports. A lot of the decisions are situational.
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Players spend their entire high school, college, and professional careers building a reputation and a name for themselves. When something like this happens, it can almost instantly transport players back years in the strides that they had made. I don’t think the league is doing enough to support the rehab process involved, or if they are, I believe the work they’re doing is too silent. When you look at a player like Mejia, who tested positive three times in a short period of time, you have to question if he’s doing that because he wants to give himself a one-up on his opponents or if there’s a continuing addiction issue in question.
It’s not just an MLB problem, it’s an issue across all sports. Hopping sports, if we look at the former NFL bust Johnny Manziel, he suffered from an addiction problem. He self-sabotaged himself and progressively fell deeper and deeper into a hole. It’s a hole that he’s still trying to climb out of. While the leagues are clearly different and protocols are different, the similarity is that there isn’t enough being done in the leagues to deal with athletes using drugs. The pressure of the stage, the power of competition, the pedestal that we tend to put athletes on all play a role in this. There’s not an easy solution to dealing with such a complex problem, which is why there currently isn’t a clear-cut answer.
I hope Wright gets the opportunity to openly speak with his teammates and his fans, to open up about his experience and that he’s able to bounce back from this. The Red Sox are strongest when the players are unified. Put 40 guys on a roster and there’s going to be differences of opinions. I like that Sale, Pedroia, and Porcello are holding fellow teammates and other athletes accountable with for standards. If these players and others can continue to voice their opinions on the subject, I’m hopeful that more light will be shed in the future and that more will be done to address PEDs and substance abuse issues.