Tuesday August 20, 2013

After the suspension of 14 players, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has been congratulating himself for making baseball’s drug program "the best in all of professional sports."

That’s a joke.

Selig’s program didn’t catch anyone. The latest performance enhancing drug scandal only surfaced because a disgruntled Biogenesis employee turned over boxes of the clinic’s documents to the Miami New Times last year.

Former Most Valuable Players Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and three All-Stars were suspended for violating the league’s joint drug agreement. But MLB’s investigation just confirmed the facts it was given.

The question for the suspended players is: How could they be so stupid? They let Biogenesis keep records of their drug use, putting their multimillion-dollar salaries at risk. They probably figured MLB wouldn’t ever find out about Biogenesis. Undercover work isn’t in its arsenal.

We’ve been saying for years that Selig and Major League Baseball owners and players should get serious about drug testing -- to no avail. We’ll know MLB cares about drug use when teams start spending more for their testing program than they do for the last player on their bench.

Baseball’s current drug testing program is essentially for show. Each player is tested only twice a season, once during spring training and again at a random date. Since steroids can be designed to be traceable for only short periods of time, you have to be an idiot to get caught. Once you’ve had your random test, you’re home free.

MLB could test more often and develop more sophisticated tests, but that would eat into profits. The sport took in more than $7 billion in revenue last year, but the 30 teams invest only around $10 million a year in drug testing, just over $350,000 per team. That’s about $150,000 less than the minimum major league salary for a rookie player. The New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez makes more than twice that every week during the regular season, with his annual salary of $28 million.

All of this would matter less if it were just a matter of cheating. But it is also causing immeasurable harm to young athletes. Steroids, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs used in youth can have devastating, lifelong effects. A study by the Centers for Disease Control found that 40 percent of high school athletes say they have access to performing enhancing drugs. Doctors around the country report increasing numbers of parents asking if their children could use them.

Major league players set the example.

Selig and Major League Baseball have a moral obligation to at least try to clean up their sport. Bragging about suspending a few players after an outside investigation points out the obvious isn’t progress. It’s pathetic.

~San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News