Major League Baseball's 2012 all-star game MVP was ruled out for the rest of the season on Wednesday.
Outfielder Melky Cabrera wasn't sidelined because of injury, but the San Fransico Giants' star may be dealing with a crushing blow to his ego and his possible future in the game after he tested positive for testosterone and was handed a 50-game suspension.
That punishment to the player leading the major leagues in hits (159), ranking second in the National League in batting average (.346) also presents a paradox of sorts for the league itself: Is it good that a suspected cheater was caught and punished? Or do incidents like these harm the game since it's clear a star was given the boot for cheating and proving the game still has a drug problem?
The pros to MLB's drug-testing program include:
- Both management and the players' union are on the same page, saying all is well with baseball's drug program. Some now consider the program to be more stringent than that of the National Football League.
- Players including elite performers like Melky Cabrera are being caught, with four suspensions this season (Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis, free-agent outfielder Marlon Byrd and relief pitcher Guillermo Mota the others).
- The system has caught up to the cheaters and the game has changed dramatically. Home runs are on the decline over the last seven years since the implementation of performance-enhancing drug testing in MLB. Also, teams were averaging 4.29 runs per game in 2012 through June 17 compared to scoring 5.14 per contest in 2000.
- Baseball seems determined to make the program more efficient. For example, two months ago, revisions to the program were made to include conducting tests for human growth hormone during spring training as well as more random steroid testing and other performance-enhancing drugs during the season and off-season. Also, collection procedures were also changed after Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun had his 50-game suspension for excessive levels of testosterone overturned because his urine sample was not handled in the manner specific by baseball's drug agreement.
- Drug violators are having certain things taken away like being barred from the all-star game. Since some players are given an incentive in their contracts for appearing in the all-star game, they are also being punished financially.
The cons include:
- Flawed sample collection. Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, had his 50-game suspension overturned last winter because improper protocol was followed in the collection of his urine. Still, Braun is the first player in 13 attempts to win his appeal against a positive drug test.
- Players like Cabrera are still attempting to cheat, so some would say baseball is failing about being constantly vigilant with its drug-testing program.
- There remain problems with other drug-testing procedures as Milwaukee pitcher Chris Narveson noted in a USA Today story in February, saying that MLB administrators did not provide ample time to inform players of testing on numerous occasions.
- There are too many loopholes in off-season testing including the fact testing is announced. To be effective, some would say, drug testing must be random and unannounced. In February 2012, the New York Times reported that 65 per cent of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's tests are conducted out of competition, compared to only three to six per cent of baseball's drug testing occurring in the off-season.
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