Pitcher Bartolo Colon suspended 50 games for failed doping test
Make it two 50-game suspensions in exactly one week — both starters for contending teams from the Bay Area, both for testosterone.
Former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics was suspended for 50 games Wednesday after testing positive for testosterone, joining San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera on the suspended list for the rest of the regular season.
Major League Baseball made the announcement of Colon's penalty a week after 2012 All-Star game MVP Cabrera received his 50-game suspension following a positive test for the same substance.
2012 MLB drug suspensions
x-RHP Guillermo Mota, San Francisco, May 7, 100 games (clenbuterol)
INF Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia, June 19, 50 games (clostebol metabolite)
OF Marlon Byrd, free agent, June 25, 50 games (tamoxifen)
OF Melky Cabrera, San Francisco, Aug. 15, 50 games (testosterone)
RHP Bartolo Colon, Oakland, Aug. 22, 50 games (testosterone)
x — second offence
"I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A's," Colon said in a statement released by the players' association. "I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program."
He will miss the final 40 games of the regular season and the first 10 games of the post-season if Oakland advances that far. Any remainder of the suspension would be served in a future season, if Colon signs another major league contract.
"It's a shock," Oakland reliever Grant Balfour said. "He's a guy that we're definitely relying on right now. I guess you could say it's bad timing any time, but especially now."
Oakland, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2006, began Wednesday a half-game out in the American League wild-card race. The A's were preparing for an afternoon series finale with the Minnesota Twins at the Coliseum when they got the news from the clubhouse TVs. A closed-door team meeting was quickly called.
"The Oakland Athletics are disappointed to learn of today's suspension," the team said in a statement.
Starter Brandon McCarthy took that a little further.
"You can say someone's a good teammate, but it has to extend in all facets," McCarthy said after a 5-1 win. "Off the field, on the field and how you are in the clubhouse, no matter how look at it, we've now lost a really important part of our team to his actions."
General manager Billy Beane received word from MLB earlier Wednesday and began searching for a starter to take Colon's turn in the rotation Thursday at Tampa Bay. Tyson Ross will be called up from AAA Sacramento. Beane addressed the A's in the clubhouse before the team took the field for pre-game warmups.
"Listen, it's disappointing. From a baseball standpoint, we're scrambling," Beane said. "We're all disappointed, not just for the Giants and the A's, but for baseball."
Drug-testing labs check urine for its ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which usually is 1:1 in adult males. A 4:1 ratio is considered a positive test, but baseball officials said this week that even if there is a lower ratio, the lab conducts an isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test if there is an abnormality. The IRMS test determines whether the testosterone is exogenous, or came from outside the body. There have been 76 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program.
The 39-year-old Colon is 10-9 with a 3.43 earned-run average in 24 starts this season, his first with the A's, and has a 171-122 record in 15 big league seasons. A two-time all-star, he won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after going 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels.
Colon will lose the remaining $469,945 US of his $2 million base salary this year. He also has earned $750,000 in performance bonuses based on starts and $150,000 based on innings, which is not impacted. Thursday's start would have earned him another $250,000, and the suspension will cost him the chance to make $850,000 in additional bonuses based on innings.
Manager Bob Melvin hadn't spoken to Colon as of late morning Wednesday.
"It is what it is. We certainly don't support the actions, but you have to move forward," Melvin said. "You go through things over the course of the season. This is just one of them. … You have to have a short memory."
Five players have been suspended this year under the big league drug program. San Francisco reliever Guillermo Mota was penalized 100 games in May following his second positive test, and Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis and free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd were suspended 50 games each in June.
In addition, a 50-game suspension of National League MVP Ryan Braun was overturned after his lawyers argued his urine sample wasn't handled as the rules in the drug program specified at the time.
"Win at all costs in sport at every level," US Anti-Doping Agency Travis Tygart CEO wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Athletes and their entourages will do whatever it takes if they think they have a chance to get away with it."
Beane took a chance on suspended slugger Manny Ramirez earlier this year. Ramirez signed with Oakland while completing his suspension for a positive test but was released in June per his request while playing for AAA Sacramento.
"Baseball and the union have both been pretty aggressive in their approach," Beane said.
Colon did not file grievance at all, a person familiar with the suspension said, speaking on condition of anonymity because that detail wasn't announced. Also, the person said, MLB hasn't found any links between Cabrera and Colon at this point.
World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey said Wednesday he wasn't surprised baseball officials discovered Cabrera associate Juan Nunez purchased a website and attempted to create evidence to support a claim that the outfielder inadvertently took the substance that caused the positive test.
"The fact that a well-known and highly-paid athlete has attempted to avoid or reduce sanctioning for an anti-doping violation is not a surprise to WADA," Fahey said. "What concerns WADA is the alleged elaborate scheme that Cabrera and his advisers concocted one that involved a fake website, an email trail of fictitious orders and a non-existent supplement product in an effort to prove he inadvertently ingested the banned substance synthetic testosterone."
Colon had been thankful to get a second chance with the A's. His 10 wins are his most since his Cy Young season.
"Well, through all the changes that have been made, and all the tests, it just doesn't make sense, let's put it that way," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of two suspensions in an eight-day span. "We're hoping we're past all that."
Colon has credited a stem-cell procedure two years ago for saving his career. He had fat and bone marrow stem cells collected and injected into his troublesome right elbow and shoulder in an innovative and unproven technique. Colon had no idea how it would turn out, but he responded and spent 2011 with the Yankees.
Joseph R. Purita, an orthopedic surgeon in Florida, told The New York Times last year that he flew to Colon's native Dominican Republic and helped a team of doctors there with the treatment on Colon. He said he has used Human Growth Hormone in the procedure before, but not in this case with the pitcher.
HGH is banned by Major League Baseball.
The Bay Area had already been shocked at the suspension of Cabrera.
"Two guys — that's why they've got the policy, I guess," Balfour said. "The guy may be innocent. You just hope there's some mistake there."
The A's did welcome back starting left-hander Brett Anderson in Tuesday night's win over the Twins following a 14-month absence because of elbow ligament replacement surgery. Beane and Melvin feel especially fortunate to have him now.
Drug-testing labs check urine for its ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which usually is 1:1 in adult males. A 4:1 ratio is considered a positive test, but baseball officials said this week that even if there is a lower ratio, the lab conducts an isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test if there is an abnormality. The IRMS test determines whether the testosterone is exogenous, or came from outside the body.
"I think the league is doing the best they can with it, and therefore the policy and program is catching people," Melvin said. "I don't know how much more you can do than that."
There have been 76 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine wouldn't address Colon's suspension specifically, but did add, "I just wish we'd get that loss back he pitched against us."