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On MLB's War on Drugs

Patrick Hruby questions whether MLB, and other sports governing bodies, are accomplishing anything with their "War on Drugs"


Patrick Hruby has a good, measured piece over at "Sports on Earth," examining how MLB and other sports entities are dealing with the fight against PEDs, and asking whether the more aggressive methods -- such as those involved in the Biogenesis investigation -- are doing the sport any good:

Go back to the current Biogenesis case. It resembles an aggressive drug sting, with MLB in the role of law enforcement. Baseball investigators paid for case-building documents, the way police pay confidential informants. They used a lawsuit -- a potentially expensive proposition -- to pressure Bosch into rolling on his alleged clients. (According to ESPN, Bosch is nearly broke, living alternately with family members and friends, and has tried unsuccessfully so far to revive his "wellness" business -- all of which has made cooperating with MLB attractive.) Perhaps frustrated by Rodriguez's utter shamelessness and Braun previously beating a positive drug test via a procedural technicality, the league has eschewed the laboratory in favor of dogged detective work. It's a novel approach, "Zero Dark Thirty" without the torture scenes, and one that raises some unsettling questions.

Does anyone actually want this kind of anti-drug policing? Is the juice -- in this case, juicing -- worth the squeeze?

That's the question I keep coming back to, as a sports fan...has MLB's handling of the Biogenesis situation done any good for MLB? If Rodriguez and Braun -- two players who are clearly targeted for special punishment by MLB -- weren't involved in this, would MLB have acted as aggressively as they did?

Jeff Passan had a piece on the ARod/MLB standoff that went up yesterday, in which he suggests that this is personal for Bud Selig, who is on his wait out (supposedly) as Commissioner:

It's one reason Selig has turned into a 79-year-old mob boss: All of this makes him and his sport look bad. Selig is behind the lifetime ban. Not his attack-dog lawyers who have done a brilliant job ferreting out the truth behind baseball's lurid association with the Biogenesis clinic in south Florida that peddled the PEDs. Not the Yankees and their desire to wriggle out of the money they foolishly promised to A-Rod through his 42nd birthday. This is Selig's doing, and he's dangerously close to a precipice that no commissioner should approach.

If his threats to invoke a best-interests-of-baseball clause to suspend Rodriguez are more than a bargaining chip – if Selig truly believes Rodriguez deserves banishment for activities that, though egregious, aren't so much worse than others caught using PEDs – he is making a monumental mistake. Baseball's joint drug agreement is in place to discipline players. To step around that – to subvert due process – would be an insult to every player in the union and an act of labor war.

It appears that Selig, whose reign as MLB boss has been tainted by the "steroid era," as it is now called, is seeking to make up for what happened in the past by making an example of Alex Rodriguez. And ARod is the perfect foil, since no one seems to like him anymore -- not fans, not players, certainly not the media -- and the Yankees would love nothing more than for Rodriguez to be banned for life, which would allow them to get out from under the awful contract they signed him to after the 2007 season.

So this seems to have become a Passion Play -- Bud Selig wants Alex Rodriguez to be punished for the sins of all PED users before him. If he can make a dramatic suspension stick, one that could effectively end ARod's career, then Selig would be able to say he has atoned for not doing something earlier, and point to Rodriguez as the poster child for how MLB is getting tough on PEDs.

Of course, PEDs will never go away, as Hruby points out...but by going nuclear with ARod, MLB could make it look like they are doing something, regardless of how effective their PED policy (or the PED policies of other major sports) really is.