Baseball's steroids era is back
In some ways, it never really ended.
The Associated Press published a significant story this week.
Drug testing in Major League Baseball has stopped, a casualty of the sport’s lockout that started Dec. 2.
Testing for steroids was halted for the first time in nearly 20 years due to the expiration of the sport’s drug agreement between management and the players’ association, two people familiar with the sport’s Joint Drug Program told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because no public announcement was made.
When they negotiated the 2017-21 drug agreement, the sides included a provision that states “the termination date and time of the program shall be 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, 2021.” That matched the expiration of the five-year labor contract.
“It should be a major concern to all those who value fair play,” Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said Monday.
Baseball's owners, in putting money and authority over all, have once again opened the opportunity for steroids to further infiltrate the game.
The steroids era is back, at least for the time being.
Not that the testing system of the past two decades -- a byproduct of Ken Caminiti's steroids admission to Sports Illustrated in 2002 -- was all that fruitful. Only 70-odd suspensions for PEDs have been doled out to MLB players since 2005, when positive tests were first announced publicly. Some players have tested positive multiple times.
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In any given year, three or five MLB players might be suspended for PEDs.
That, according to AP, while 47,973 tests were conducted from 2017 to 2021. During that five-year stretch, 17 MLB players failed drug tests -- a fraction of a percent. Are we really supposed to believe that a system that's caught almost no one is all that effective?
Even so, an ineffective system is still better than no system.
It will be interesting to see how baseball is impacted by this lapse in testing. Will we see another 60-homer season? Players coming to spring training with 25 added pounds of muscle? A 30-something player performing like he's 10 years younger?
The ramifications are bound to increase the longer the lockout lasts. And any breakout players are going to face the same old speculation: is he using?
No matter what individual players wind up doing, the lockout and lapsed testing program are ultimately the owners' fault. They've chosen money and authority over all -- over the on-field product, a level playing field, and the best interests of the grand old game.