Major League Baseball is making a statement with the way they're handling the Biogenesis scandal. A big statement. Get the boys from the press pool, Daisy, we've got a statement to make. And when they clear their throat, all I hear is this:
Man, oh man, is it impossible to root this stuff out by testing alone.
You can tweak the statement as you see fit. I would also accept "We have no idea how to stop this," "Our testing only catches the lazy," and "We will turn this league around RIGHT NOW," but the first one is probably the clearest statement. Because both of these things are true:
1. MLB is determined to get as much information from the Biogenesis investigation as possible, even if that means suing the clinic and its operators, so they can levy as much punishment on the associated parties as the collective bargaining agreement allows.
2. MLB is still testing, constantly testing, always testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
Those are not mutually exclusive. But they seem counterintuitive. Because the first one exists to catch people who have broken the rules. And the second one exists to catch people who have broken the rules. The first one shouldn't be necessary if the second one is working. And it's not like the second one isn't working because of lack of effort. Remember Jose Bautista's claims?
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista insists he has been tested 16 times for performance-enhancing substances during the past two years and maintains reports to the contrary are false.
Bautista made the claim, reports said he was mistaken, and then Bautista doubled down on his claim. Nope, 16 times. It's supposed to be random, and I'm sure it's purely a coincidence that one of the great out-of-nowhere players of his generation came up triple cherries on every pull of the testing slot machine.
And I'm pretty confident that Ryan Braun has peed in a lot of different receptacles over the last year. Starting this season, he's probably had a few vials of blood taken, too. There's a pretty rigorous testing program in place, and every player is being pretty rigorously tested.
But of all the names that have been linked to the Biogenesis clinic, not all of them were popped for performance-enhancing drugs. Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal, and Bartolo Colon were, and Victor Conte, who was behind BALCO, says those players flunked IQ tests more than drug tests:
"What these guys are doing is using fast-acting testosterone, creams, gels, patches and micro-dose injections," Conte says. "They put this stuff on after a game, let it circulate in their blood stream, and eight hours later, it's out of their system when they take a drug test. It's so simple.
As you would expect, MLB doesn't buy that, lauding their testing program in the same article. And Conte is a convicted felon whose credibility might be an open question. Or, heck, a closed question if you're so inclined.
But when it comes to the suggestion that there are ways around testing, I'm inclined to believe every part of that. It's how the NFL is filled with inconceivable superhumans, yet there are only a few oopsies and suspensions every year. There are a lot of tests. There are even more ways to get around the tests. The most egregious offense of players like Melky and Braun might have been sloppiness compared to their peers.
Now there's evidence supporting as much: baseball's zeal and monomaniacal focus on bringing all of the Biogenesis crowd to justice. It's a statement that says "This investigation is a necessary supplement to our already stringent testing," and that when the next Biogenesis comes up, they'll pounce on that, too. Because there will be a next Biogenesis, especially if it's possible for players like Nelson Cruz, Everth Cabrera, and Jhonny Peralta to escape detection. Maybe the next Biogenesis isn't going to be as easy to bring down because the people running it won't be complete weirdos (which is kind of the impression I got when reading about Anthony Bosch).
Baseball is making a statement. And that statement is that their testing will never be good enough, so they'll have to use other means to stop PED use. Even if not explicitly sanctioned by the CBA. Jonah Keri wonders if this strategy will affect labor relations. Maybe. But it'll affect public perception, first. And the public perception is that baseball is impossible to clean up fully. The sport seems to be admitting as much.