What a difference a day makes! Over the course of 24 hours, the baseball community and its fans went from vilifying the Baseball Writers Association of America for not selecting a single candidate to this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame induction class to applauding Major League Baseball and its Players Association for the latest drug testing modifications. In a week filled with intense debates regarding ball players from an era tainted by performance enhancing substances, news of in-season blood tests for human growth hormone and the creation of a longitudinal profile program involving testosterone and epitestosterone are extraordinary weapons of distinction in the never-ending battle against ethically challenged ball players. Major League Baseball’s willingness to allow the World Anti-Doping Agency’s laboratory in Montreal to create and oversee the longitudinal profile program reinforces the sport’s aggressive measures when it comes to identifying and eradicating artificial substances. Restoring integrity, sportsmanship and authenticity to the game of baseball has become an impassioned goal for Commissioner Selig, Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred.
The newly stringent revisions to the drug program plus the usage of Carbon Isotope Ratio testing if a ball player’s urine sample varies from a baseline puts Major League Baseball in a class by itself when it comes to testing its athletes for cheating. Whether it’s in the form of a cream, gel, injection or taken orally, synthetic testosterone has become an issue of grave importance throughout the sport. The unhealthy obsession with gaining the public’s affection, eclipsing revered statistical accomplishments and achieving wealth well beyond one’s imagination have served as the proverbial seductive apple in baseball’s Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, just like Adam and Eve, ball players will still be tempted by the forbidden fruit even with a comprehensive drug testing program firmly in place.
As pitchers and catchers begin to report for spring training in the weeks ahead, we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable. Ball players encompassing various levels of talent, skills and experience will fall victim to their own internal desires and serve suspensions for failing to comply with Major League Baseball’s modified drug testing program. Don’t be too surprised to see offenders run the gamut from perennial all stars and award winners to fringe ball players and even rookies trying to earn a spot on the 25 or 40 man rosters. The days of elite ball players such as Rafael Palmeiro, Manny Ramirez and even Melky Cabrera failing drug tests are far from over. The new testing policies will undoubtedly catch a ball player of distinction abusing human growth hormone or synthetic testosterone. However, we cannot jump to the immediate conclusion that an epidemic is still ravaging the sport. Instead, we must look at it from the perspective that the modified drug testing program is indeed working and staying one step ahead of those deceptive ball players who are infatuated with accumulating artificial statistics and defrauding owners of millions of dollars.
An innovative and cutting edge drug testing program within Major League Baseball wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the collaboration, collegiality and intellect of Rob Manfred and Michael Weiner. Manfred, Major League Baseball’s Executive Vice President of Economics and Labor Affairs, has consistently demonstrated a commitment to improving the overall quality of the drug testing program. In the case of Weiner, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, his unparalleled leadership and willingness to look at all matters through the lens of objectivity has been warmly received and applauded throughout the business of baseball. Marvin Miller, one of Weiner’s iconic predecessors, would have been vehemently opposed to the Players Association’s eagerness to participate in blood testing of any kind. However, Weiner has overwhelmingly demonstrated an innate ability to assimilate all of the pertinent information on this topic and has successfully collaborated with Manfred on a program that is destined to change the landscape of testing throughout sports.
Science and technology have provided Major League Baseball with ample opportunities to aggressively eradicate cheating from the sport. Instead of bickering over the validity of tests and drawing blood from athletes, both parties are clearly acting in the best interests of baseball. While performance enhancing substances will constantly evolve and challenge the morality of athletes, Major League Baseball has assured its fans that it will remain vigilant in its attempt at protecting the game’s integrity and character.