Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lifetime Bans Will Cure the Steroid Problems

By Adam Russell

Well, here we are again with another drug scandal in Major League Baseball. In the midst of what is turning out to be a sensational season we are, once again, faced with our diamond heroes having their reputations tainted with the use of illegal substances. So, if what transpired after the "steroid era" findings and sanctions aren't enough to deter today's players from taking performance-enhancing drugs, then what will? I have an idea: lifetime ban.

As I think about some of the more infamous scandals of the past in baseball, namely the Black Sox game-throwing scandal in the 1919 World Series and the Pete Rose gambling scandal, the only reason we never really hear about those types of situations occurring today is, at least in my opinion, because players know the consequences are too high if they're caught.

A lifetime ban is quite serious and can affect a player's ability to stay in organized baseball, at least under MLB's umbrella, once they've retired from being a player. Just ask Pete Rose, who is not allowed to coach, scout, or even be on the premises of the lowest class minor league team. And for a guy who is still considered one of the greatest players of all-time, that has to be the worst feeling ever.

So as the specifics of the Biogenesis situation are learned, baseball also will be looking at stiffer penalties in the future for any player who is caught cheating by using PEDs. But if baseball is truly serious about cleaning up the game and returning it to its pre-steroid era days, then it must seriously consider legislating the harshest penalty of them all: the lifetime ban.

On the other side of the coin, if the players are truly committed to cleaning up the game for their own sakes and reputations, then they also must be willing to accept such a penalty into their union contract. Reports indicate that the vast majority of major leaguers want harsh penalties for cheaters, regardless of their social status within the game. Obviously, though, the specter of a 50-game or even a 100-game suspension is not enough of a deterrent to keep some of the biggest names from allegedly using PEDs.

A doctors' report ordered by MLB regarding use of steroids when the subject first surfaced back in the mid-'90s concluded that if nothing was done about their use, "players would die." This points as much to the long-term effects of steroid use as the immediate effects. On a semi-related note, the NFL is taking great measures to crack down on blows to the head because of what it has seen retired players suffer later in from repeated concussions during their playing days. Regarding baseball, more rigorous testing for PEDs is a good start, but if the teeth aren't sharp enough to support the testing, players will still use PEDs and then suffer the physical consequences down the road. And if MLB truly cares about the well-being of its players and alumni, it will take the most drastic measures possible to ensure their quality of life as they age.

One other group that also must also face harsh consequences is the clinics that provide PEDs to players. I surmise that the people that do this are neither baseball fans nor possess a sense of morality. To willingly provide players with substances that both alter the way the game is played and that are banned by the organization simply shows a blatant disregard for the game and its laws. These people, if found guilty of providing PEDs to players, should be forced to close their clinics and provide anti-drug presentations to Little League players at a minimum.

Now I know that dollar signs are always a great motivator to convince someone to bend or break the law, but if a potential outcome of taking such actions is losing everything, most people with a conscience will decline the offer. If these clinic owners faced the possibility of losing their businesses and licenses to practice, they might just turn down the player's request to juice them.

My hope is that this latest drug scandal will take a back seat to the game being played on the field, and that whatever impacts result from it are enough to convince players for good that nobody likes a cheater — not the Commissioner, not the clean players, and especially not the fans. And if someone is caught cheating, like the 1919 White Sox or Pete Rose, ban 'em for life. That should do the trick.

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