Jun 3, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun tries to convince umpires he was safe at first base on a close play in the 8th inning during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Why PEDs ARE A Big Deal in Baseball

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Bud Selig going after PED users. Again. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball will reportedly pursue 100-game suspensions for 20 players, including former MVPs Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, for receiving performance enhancing drugs by the now-defunct Biogenesis lab based in Florida.

That’s according to an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report that aired Tuesday, in which it was revealed the lab’s former owner, Tony Bosch, is apparently cooperating with MLB’s investigation into the sale PEDs to Major League ballplayers by Biogenesis. That’s not good news for Braun, A-Rod, Nelson Cruz, and about 17 other players named in documents from the company previously acquired by multiple media outlets.

Whether or not the suspensions go down is another matter. MLB is going to have a hard time suspending players based on the testimony and documents of a man who was running an illegal operation, and with no positive tests of drug use by the players. The player’s union will undoubtedly challenge any suspensions without a positive drug test.

Still, baseball’s pursuit of PED users continues unabated. It’s clear MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is hell bent on making a statement against Braun and A-Rod in this case, although picking on Rodriguez right now is kind of like picking on the kid who can’t read. It seems like Selig is overreaching a bit with this one.

But the Biogeneis case once again sheds light on an interesting topic of discussion by those who follow baseball closely. The debate over PEDs in the sport is seen by some as something baseball should stop pursuing. Some argue that baseball should be not at all concerned with what substance a person puts into their body to play a professional sport, and poo-poos the overall PEDs have on the play of the individual athlete.

They lament that baseball continues to spend time and energy on the issue, especially in light of what seems to be a pretty effective new policy aimed at eradicating PEDs from the sport.

Should MLB more actively pursue issues like the recent spate of DUI cases by current and former players? Yes. Should MLB be addressing homophobia in the locker rooms? Of course. Should they be addressing domestic abuse, alcohol abuse and head injuries more vigorously. Absolutely.

And I can understand the objections to THIS particular case. Bosch is not exactly a reputable witness, and MLB’s pursuit of this case borders on the unethical, as has been written about very well by HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra. Baseball also is remiss in not being more upfront with the fact that steroids saved baseball during the 1998 season.

Selig and Company got what they needed out of the steroid era and are now trying to get rid of the thing that saved their bacon. I do not dispute any of this.

That said, here is why PEDs need to be drummed out of baseball, and why the pursuit of their eradication is not some trivial matter.

It’s a health issue, plain and simple. Steroids do tremendous damage to the body. The effects of newer performance enhancing drugs, which are different than the incredibly harmful anabolic steroids of the past, still have negative health effects for those who take them, some of which cannot be known right now. For many athletes, and those outside the sport who also take them, no one has any idea what kind of health problems substances like the ones allegedly taken by Braun and A-Rod are going to have later in life.

And this isn’t solely about their health. It’s also about the health of players who see guys at the Major League level and, perhaps even more importantly, some of their contemporaries in the minor leagues, and feel like they need to take something in order to keep up and either hold onto a job or win a job at the next level.

Yes, everyone is responsible for what they put into their bodies. No one is forcing anyone to take anything.

But when you’re faced with a decision of whether to take a PED to try and match the performance of a contemporary, or not to take something and potentially lose your job because you can’t keep up with the artificial results of someone else, that person is put into an almost impossible situation.

Do I risk my health in order to compete with someone who is using PEDs and potentially put my health at risk? Or do I make the healthy choice and risk losing my job to the guy who is artificially enhancing his performance?

At the center of the PED debate is whether those drugs ACTUALLY improve performance. It’s hard to look at the numbers from the late ’90s and early 2000s and not think that it does have some effect. Do they allow players to hit balls farther or get more base hits? Probably not. But what steroids do is allow a player to have more energy and stamina. It allows a player to avoid the three and four-week slumps that often times keep a player from hitting 60-70 home runs a season. They enable a player to artificially maintain whatever their maximum level of performance is, mainly because it takes away much of the fatigue that comes with playing a 162-game season.

Players use these things for a reason.

Now, as for the Biogenesis case, this one stinks. There is a lot wrong with it, and I would be shocked if the 100-game suspensions MLB wants against the players allegedly involved with Bosch actually happen. Not only that, I, like every other baseball fan on the planet, is SICK TO DEATH of the PED issue in baseball.

But as long as players are still doing PEDs, it’s important. It’s a health issue. Personal responsibility is a huge factor, but people should not be put into the position of having to choose between their health and career advancement.

For that reason, PEDs ARE a big deal and should be dealt with, no matter how much we would all like the issue to just go away.

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