Just when you thought doping in baseball was over, New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez received an unprecedented 211-game suspension last Monday, costing him $34 million in lost wages. He is, of course, fighting it— which will allow him to play until this plays itself out in front of an arbitrator. This comes after a long history of A-Rod using banned substances, lying about it and finally, according to Major League Baseball, hindering their investigation.
After Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time homerun record in 2007, many people around baseball were happy to speculate that A-Rod would break Bonds’s record “the right way": without performance-enhancing drugs. Despite never having failed a drug test, Bonds had somehow become the poster boy for MLB players that took steroids.
That same year, Rodriguez went on national television, looked Katie Couric in the eye and said that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. Two years later, when the results of a failed drug test from 2003 were reported by Sports Illustrated, it turned out that he had used PEDs during his 2001-2003 stint with the Texas Rangers. He finally admitted having used the drugs, but blamed it on being “immature,” “stupid,” “young” and “curious.”
In 2013, A-Rod was linked to an anti-aging clinic in Florida called Biogenesis that distributes these drugs. Many other players were tied to it as well forcing MLB to conduct an investigation. On Monday, a total of 13 players were suspended and aside from A-Rod, all of them received 50 game suspensions and chose not to appeal them. The suspended players were: Nelson Cruz, Rangers outfielder, Jhonny Peralta, Tigers shortstop, Everth Cabrera, Padres shortstop, Antonio Bastardo, Phillies reliever, Jordany Valdespin, Mets outfielder, Francisco Cervelli, Yankees catcher, Jesus Montero, Mariners catcher, Cesar Puello, Mets outfielder (minors), Sergio Escalona, Astros pitcher (minors), Fernando Martinez, Yankees outfielder (minors), Fautino De Los Santos, Padres pitcher and Jordan Norberto, free-agent pitcher.
Two weeks ago, the league announced that it was suspending Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun for the remaining 65 games of the season for violating its anti-doping code. Braun failed a drug test in 2011 but avoided a suspension when he won an appeal on a technicality, but this time the League – and apparently Braun – felt like they had enough evidence from their Biogenesis investigation to prove he used an illegal substance so, he chose not to appeal.
Doping in Major League Baseball has been an ongoing problem for several years, but other major sports leagues like the National Football League and the National Basketball Association don’t seem to have as bad of a problem with it. The NFL, with 67% of its players being Black, gets a lot of scrutiny for players getting in trouble with the law, but has not had a major doping scandal. Nor has the 78% Black NBA. The NBA’s problem with drugs seems to be marijuana; not performance-enhancers.
Last month, Tyson Gay, the best American sprinter over the past decade tested positive for steroids. Track and Field seems to be the only place where Black athletes are coming up positive in doping tests, but given the fact that just about all American Olympic runners are Black, the percentage is very small.
The 13 MLB players suspended this week were all Latino and Ryan Braun, suspended last month, is the League’s most high-profile Jewish player. While there have been Black baseball players suspended in the past, the number is so low that you can count them on one hand. That can be directly attributed to the fact that less than 9% of Major League players are Black but given that percentage, the number is still low.
Black baseball players are staying away from using banned substances, but if they did begin using them at a higher rate, maybe the percentage of them at the Major League level would increase. When you consider the fact that Alex Rodriguez has been using PEDs his entire career and as a result has earned $353,416,252 so far, that may be something to look at.
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EBONY.com Contributing Writer