By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Baseball players have often given into temptation.
They are in the most competitive of businesses and it’s easy to rationalize cheating in any form.
But Major League Baseball, which benefited from the performance-enhancing drug cheaters in the 1990s, is fighting the abuse with legitimate fury now.
In the next few weeks, 20 players are likely to be suspended for their connection to the anti-aging clinic Biogenesis of America.
The Florida-based lab is now closed, and its founder, Anthony Bosch, reached a deal with Major League Baseball to tell them everything he knows about the players who engaged the clinic for the purpose of acquiring PEDs.
Published reports indicate a cross-section of names from the famous to the obscure. The most well-known: Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics and Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the lesser-knowns include Fernando Martinez of the Houston Astros, free agent Jordan Norberto and minor-leaguer Cesar Puello.
Those last three names may not seem as important as the stars listed above them, but they are. Their presence on the list demonstrates the wide cross-section of players that are caught up with Biogenesis.
The players at the top end of the spectrum want performance enhancers so they can continue to play big-league baseball and rake in millions, while the lesser lights are doing it for a chance to stay in professional baseball and possibly climb to the major leagues someday.
The other angle to consider is that Biogenesis is just one lab involved in better baseball through chemistry. There are other scientific houses of ill repute all over the country. When it comes to cheating, Biogenesis can’t be the only lab helping out baseball players enhance their performances.
But when names of players are associated with Biogenesis or any other medical group associated with steroids and other performance enhancers, reputations get shattered.
Eventually, baseball players will get the message. Perhaps not Melky Cabrera or Bartolo Colon, who had already been caught before, but others may decide it’s not worth the risk of getting suspended by Major League Baseball. The decision to ingest PEDs can come at a very high price.
Major League Baseball is testing hard. They are looking for enhanced testosterone readings. They are administering blood tests for HGH.
They are serious. The message is getting across to baseball players and none of them want to labeled as cheaters.
Players are getting fed up with their brethren who use PEDs to get ahead. David Ross, a back-up catcher with the Red Sox, told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that players support harsh punishments for users.
“I think the players are fed up with it,” Ross said. “I think players want MLB to drop the hammer on these guys. I don’t know anyone who wants nothing but the worst possible consequences for the cheaters because they’re taking job from kids coming up from the minors who are doing it the right way.”
Applaud Ross if you want, or feel free to take a more cynical approach. It’s much harder to get away with cheating in 2013 than it was in 2003. It’s much more likely that players are going to get caught.
This nefarious business will never stop, however. There’s always a new chemist who can invent a new designer drug that won’t get caught. Or so he thinks.
The cheaters always find a way to get ahead, but the testers are right on their heels.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.