Street Corner Soapbox: Biogenesis in Baseball

Categories:      Sports
Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 at 7:53 AM

Baseball is in the midst of a messy PED scandal, one that promises to make everyone involved look bad, including MLB itself.

You're probably familiar with the Biogenesis clinic scandal. A Miami-based anti-aging clinic was allegedly the supplier of PEDs to major-league players, including Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and $20-million man Alex Rodriguez. MLB is now threatening to suspend the players involved – some for as many as 100 games.

What you might not know, if you're not following the story closely, is how convoluted the scandal is, and how, by aggressively pursuing and rushing what appears to be a weak case, Major League baseball might be damaging its own sport.

The story broke when a disgruntled former employee of the clinic – Porter Fisher – handed over some of the clinic's records to a Miami alt-weekly, the Miami New Times. Consisting mainly of spreadsheets and records hand-written by former clinic owner, Anthony Bosch, the documents listed a number of major-league players and their aliases – “Al Capone,” “Samurai,”  "Mohamed” – and the PEDs delivered to them. After threatening Bosch with a massive civil lawsuit, the clinic owner has agreed to work with league officials to provide the evidence needed to bring action against the players.

But this is where it gets weird.

The Miami New Times ran a follow-up story about whistle blower Porter Fisher's cloak-and-dagger experience handling the clinic's records in which he accused both Alex Rodriguez and MLB of alternating between offering money and levying threats in order to get ownership of Bosch's notes. Bosch, too, tried to get money from the scandal. Apparently, he went to A-Rod first for cash to defend himself from MLB's lawsuit. Only when Rodriguez refused, did Bosch agree to work with MLB.

And now baseball appears to be ready to suspend dozens of ballplayers over the records – some reports say as many as 90 players might be involved – despite the fact that its evidence is based on the testimony of a questionable source, Anthony Bosch, probably in exchange for cash – and that most of the suspensions will be of players who have never failed a drug test or who have been linked to PEDs in any concrete way.

It gets worse.

Because of a loophole in the players-owner agreement, baseball can publicly name the players it suspends before its appeals process. A clause in the MLB Joint Drug Agreement, which sets the rules for testing and punishments for the use of banned substances by players, allows MLB to do so if allegations of drug use come from an outside, public source.

In short, it appears baseball is going nuclear here, planning on using the general public's outcry to aid it in the appeals and arbitration process. That is, they appear to want to use fans to bolster its shaky case against its own players.

The whole case will come down on the shoulders of a single man: baseball's arbiter, Fredric Horowitz. His job is to rule on players' appeals for MLB suspensions or other punitive action brought on by baseball. And like any impartial judge of a legal proceeding, he'll have to judge the testimony by its reliability. By how much Bosch's testimony — likely paid — can be trusted.

He'll also operate with the knowledge that the last arbiter who ruled against MLB in a public case — Shyam Das, who tossed out Ryan Braun's positive test for PEDs because it was mishandled by lab technicians — was fired.

MLB seems to be risking a lot in this case. By steamrolling over players involved MLB is no doubt souring its relationship with the players' union and endangering the recent relatively quiet in labor relations. By suspending as many as 90 players for 50 to 100 games, MLB is threatening to drastically alter the playing landscape of a baseball season, whether that's this year or the next. And by bringing players' names public before their cases are decided, they're tarnishing the image of their product, the star power that brings fans to the game – even if the players are exonerated in the arbitration process, even if the players are, in fact, totally innocent of the charges against them.

And to what end? There's already a drug-testing policy in place, isn't there? And it seems evident that PED use has declined since its implementation. Wouldn't a slower, more careful approach to the Biogenesis revelations – maybe in cooperation with the players, not in conflict with them – produce a better outcome?

Jay Stevens can be contacted at Jay@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Snevets_Yaj. 

Tags: ped, mlb, biogensis

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