The punishment system for steroid abuse in baseball has failed. In August of this most recent season, Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon was suspended for 50 games for an elevated testosterone level. Despite his conviction and admission, Colon was signed to a $3 million contract with incentives that could boost the value to $5 million, the most he has been paid since 2007.
For players like Colon, steroid use has no inherent downside. He was not a candidate for Hall of Fame induction. He is not of a prominent stature in the society of baseball. He was and is, however, at a dwindling part of his career. He has effectively lengthened his career by couple extra years and bolstered his bank account with an extra few million dollars all by virtue of his cheating.
I have long been a proponent of strengthening the methods of disciplining those who break the rules in terms of steroid use. The current system entails a 50-game suspension for first-time users, a 100-game suspension for second-time users, and a lifetime ban for third-time users.
I do not understand why MLB allows for so much forgiveness. I do understand, however, why there is a lessening of a penalty for the first-time positive test.
Players, most of them under the age of 30, make mistakes, a part of being a human. However, as the adage goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Expedite the process of the lifetime ban. Have the second positive test trigger it. There should be no tolerance. Players like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez have made their name, however tarnished, due to the influence of performance- enhancing drugs.
These players played in a time where there were no such restrictions on steroid use. Had they played under this testing policy, they would have assuredly triggered a positive result. In this scenario, they would have been only one positive test away from the end of their professional baseball career. I cannot fathom what kind of hard-headed stubbornness would be required to continue using performance- enhancing drugs with that kind of consequence looming. These players should not have been afforded the opportunity to garner such popularity and garner such whopping paychecks. There are players who are more honest and harder working that deserve the attention that has been wrongfully taken.
In a similar situation as Bartolo Colon is Melky Cabrera, the former San Francisco Giants outfielder. In the same month as Colon’s suspension, Cabrera was slapped with the same 50-game punishment. Just like Colon, he was in no situation of Hall of Fame consideration. Thus far, his career has just been served as a nominal Major League baseball player.
However, he had a chance to change his status and he did. He was having an unusually outstanding season, so this positive test, unfortunately, caught few by surprise. However, Cabrera, now a free agent, is due for a modest pay day. His name and reputation are somewhat tarnished, but he is in a situation that he would not have been able to be in if it were not for the performance- enhancing drug.
In a logical mindset, weighing upsides and downsides, his decision is understandable. In this field, leniency is not the answer. Players cannot be allowed to defeat the system with these machinations.
Preston Michelson is a senior at Palmer Trinity School where he is the public address announcer for all varsity sporting events. Contact him on Twitterat @PrestonMich or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org