On Tuesday, the MLB announced that Pittsburgh Pirates star outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games for using the Performance Enhancing Drug, Nandrolone. This comes little less than a year after another young star, Dee Gordon, was suspended for the same offense. While rates have certainly gone down in the past 10 to 15 years, there is still a PED epidemic in baseball. Since 2005, sixty-three players have been suspended for the use of a banned substance. The current rules for punishing PED users are not effective at solving one of baseball’s biggest problem.
The current system, just like the sport it is applied to, requires three “strikes” until a serious punishment is handed out. The punishments under the current rules enforcement policy are as follows:
- Strike 1: A player receives an 80 game ban, loss of salary, and is banned from appearing in the playoffs that year.
- Strike 2: A 162 game ban.
- Strike 3: “you’re out” Technically it is a lifetime ban. Yet you can apply for reinstatement after two years.
Yet PED use is still rampant throughout all levels of professional baseball. In my personal opinion, the continued use of steroids stems from the permanent effects that results from even one use has on the body. I’ll discuss this in more detail later on, but the problem with the system is that the punishment, especially strike 1, is based on the belief that the benefits a player gets from PED use are only short term and go away once a player stops using. This is not the case. To better understand let’s flashback to high school biology and chemistry to learn a little bit about anabolic steroids.
Technically speaking, anabolic steroids are not primarily a harmful substance. Testosterone, a naturally occurring anabolic steroid, is found in almost every human on the planet. It plays a big role in a person’s physical growth and plays a part in everyone’s favorite awkward period of life, puberty. For this article we are only going to focus on the former. (For the latter, I would suggest going to have a talk with your dad.) Testosterone assists in the process of adding together small amino acids into proteins, or in scientific terms anabolism (hence the name). These proteins are used to fuel muscle growth in conjunction with exercise. Artificial substances, such as Nandrolone, mimic the shape of naturally formed testosterone and thus are able to act in a very similar way.
In the case of Nandrolone it acts 2.5-4 times stronger than what the body can do naturally thus significantly improving one’s ability to gain muscle mass. A common misconception is that this effect only occurs while one is taking steroids. When in reality, the effects are long lasting. Research has shown that short-term steroid use actually primes the body for improved muscle growth long past the last dose. It’s a lot like putting the engine of a Bugatti into a 2006 Dodge Stratus.
Athletes that are caught and punished for the use of banned substances still get a boost long after their last session of steroid use. The worst case scenario for these guys is that if they get caught they have to miss a few games, their image takes a hit and they lose a few fans. Yet for years down the line, they have primed their bodies to have an unfair advantage over all of the players that choose to keep clean. To sum it up, under the current enforcement system, there is only a short term consequence for a career long advantage. That is why this system does not and will not work. Alright Max you made a fair point, what is there to do about this? Well, I am glad you asked because thanks to Mr. Marte’s suspension a unique idea has been brought to my attention. Soon after the announcement of Starling’s suspension Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jake Diekman tweeted this out:
You get suspended, you make the minimum for the rest of your career. Take something they care about.
— Jake Diekman (@JakeDiekman) April 18, 2017
This idea presented by Diekman is a simple yet effective concept. Since you have permanently tainted your body, you permanently lose your privilege to compete for a higher salary. If you want to give yourself an unfair advantage, you will also gain a career long hindrance. With such a severe and permanent punishment, players will be more discouraged to fool around with steroids compared to the current system. Thus protecting the integrity of our precious national pastime. For a problem as widespread and long-lasting as PED use, comparable measures must be taken to curb the issue once and for all.
By no means do I think this tweet is the end all be all answer to the PED problem within baseball. Though I do feel that the continued exposure of usage by big name players will spur a continued discussion on towards a better answer. For myself and baseball fans everywhere, let’s hope the answer is on the horizon.
Feature image provided by: sportingnews.com