On the heels of Ryan's Braun's 65 game suspension in connection with the Biogenesis PED scandal, fans are calling for changes to be made to Major League Baseball's drug testing program. If other stars such as Alex Rodriguez are handed suspensions as is being widely reported it's reasonable to expect those calls for reform to get much, much louder.
First, to briefly recap: after an ugly period in baseball history where steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs were widely reported to be in use by major stars such as Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, Major League Baseball took steps to toughen up its drug program. Under the current system, any player failing a drug test the first time is suspended for fifty games. A second offense draws a 100 game suspension and a third offense a lifetime ban from baseball.
Earlier this year, news broke that up to 20 current players were accused of obtaining performance enhancing drugs from the now-defunct clinic Biogenesis of America. After extensive negotiations with clinic owner Anthony Bosch, Major League Baseball was able to obtain extensive records from the clinic. Braun's suspension was the first sign that Major League Baseball had the goods on a number of players and would begin handling down suspensions.
Braun's case is made more difficult by the fact that in 2011 he failed a testosterone test and would have drawn a fifty game suspension. He successfully appealed and got the test thrown out on a technicality. Many fans believed then that he was doping, a suspicion that was confirmed by his agreement to accept the suspension this week even though he has not admitted taking any PEDs.
Braun's case aside, there is still a question as to whether the current penalties in place are sufficient deterrents to doping. Although it's definitely a step in the right direction, I think it's time to make the penalties tougher. I have my doubts as to whether both the owners and players would ever agree to it but if they are all serious about cleaning up the game they need to consider changing the rules to prevent doping in the future.
First offense: One year suspension without pay.
50 games is not enough of a deterrent to prevent someone from doping. A year would be a sufficient penalty to keep a player from even consider doping.
Second offense: One year suspension without pay; club option to void contract at end of suspension; player also ineligible for All-Star Game or any awards for five years.
The key here is the club option to void the contract. If a player has cheated and been caught twice it seems only fair that the club should have the option at the end of the suspension to decide whether they want to keep that player on the roster. It's also natural that a player guilty of two offenses shouldn't be able to benefit in other ways such as participating in the All-Star game or receiving any awards or other recognition.
Third offense: Lifetime ban
This is the part of the current program that makes the most sense. Three strikes and you're out. This aspect would remain identical to the current program.
Granted, this is a more radical approach than what Major League Baseball has in place now. But owners and players should seize upon the opportunity that the Biogenesis scandal has provided to them: to rid the game of PEDs once and for all. If they don't then the game doesn't have a very bright future. PEDs are a scourge on the game that the guardians of baseball cannot afford to tolerate any longer.