Alex Rodriguez. (Reuters)
If you want to know what’s wrong with Major League Baseball, look no further than today’s top headlines. In what has been described as “the largest [Performance Enhancing Drug scandal] in American sports history,” at least twenty Major League Baseball players now face significant suspensions for PED use. Included in the guilty-until-proven-innocent public parade are Yankee albatross Alex Rodriguez and the man Buster Olney is calling “the Lance Armstrong of baseball,” Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun. (The latter is in reference to Braun’s Shermanesque denials over the last two years that he ever imbibed in pharmaceutical help, not his ability to master the Pyrenees.)
MLB has leaked the names of the accused because it have confidence in its source. His name is Anthony “Tony” Bosch and he is the former director of Biogenesis, a now shuttered South Florida “anti-aging clinic.” Tony Bosch is not a doctor nor does he play one on TV. He did, however, have a roster of “patients” whom he allegedly supplied with all manner of banned substances. MLB was in the process of suing Biogensis when the near-bankrupt Bosch, unable to afford a proper legal defense, chose to turn over every scrawled receipt, hand-written ledger and appointment book to MLB officials. In return, they have reportedly pledged to stop their civil suit and use their political clout to halt the Justice Department’s forthcoming criminal indictment.
Forget your personal feelings about whether you like or dislike A-Rod or whether you think these players are worse than Pol Pot for “cheating the game.” Forget if you’re convinced there is no greater evil than a pill that helps an adult professional athlete heal from injuries or work out with greater efficiency. Forget it all and consider the disturbing audacity of what Major League Baseball just accomplished: a powerful private corporation has used its political connections with the Justice Department as well as the power of its own purse to squeeze a weaker business to disclose confidential medical records. America!
If that doesn’t bother you, perhaps this will. According to Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union, the league can impose a fifty-game suspension for a first PED offense, 100 games for a second offense and a lifetime ban for a third. In this case, according to sources, the league will be pursuing 100 game suspensions for every player deemed guilty on the basis that it’s really two offenses in one. Their mere connection to Bosch is one strike, and any previous denial that they were connected to Bosch—in other words, lying to MLB officials—constitutes a second. Yes, you don’t even have to fail a drug test. You just need to be around drugs and make statements that Commissioner Bud Selig unilaterally determines to be a lie. It’s like a kid’s baseball book co-written by Mike Lupica and George Orwell.