Suspensions shine light on both sides of spectrum
Testing system is working but game is not pristine in regard to performance enhancers
There are two distinctly different ways to look at the recent suspensions of Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. This being America, you're getting both of them.
The overwhelming reaction to news of this sort is disappointment. We can't help but be dismayed when it turns out that impressive performances were pharmaceutically aided. But after the initial reaction, the debates begin.
Within a week, these two players were each hit with 50-game suspensions after testing positive for elevated testosterone levels. One widespread notion regarding these cases is that there may be substantial abuse of synthetic testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.
On the other side of the argument, these positive tests and the resulting suspensions tend to support the notion that Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is working.
Further, these positive tests tend to illustrate the fact that there is no special treatment being handed out. Both Cabrera, with the San Francisco Giants, and Colon, with the Oakland Athletics, were playing prominent roles for successful teams. Cabrera was hitting .346 and was named the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. Colon, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, had won 10 games and had a 3.43 ERA.
"I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A's," Colon said. "I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the Joint Drug Program."
That's a lot better than the former Olympic sprint champion, who, upon notification of his positive drug test, suggested that someone had maliciously spiked his herbal tea.
The urge to get a competitive edge is human enough, even if it winds up being indefensible. Possible motives in this case are not impossible to estimate. Cabrera was approaching free agency. The big payoff was in sight. Colon, 39, could have been looking for any avenue to prolong his career.
In reckoning the current state of PED usage, every time a culprit is caught, the case cuts both ways. Each instance proves that the game, even with a rigorous program of testing and penalties, has not yet achieved the level of pristine in these matters. And yet, every prominent player caught using a performance-enhancing substance would seem to be a deterrent to potential users.
At the global level, there has been what amounts to a race between the technology of the users vs. the technology of the testers. In these cases, if somebody is caught, it probably means that the testing technology is not being regularly, routinely beaten.
It is always going to be difficult to view the drug-related suspensions of prominent players as any sort of good news. But the one positive aspect of the Cabrera and Colon suspensions is that players who attempted to cheat are being caught and punished.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.