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Kirk Gibson: MLB needs ‘much stronger’ penalties for failed drug tests

In the wake of Melky Cabrera’s 50-game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone, you can easily understand why some of the teams who have played against the Giants would be upset. As is the case with any player who used illegal performance-enhancing substances, the Giants technically cheated during the games in which Cabrera played. If the substance is helping the player pitch or hit more effectively, it is directly impacting the outcome of the game. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson says the penalties need to be harsher for that reason.

“He’s had a huge impact against us,” Gibson said Wednesday according to the Arizona Republic. “And then you go back to 2008 with the Manny (Ramirez) thing. Huge impact. You compare like in the NCAA with Penn State. All those people are gone and Penn State is paying for it. Here it’s just tied to the individual. I think we need much stronger ramifications for that type of activity. It just absolutely cannot be tolerated.”

While there is no way to compensate the teams that were affected by Cabrera’s cheating, the penalty is fairly harsh. Gibson likely believes players should be suspended for a full year right off the bat, and I’m sure a number of people feel the same way. However, a 50-game suspension is extremely significant — especially at this point in the season. The Giants will now be without arguably their best hitter down the stretch and into the early part of the playoffs. The suspension could have an enormous impact on their team going forward, as it should.

H/T Eye on Baseball
Photo credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Melky Cabrera’s career year has been fueled by PEDs

How could a player like Melky Cabrera go from being an average outfielder to being the All-Star Game MVP? The answer is pretty simple: performance-enhancing drugs.

Cabrera tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone during or just before the All-Star break. He went through the appeals process but ultimately accepted his 50-game suspension on Wednesday for being a first-time violator.

Unlike most violators, Melky actually accepted responsibility for the failed test and apologized.

“My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used,” he said in a statement. “I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants’ organization and to the fans for letting them down.”

The Giants are in the playoff race and have played 117 games this season. If they reach the playoffs, Melky would be suspended the first five games of the postseason. If they don’t, he’ll miss the first five games of the 2013 season.

There are a few really interesting side notes to this story, aside from the obvious suspicion this positive test casts on any player having abnormal success at the plate. One, the Giants likely knew Cabrera was facing a 50-game suspension, and that could be why they acquired Hunter Pence from Philadelphia. Two, Cabrera lied to CSN Bay Area writer Andrew Baggarly when the reporter approached him last month about a rumor that he failed a drug test. Baggarly wrote a long apology for asking Cabrera about the rumor, and he still feels that was the right thing to do. Maybe Cabrera should apologize to him for lying to him.

But the positive test further affirms what we already knew: players don’t magically go from being career .275 with an OPS below .750 to tearing up the league with a .346/.390/.516 line. It’s actually somewhat reassuring that he was popped for PEDs.

Hope Solo tests positive for banned substance Canrenone, gets off with warning

Hope Solo tested positive for a prohibited substance during a June 15 drug test, but the U.S. Anti-Doping Association (USADA) let her off with just a warning after she claimed a medication was responsible for the positive test.

The 30-year-old goalkeeper tested positive for Canrenone, which is prohibited by USADA, WADA, and FIFA.

USADA explains why she got off:

Canrenone is classified as a Specified Substance, and therefore the presence of Canrenone in an athlete’s sample can result in a reduced sanction. Solo was taking a prescribed medication, in a therapeutic dose under the care of a physician. The medication when metabolized resulted in the adverse analytical finding.

Solo defended herself with the following statement:

“I took a medication prescribed by my personal doctor for pre-menstrual purposes that I did not know contained a diuretic. Once informed of this fact, I immediately cooperated with USADA and shared with them everything they needed to properly conclude that I made an honest mistake, and that the medication did not enhance my performance in any way. As someone who believes in clean sport, I am glad to have worked with USADA to resolve this matter and I look forward to representing my country at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.”

Diuretics are often taken by people looking to flush their system after taking PEDs. Athletes are advised to consult USADA before taking any medication to avoid a positive drug test. USADA is raising suspicion by accepting this explanation, especially with the Olympics beginning in the coming weeks.

Photo credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Marlon Byrd suspended 50 games for PED use; Victor Conte denies involvement

Marlon Byrd was suspended 50 games by MLB on Monday for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Byrd tested positive for Tamoxifen, which reportedly is used by steroid users to kick-start testosterone production after a cycle. The product, which is commonly used to treat breast cancer patients, reportedly reduces side effects of steroid use.

Byrd, who is a free agent after being released by the Red Sox earlier this month, claims he wasn’t taking the substance to gain an advantage.

“Several years ago, I had surgery for a condition that was private and unrelated to baseball. Last winter, I suffered a recurrence of that condition and I was provided with a medication that resulted in my positive test. Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance enhancement reasons.”

Byrd’s positive test is notable for several reasons. The outfielder became an All-Star in 2010 with the Cubs and credited his work with Victor Conte for his success. Conte is the man who ran BALCO lab which infamously served PED users like Barry Bonds and Marion Jones.

Conte continues to work with athletes but says he does so cleanly. He denied involvement with Byrd’s positive test.

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Guillermo Mota blames positive drug test on children’s cough medicine

Giants relief pitcher Guillermo Mota is facing a 100-game suspension after failing a performance-enhancing drug test for the second time in his MLB career. Since he’s not that notable of a player, we wouldn’t pay much attention to this news other than to say he’s every bit the cheater we already knew he was. But hold on a second. This guy has given us reason to address his suspension; Mota’s blaming his positive test for clenbuterol — a banned stimulant — on children’s cough medicine.

“Players are responsible for what they put in their bodies. Guillermo understands that,” agent Adam Katz said. “A 100-game suspension for taking a children’s cough medicine that contains trace amounts of a prohibited substance, which is what happened here, is severe and unfair and does not reflect the intention of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We will appeal it.”

Guess what folks? We now have a leader for worst excuse ever when it comes to failing a drug test. We’ve heard some bad ones over time. Remember the lame excuses from Brian Cushing and Rashard Lewis? Yeah, those have nothing on this one.

Guillermo Mota, a 38-year-old aging reliever, wasn’t trying to take a banned stimulant to enhance his game. Oh no, he was just busted for taking a swig of Dimetap. What’s a guy to do when he has a poor little cough?

Guess Mota’s agent read our three step guide to denying PED-usage.

Forearm bash to Hardball Talk

Study suggests green tea could mask PED usage

A recent study showing that green and white tea extract lowers testosterone concentrations has Olympics drug testers considering adjusting their tests.

The study, conducted in Britain, showed that testosterone concentration was reduced by up to 30 percent when researchers added green and white tea extracts. According to the research, the tea appeared to work best when testosterone was only slightly higher than normal.

The study was done in a lab dish and not with humans, so scientists are unsure if it will have the same effect on people, though similar results have been found with rodents. Their results are convincing enough to have Olympics drug testers considering changes to their tests.

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MLBPA director Michael Weiner says PED users should be in Hall of Fame

Should they, or shouldn’t they? That is the question regarding known steroid users and the MLB Hall of Fame. The general consensus seems to be that cheaters should not be allowed. To this point, there are no known performance-enhancing drug users in the Hall of Fame. Guys like Mark McGwire have the numbers to justify a place, but McGwire has never received more than 25 percent of the votes in the balloting since he became eligible in 2007. In 2012, he received just over 19 percent.

Considering his job is to represent the guys who are taking the swings, it should come as no surprise that MLB Players Association director Michael Weiner believes PED users should be allowed into the Hall.

“If you want to have some notation on their plaque that indicates that they were either judged to have used performance enhancing drugs, or having done that, so be it,” Weiner said when asked if McGwire and other admitted users deserved a spot.

Weiner also said that “there are people in the Hall of Fame and there will be people in the Hall of Fame who have been judged by several arbitrators to have engaged in a massive conspiracy called collusion to defraud the fans of competition” who deserve to be there as well. He was referring to some executives who have a place in the Hall.

George Brett, meet your worst enemy. As we told you a few weeks ago, Brett believes current Hall of Famers would boycott Cooperstown if an admitted steroid user was voted in. Since there is an entire era of baseball that was ridden with PEDs, the asterisk argument has some merit. However, most people believe the Hall of Fame is a place where legends are preserved. Plaques that are accompanied by a disclaimer would look a little out of place.

H/T Eye on Baseball
Photo credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE