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Hank Aaron: First PED violation should be 100-game suspension, second lifetime ban

Every time a player gets caught using performance-enhancing drugs, it leads to a discussion about whether or not the punishment is harsh enough. On paper, being suspended for a third of the season for a first offense and more than half of the season for a second offense sounds pretty significant. Baseball has a 162-game season, so players who test positive lose a lot of time and money — not to mention the hit to their public image. Former home run king Hank Aaron doesn’t think it’s enough.

“I think it’s got to be a little bit more severe as far as penalties are concerned,” Aaron said at a benefit for his charity on Wednesday according to FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “I think 50 games is not enough. I’d like to see 100 games really. I think the second time, they need to just ban the player from baseball.”

Contrary to what the founder of BALCO would like you to think, I have trouble believing that steroid use is still as rampant across Major League Baseball now as it was five to 10 years ago. Unless pitchers are now the most frequent users, there’s a reason we have seen a noticeable spike in no-hitters and perfect games over the past two or three seasons.

As someone who had to watch Barry Bonds break his home run record, we can understand why Aaron feels like the punishment handed out to guys like Melky Cabrera is not enough. Other old timers like Kirk Gibson agree with his stance. While I feel that 50 games is a significant enough suspension for a first offense, I find it tough to disagree with Aaron about repeat offenders. People make mistakes and have lapses in judgment. Using PEDs after you’ve already been caught using PEDs is an entirely different set of circumstances.

Founder of BALCO Victor Conte: ‘As much as half of baseball’ using PEDs

However, BALCO founder Victor Conte believes Major League Baseball has a long way to go before it can be considered “clean.” During a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports, Conte described just how widespread he believes performance-enhancing drug use is across baseball.

“I would say maybe as much as half of baseball (is using PEDs),” he said. “I’m not going to name names, but I’ve talked to a lot of top players in Major League Baseball, and they tell me this is what they’re doing. There is rampant use of synthetic testosterone in Major League Baseball.”

MLB vice president Rob Manfred refuted the claim and said that Conte is simply making a “guess.” Manfred pointed to the “sophisticated methodologies” that the MLB uses to test its players, but Conte insists the tests are simple to fudge.

“To circumvent the test is like taking candy from a baby,” Conte said. “It’s so easy to circumvent. I call it the ‘duck-and-dodge’ system. The only people that get caught are the dumb, and the dumber.”

Since the conversation was based upon Melky Cabrera’s failed drug test, I guess Conte is saying he’s either the dumb or the dumber. That would certainly be easy to believe with someone like Manny Ramirez. But based on the way the offensive numbers have faded, I’m inclined to think it’s a little less than 50%. Either that, or the stuff guys were taking in the “steroid era” yielded better results.

Fist pound to Eye on Baseball

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

Half of U-17 World Cup Players Failed Drug Test Because of Bad Meat

At this summer’s U-17 World Cup tournament in Mexico, juicing was apparently somewhat of a problem. Of the 24 teams that began the tournament, 19 of them had players who tested positive for an illegal anabolic drug called clenbuterol. Tests in Germany after the conclusion of the tournament revealed traces of the drug in 109 of 208 urine samples.

What started this doping fad among the young players?  According to this AP report via Dirty Tackle, there was no fad at all.  In fact, the players were accidentally drugged through the food they ate at the hotels in Mexico.  FIFA medical director Jiri Dvorak called the positive drug test results “highly surprising” but and issue of “public health” rather than a problem with players doping.

One team that was able to avoid the issue altogether was tournament champion Mexico.  Apparently the feeding of banned anabolic substances to livestock is a significant issue in Mexico, so the Mexican U-17 squad switched to a fish and vegetable diet before the tournament began.  Whether or not the lack of drugging gave them an advantage is unknown at this point, but I highly doubt their failure to share the information with the rest of the class was a coincidence.  Stories like these give new meaning to the concept of home field advantage.

Anthony Gonzalez Believes Many NFL Players are Using HGH

The NFL is set to begin testing for HGH, possibly as early as Week 1 of the upcoming season. Colts receiver Anthony Gonzalez believes the league is going to find a lot once testing is underway.  According to the Indy Star, Gonzalez said he would not be surprised if HGH use was widespread across the NFL.  That should not come as earth-shattering news to anyone, but it certainly carries more merit when coming from a player than a member of the media.

“How many guys are on it, that’s hard to say,” Gonzalez said. “It could be 10, it could be a hundred or more; either way, it’s too much. But around the league, you see guys on Sunday, and things don’t add up; they don’t look right. I see guys I saw in college, now they’re in the NFL and they look totally different. I don’t know how prevalent it is at this point, but to say that it’s not being used, that’s wrong.”

The NFLPA can’t be happy about those comments.  Players try to protect themselves from random, invasive testing for a number of reasons.  Steelers safety Ryan Clark is one player who expressed concern with the testing, arguing that the players wanted to get a new CBA done so badly that testing was overlooked.  Clark and others wonder if the test will be “too invasive” and the league will use the blood to search for more than just HGH.  I can’t see that happening, and even if they did they would be in extremely hot water if they released the results.

If people are indeed using HGH, testing is necessary and will help clean up the game.  After all, it’s not like they’re testing for deer antler spray.

Chest bump to Shutdown Corner for the story.

Fred Lynn Would Have Considered Steroids for Recovery, Injury Prevention

LBS spoke with former nine-time All-Star center fielder Fred Lynn. Lynn is working with the SUBWAY Baseball DeSIGNS tour, which is a traveling display of baseballs designed by kids and autographed by celebrities. The balls, which you can see here, will be auctioned off in late August with all proceeds benefiting the Little League Urban Initiative.

We talked with Lynn about the All-Star Game, what factors have led to baseball becoming a pitcher’s game again, and whether he would have considered using steroids as a player. We also asked him if he ever wondered what his career would have been like had he signed with the Yankees out of high school instead of attending college and getting drafted by the rival Red Sox. He also told us that the All-Star Game being played for home field advantage is gimmicky. Our interview follows.

LBS: Personally, you had a lot of success playing in All-Star games. You’re facing some of the finest pitchers in baseball in these All-Star games. How were you able to do it?

Lynn: All-Star games are usually played sometimes early in July. I was always a good hitter in June and most of the time that followed up into the All-Star Game. When you play in those games, my focus was extremely high. You’re facing Hall of Fame pitchers, and you know it at the time — you want to do really well. I enjoyed playing on that stage against the best players on the planet. Fortunately for me, I did pretty well on that stage.

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Manny Pacquiao Issues Denial Statement Regarding Rumor of Steroid Injection

Manny Pacquiao has issued a statement in response to a report alleging his steroid use. The report was given credibility when it was shared on twitter by boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley Thursday.

The report first appeared on May 3rd on a gambling website and it says a former sparring partner of Pacquiao used to inject Manny with steroids. The report alleges that Pacquiao began using steroids in the lead up to his fight with Oscar De La Hoya because he needed to overcome the size difference between the men. They say the former sparring partner issued the interview in a “top secret location” in Las Vegas. As if that Austin Powers image doesn’t give you enough reason to laugh, the fact that there’s no real source to the report should crack you up.

Anyway, nothing would have happened with this “report” if Shane Mosley hadn’t made something of it. Think about it — this “report” was published on May 3rd yet nobody had heard about it until Mosley tweeted it. Mosley wrote Thursday:

Pacquiao ex-sparring partner came out a couple days ago stating that he would inject him w steroids – since Ricky fight look that up … These are not my words it comes from a article And his sparring partner but if it is true!!!! Than what do you say please google”

Then Mosley added that Pacquiao hit him harder than he had been hit his entire career. Floyd Mayweather Jr. caught wind of his report and he encouraged his nearly 1.2 million followers on twitter to go read it. The report seems so phony I won’t bother linking to it. But after Mosley and Floyd started to spread the report, Pacquiao’s camp decided to respond by issuing a statement:

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