Since 2004, the first year that Major League Baseball had a drug-testing policy that included penalties for offenders, doping players often came up with creative explanations for their performance-enhancing drug use.
“My fault was because I was immature and stupid,” former Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said at a 2009 press conference in which he admitted to using banned substances for the first time during his playing career. Rodriguez then said his PED use stretched between 2001-03 when he played for the Texas Rangers.
Rodriguez’ admission came after a 2009 Illustrated Sports report that said he tested positive for PEDs in 2003, the year of baseball’s survey. “I knew we weren’t using Tic Tacs,” Rodriguez said, referring to him and his cousin, Yuri Sucart, who he then labeled his drug supplier.
Nearly a decade later, it was Robinson Cano’s turn to explain, after receiving his first MLB doping suspension. Cano, the Dominican lefty slugger, tested positive for the banned drug Furosemide, a masking agent. Cano said in a 2018 statement that the drug was “given to me by a licensed physician in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical condition.
“While I didn’t realize at the time that I was on drugs that were banned, now of course I wish I had been more careful,” Cano said. Two years later, Cano tested positive again, this time for the hardcore steroid Stanozolol, and was banned for the entire 2021 MLB season. He forfeited $24 million in salary as a result. Cano is currently a free agent after being named for assignment this year by three clubs, including the Mets.
San Diego Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. is the latest bold-faced player to receive a lengthy suspension due to a positive drug test and use a “dog-at-the-homework” excuse when caught.
The league announced Aug. 12 that Tatis, 23, had tested positive for Clostebol, a synthetic form of testosterone. His 80-game suspension without pay will be in effect for the remainder of 2022 and next season. If the Padres make the playoffs this year – the club is currently battling for a wildcard – those games will count towards Tatis’ suspension.
Immediately after MLB’s announcement, Tatis released a statement saying he “accidentally” took the steroid to treat ringworm. Tatis hadn’t played for the first four months of the ’22 season after breaking his left wrist over the winter, and the shortstop raised eyebrows in spring practice when asked if he was involved in a reported motorcycle accident.
“Which?” he then replied to reporters.
Since being punished by MLB, Tatis has apologized multiple times for the positive test, including recently to reporters, while Padres general manager AJ Preller – himself suspended for 30 days unpaid by MLB in 2016 for submitting false medical records to the Red Sox – Sat by Tatis’ side. In February 2021, the Padres and Tatis agreed to a 14-year extension worth $340 million.
He will lose about $3 million in salary during Prohibition and will earn $5 million by 2022.
Tatis told reporters in Petco Park that he tested positive after using a skin medication to treat an infection, and had received the medication in his home country, the Dominican Republic. Unlike in the US, steroids are legal in the Dominican Republic and can be obtained without a prescription.
For Anthony Bosch — the mastermind behind the Coral Gables Biogenesis anti-aging clinic that was central to baseball’s 2012-2013 doping scandal — Tatis’ PED bust is yet another example that professional baseball players will always try to get ahead.
“Ringworm? My one—Tatis didn’t use (Clostebol) for ringworm,” Bosch said in a recent interview.
More broadly, Bosch said baseball has a perennial challenge in its battle against PEDs — advances in science and more advanced drugs that are harder to detect through testing are just some of the hurdles the sport faces with regard to anti-doping efforts.
When Rodriguez was suspended from MLB in 2013 for his ties to Biogenesis, he sued baseball, then Commissioner Bud Selig, and the Players Association as he fought his sentence. But linked to his federal lawsuit was the ruling of independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz in A-Rod’s case.
That ruling, which came after an arbitration hearing involving bruises, reduced Selig’s original ban from 211 games to 162 games, throughout the 2014 season. Horowitz’s ruling included detailed descriptions of the drug regimen Bosch had designed for Rodriguez, including testosterone troches or lozenges and testosterone cream.
In a recent interview, Bosch said that players can “microdose” to avoid detection, but even then MLB has challenges with its drug testing program.
“Look, they don’t get everyone,” Bosch said. “If you’re not playing, if you’re recovering from an injury, they won’t test you as often. Players can take that opportunity when they’re not there.”
Before the league and the players’ union agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement earlier this year, players were locked out during the labor dispute and the drug testing program was suspended. Bosch then said the two sides should have taken the opportunity to “renew” the Joint Drug Agreement.
“The old one doesn’t work,” Bosch said earlier this year.
But the program worked against Tatis, and now a team full of talent will be without its big star thanks to the expenses of team president Peter Seidler.
“I’m very sorry. I’ve let so many people down,” Tatis said during his apology to reporters at Petco Park. “I’ve failed every fan of (San Diego). I’ve failed in my country. abandoned my family, I have seen my dreams turn into my worst nightmares.”