Are we weary of PED talk yet? Judging by the reaction this Miami New Times report, there is a voracious appetite for drug speculation. Depending on your desire for outrage, there is enough in the MNT report to feed an army.
There are names – famous names and familiar names and new names in the baseball drug sphere. There are details of a sloppily-run medical clinic with questionable bookkeeping and details of creams, shots, and significant payments. There is enough to reignite the steroid debate anew.
The names are the real draw here. Surely South Florida is lousy with fly-by-night clinics passing phony prescriptions for cash. How many clinics boast Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Yasmani Grandal and Gio Gonzalez among their clientèle?
The names give the story traction, the details and timing give it legs. No matter how much (if any) of the story is true or fabricated, this story will not go away soon. The clients of the Biogenesis clinic paid handsomely for the expectation of anonymity, that their drugs and their names would remain imperceptible. Anthony Bosch and his associates only held up one half of that bargain, it seems.
Dear MLB players: I can sell you roids and I promise not to write your name down when I do it. Please DM for more info.
— Andrew Grant (@realandrewgrant) January 29, 2013
Drugs in baseball occupy such a strange place in our collective imagination. This story breaks against the backdrop of Super Bowl Media Day, a sport battling its image as modern bloodsport. A sport in which players gaining physical advantages over each other stand to benefit greatly. But in the NFL, performance enhancing drugs are as close to a non-story as it gets.
But baseball is different. The hands will wring long into the night. The league will launch investigations and, eventually, someone will fall on their sword for this indiscretion. The league and players association allow the commissioner the right to suspend players with “just cause” rather than positive tests alone.
Will previous losers like Melky Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez get slapped on the wrist once again or will the judgement fall on the new names, previously “assumed” to be clean? How will Gio Gonzalez fare – linked to this story though none of the products attached to his name are banned by baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement? Greeted as a hero and cast out like a leper?
Anyone wishing for the season to start and for this story to fade away will not get their wish. For whatever reason, these stories resonant in the baseball world. Both sides of this debate are dug in and entrenched and, frankly, ugly. The pendulum swings between misanthropy and sanctimony, making no stops in between.
There remains a gulf between baseball fans – those who want to see cheaters run from the game and those who remain dispassionate and indifferent. As always with drug issues, it has more to do with the league and players association managing optics and gauging consumer confidence rather than “cleaning up the game” – a dubious concept at best. There are legal aspects to this story, though it is too early to discern how much they will factor into the 2013 season.
The league already issued a statement, expressing their “disappointment” over the report and come with the hammer in the final paragraph:
We remain fully committed to following all leads and seeking the appropriate outcomes for all those who use, purchase and are involved in the distribution of banned substances, which have no place in our game.
This will not end well for Anthony Bosch, the Miami area man at the centre of this controversy. The only question is who else will go down with him?