Last week, ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported that Major League Baseball would seek to suspend 20 players connected to Biogenesis of America, a former Miami-area anti-aging clinic founded by Anthony Bosch that was implicated in providing banned substances to professional athletes in January by a whistle-blowing former employee. After a lawsuit was filed against him by MLB, Bosch reached an agreement – according to the OTL report – to cooperate with the league’s investigation into the matter, potentially offering evidence necessary to suspend several players.
In exchange for Bosch’s cooperation, MLB will not only drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March, but also protect him from liability for any other legal action that might arise from his cooperation, provide security for him and speak on his behalf with any law enforcement agency that seeks to bring charges against him in the future.
This represents the very first time in professional sports that a league has investigated the past use of banned substances by multiple high-profile players for punitive purposes. And like any first time, it carries with it a lot of nuance, intricacies and questions that are likely to be ignored by our initial reaction to the possibilities of wide spread suspensions.
With a bit of distance from the story breaking, let’s go over some of the larger issues pertaining to the investigation and potential punishment, and try to gain an understanding of – forgive me for this – what it all means.
In spite of the best efforts of some individuals to bury it, the Biogenesis mess is still out there, lurking around baseball like rank bodily gas. It won’t go away because it is the gift that keeps on giving – it fuels a fire that ignites very easily and burns long and hot.
Robinson Cano‘s name did not appear in the original Biogenesis reports but, as ESPN New York points out, the names of both his best friend (Melky Cabrera) and mentor (Alex Rodriguez) do show up in the notebooks and MASH notes of the South Florida quacks. But that is not all, as the head of Robinson Cano’s charitable foundation apparently appears in some Biogenesis reports.
Sonia Cruz, the spokesperson for Cano’s foundation, suddenly appeared in some Biogenesis documents, according to T.J. Quinn and Mike Fish of ESPN. Cruz denied receiving anything more than treatment from the South Beach clinic:
“Drugs. Drugs. Drugs. Which are good? Which are bad?”
The melody and lyrics of the vintage public service announcement still resonate, but not because of a nostalgic lesson learned. It’s ironic detachment that fuels our memory. We’re taught from an early age that some drugs are good, and some drugs are bad. However, as we get older, we learn that nothing is truly as black and white as we’re initially led to believe.
This is a lesson gone unlearned by professional sports that still prefer to exist in a sort of Neverland, remaining aloft in ideals that ultimately prove childish. The issue of drugs in sports, as in all walks of life, requires nuance, but the major professional sports leagues insist on handling it with definition that doesn’t actually exist.
No greater example of this can be found than in the recent voter approval for possession of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Despite the evidence of social progress that the vote represents, imagining that the results would change the rules for professional sports in those states is, pardon the expression, a pipe dream.