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Today in the Worst Scandal There Absolutely Ever Was

[ 185 ] July 24, 2013 |

In addition to what Travis mentions, the context of the Braun suspension is a definitive illustration of whatever it is that causes people to selectively freak out about steroids, it’s not health.   In my dead tree edition of the Times, the Braun suspension got an A-1 story as well as two separate stories on the front page of the sports section, while the suspension of Von Miller merited a brief blurb in the back on an off-season NFL notes section.*  If health were primary concern, steroid use in the NFL would be the much bigger story, since NFL players getting bigger makes them better to inflict debilitating injuries on each other.  But nobody cares about steroid use in the NFL, and for that matter I’d bet MLB’s “steroids crisis” has received more coverage than the NFL’s infinitely more serious concussion problem.

But again, the selective freaking out about steroids isn’t about health; it’s about people who erroneously believe that records are ever set in neutral conditions and some people who desperately want to believe in the purity of boomer icons as if Ball Four never existed.

I’m also concerned about the apparent coming wave of Biogenisis suspensions for due process reasons.  I can’t really blame Braun for pleading out; better to agree to miss 65 games that you know won’t matter for your team than some indeterminate number that might.  But while MLB might be justified in moving forward based on the rules, I’d be wary, and the potential for someone (like Colon or Carbera) getting convicted twice for the same offense is a particularly troubling possibility.

*CORRECTION: As several commenters have pointed out, Miller is apparently facing suspension for recreational drug use, not steroids; my apoligies for misinterpreting the ambiguous wording.  I certainly stand by my point about the relative disinterest in steroid use in the NFL, but Miller is obviously not a good example of this.

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  1. Not that you’re wrong about the NFL at all on the matter of health concerns, I believe Miller is facing a suspension for recreational drug use.

    • Denverite says:

      This. He was previously entered into the NFL’s substance abuse program for testing positive for methamphetamines and pot. Everyone is saying that he tested positive again for drugs (probably pot), which would lead to a suspension under the NFL’s “Three Strike” policy.

      • JRoth says:

        If it means another excuse to bitch about the anti-steroids faction, Scott is happy to temporarily consider pot smoking a moral and medical crisis.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Scott is happy to temporarily consider pot smoking a moral and medical crisis.

          I think you’re very badly confused here. Also, I’d love to see evidence that using steroids is more dangerous that using amphetamines (which are also, of course, a performance enhancing drug, although since Willie Mays used them that doesn’t count.)

          • Mike Schilling says:

            Boomers are the source of all evil in the world.

          • Denverite says:

            Scott, you’re backpedaling. Your initial premise was that Miller tested positive for steroids. He didn’t.

            (Incidentally, he almost certainly wasn’t using uppers as PEDs — they don’t test right after games, and that’s the only way that they would really work — but that’s neither here nor there.)

          • sparks says:

            Oh, Mays only? I’d heard it was many more.

            • Sherm says:

              I never understand why Willie Mays — the best living player btw — is always identified as the poster child for 1) amphetamine use, although its universally known that nearly all players of his era and beyond) used them; and 2) not knowing when to retire, although he only had one bad year (1973).

              What did this great player do to be viewed in such a negative light?

              • Denverite says:

                A good argument could be made that Mays is the best position player ever.

                (Ruth had more power and a better eye; Mays was a better baserunner and a MUCH better defensive player. But the fact that Ruth was a HOF-caliber pitcher for a few years makes him the greatest PLAYER of all time, and it’s not particularly close.)

                • Mark Field says:

                  It’s only “not particularly close” if you think Ruth played against the same level of competition that Mays (or Bonds) did. If you believe that Ruth’s contemporaries were not as good, then it’s a very close call (or not, depending on how you weight that factor).

                • And, to that end, the fact that he was able to both pitch and hit at a high level actually speaks quite poorly for his relative place in baseball history.

                • Denverite says:

                  I dunno. You could make the argument that Ruth was the best pitcher in baseball in 1916 and 1917. It would be as if Justin Verlander decided in 2009 or so that he wanted to be a position player and then he went on to hit 75 home runs and slug .800 and generally be the best power hitter ever to play the game.

                  Yes, Ruth played against inferior competition (though there were a lot fewer teams then, so the best players were more concentrated). Still not close.

                • Except there’s no way Verlander could do that, because the quality of competition is too high to allow it. That Ruth was able to do it suggests that his contemporary talent pool was much lower than we can probably even imagine today.

                • Denverite says:

                  This is a silly line of argument. Basically the more impressive the performance, the more it shows how weak the competition was, and therefore proves the player isn’t as good as his numbers.

                  If you’re going to play that game, Mays’s numbers likely were inflated by the fact that he spent most of his career playing before the Latin explosion.

                • I don’t think that’s as absurd as you make it out to be.* What’s the alternative: that a fat drunk who didn’t take his craft all that seriously and put up numbers that are not only completely unmatched through the next 90 years of his own sport, but haven’t been replicated on the same scale in other sports either, is far and away the best professional athlete in the history of American sports? Yeah, that seems likely.

                  *And, fwiw, my theory of Ruth’s anomaly is that it’s largely explained by the fact that a really big chunk of the league still thought the home run was impure and continued to embrace putitinplay ball through the 1920’s.

                • mpowell says:

                  My understanding is that he wasn’t much of a fat drunk through most of his career.

                  But this is still a problem in the 60s. Sports medicine was still extremely rudimentary and there is no way those guys were the same kind of atheletes as play today. They knew hardly anything about training or injury recovery back then.

                • Denverite says:

                  You could make the argument that Chamberlain’s numbers were as much of an outlier as Ruth’s. Maybe even more, to be honest. There have been several Ruthian seasons in the past two decades. No one has replicated Chamberlain’s 1961-63 stretch.

                • And to be clear, I’m not saying that there isn’t an argument to be made for Ruth as the greatest ever, just that “there’s no one else even close and OMGZ HE WAZ A PITCHA END OF DISCUZION!!!!” is horseshit.

                • Sherm says:

                  Ruth’s offensive contemporaries had swings designed for the deadball era, when flyballs were basically automatic outs. Since he came up as a pitcher and had very little formal training as a player, he was basically the only player with a modern day, flyball swing when the deadball era ended, and the baseball got “juiced.” Put simply, he was alone swinging away in a league full of guys swinging down at the ball like Ichiro. This, and his immense talent, largely explains the differences between his power numbers and his peers’.

                • If by “several” you mean “Barry Bonds from 2001-04,” then yes. Outside of that, not so much.

                • Denverite says:

                  And just to be clear, my argument isn’t just that Ruth was a pitcher. It’s that he was an elite-level pitcher — maybe the best in the game during his (short) peak — who then became the best hitter in the game (by a long shot).

                • Brian says:

                  The hand-wringing over steroids, HGH, amphetamines, and all that drive me crazy because it is ‘cheating’.

                  The baseball ‘purists’ are quite amnesiac in their idolization of records.

                  If a steroid infused player hit more home runs than Babe Ruth, who cares? It was a different era.

                  Not once did Babe Ruth face an African American hitter or pitcher. I doubt very seriously if he faced a Latin American one either. But for some reason that doesn’t taint his records.

                • Denverite says:

                  OK, that’s fair enough. I was underestimating Ruth at his peak — I thought he was producing more like 1.200 OPS seasons, not 1.350 OPS seasons.

                  Though I’ll note that four is “several” by almost any definition.

                • Denverite says:

                  Yes, but there were only sixteen teams when he was playing. So what talent there was was concentrated on about half as many teams as there are today.

                • A fact that’s easily washed out by the lack of anything approaching professionalized scouting.

                • Sherm says:

                  Yes, but there were only sixteen teams when he was playing. So what talent there was was concentrated on about half as many teams as there are today.

                  Seriously? The talent was limited to white Americans in Ruth’s time. Not only has America’s population increased a bit since then, but the talent pool now includes all races, world-wide.

                • Mike Schilling says:

                  No one who dismisses Ruth as “a fat drunk who didn’t take his craft all that seriously ” has any idea what he’s talking about.

                • Mark Field says:

                  I dunno. You could make the argument that Ruth was the best pitcher in baseball in 1916 and 1917.

                  Third best both seasons, per BBREF WAR. http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/WAR_top_ten.shtml

                  Mays’s numbers likely were inflated by the fact that he spent most of his career playing before the Latin explosion.

                  The roster/population argument is a fair one to make, but expansion began shortly after the Latin “explosion” (more like a gradual stream) so the ratio didn’t change as much as you’d think.

              • What did this great player do to be viewed in such a negative light?

                I don’t see him in a negative light. My point is that nobody thinks that using PEDs should tarnish his reputation or thinks he was “cheating.”

                • nixnutz says:

                  just that “there’s no one else even close and OMGZ HE WAZ A PITCHA END OF DISCUZION!!!!” is horseshit.

                  Is this your summary of Jonah Keri’s book? Because that’s where I’m most familiar with the argument from and I think your summary is uncharitable at best.

                • Mike Schilling says:

                  Amphetamines were an attempt to deal with cross-country flights and jet lag. The reason that earlier players didn’t use them is that, before the 50s, they were travelling by train and stayed within two time zones.

                • nixnutz says:

                  oops replied in the wrong space. unfortunate since I was being snarky, sorry.

              • njorl says:

                “2) not knowing when to retire, although he only had one bad year (1973).”

                That wasn’t necessarily because of Mays. The Mets handled it terribly. They scheduled a “Say good-bye to Willie” day before he announced his retirement. The situation made for great humor.

                • Sherm says:

                  They scheduled a “Say good-bye to Willie” day before he announced his retirement.

                  My first baseball memory — my dad made me watch. Only five years old at the time, but I remember it well. But I suspect that it was his performance in the 73 world series which is the cause for his being labeled as a player who stuck around too long.

    • actor212 says:

      Amphetamines are PEDs, however.

  2. Also too, don’t worry about Bart and Melky: Michael Weiner has their back!!

    • Sherm says:

      Why the questioning of Weiner’s support? Have I missed something?

      • His entire tenure as the head of the union?

        • drkrick says:

          Weiner, unlike Miller and Fehr, appears to be presiding over a union with a pretty vocal contingent of members who want PED users to be punished (or at least that’s what I hear from sports network “insiders”). He seems to be responding to that by changing the union’s objective in these cases from minimizing or preventing punishment to encouraging the provably guilty to cut the best deal they can. Since it looks like his health is going to end his tenure in the job fairly soon, it will be interesting to see what his successor’s approach is.

          • It’s not just PED issue that Weiner sucks on. The guy has basically been in bed with the company at worst, and done nothing whatsoever to control the reactionary base of his union at worst. Either way, the guy has all but destroyed what was by far the most powerful union in sports when he took it over.

            • wengler says:

              Well, last contract time the players’ union really screwed over incoming members, but even a cursory look at other unions will tell you that in no way makes them unique.

              • Not on the surface, but I think it actually does in pretty important ways. For one thing, there’s just no tangible benefit to doing what they did in terms of continued employment for existing members, and since there’s no cap, there’s no direct competition for payroll, even in theory. What’s more, MLBPA had in the past likened slotting to a salary cap, so they completely reversed themselves on the matter in exchange for…nothing. They got absolutely no concession from the league in the exchange whatsoever.

                Well, perhaps that’s too harsh. They did prevent “hard slotting” which…has left top round draft picks unable to even reach the allotted bonus value for their selection. Well done!

            • efgoldman says:

              Either way, the guy has all but destroyed what was by far the most powerful union in sports when he took it over.

              Yeah, he’s destroyed the union alright. Braun still gets the balance of his contract; the Yankees are trying like hell to be rid of A-Rod, but can only do it if he gets a lifetime suspension (likely? Who knows); Dustion Pedroia just got another five years at $14mm+ per; Melky got a two year contract after he got suspended; Manny Ramirez may be back in the majors….
              You want to look at a useless player’s union, look at football. They had pure free agency, won in court, and gave it back, and have been going downhill ever since. And the NHLPA makes two.

              • I don’t think I’d be citing the fact that the second best second baseman in the game will likely play out his entire career underpaid and never having hit free agency as a sign that the union is doing a bang up job. Nor that players have guaranteed contracts Weiner had nothing to do with securing (and as for A-Rod and Braun, it appears that they will lose more game checks than they should under the JDA thanks to Weiner’s “sure Bud, pick as many games as you’d like” stance on the matter).

                • Sherm says:

                  Stupid move. Why not let Cano set the market before you negotiate the extension? Hell, Dustin P. might be worth more as he’s a year younger.

                • I don’t even care if he took the guaranteed nine figures, per se, but if you’re looking for a reason why baseball players get the lowest % of their sport’s revenues despite being the one without a salary cap…this is why. And there’s been nary a peep from the union about making changes to the system as a result.

                • mpowell says:

                  Brien – I’m confused, what is the reason? Is it that players sign extensions before hitting free agency? To me, that’s a symptom of the underlying problem: 6 years of team control. That’s a ghastly large number and where most of MLB player’s problem lies. Getting extra wins in FA is so damn expensive it’s almost not worth it. There would be more money for the players available if they stopped trying to jack up the market for veterans and instead negotiated for shorter terms of team control (say, hit arbitration 1 year earlier and arbitration lasts 1 year less so total of 4 years of team control).

                • Yeah, that’s the reason. The system creates a dynamic where the owners can save a whole bunch of profits by offering up underpayments that nevertheless represent good deals for the players as is…and the union is not only not pushing for changes to get its members more money, they’re more interested in tightening up the sport’s soft cap.

  3. howard says:

    i’ve come to the conclusion that what makes people “freak out” about steroids is the sense that taking steroids makes you the physical equivalent of superman (hence the constant reference to “dirty” players.

    what puzzles me, though, relative to your third graf, is why the union is congratulating braun….

    • I don’t think anyone has any fucking clue what the union is doing right now.

      • Richard says:

        My understanding is that the evidence against Braun was so conclusive, including texts specifically referencing PEDs, that, given his previous statements about his innocence and justice triumphant, sticking up for him would have been incredibly harmful to the other union members, steroid users or not. We’ll see what they do with the other Biogenesis users but I think they decided that defending Braun again was not a good thing for the other players they represent. Also, if you read the interviews being given by other players not implicated in the Biogenesis scandal, a whole lot of players, if not most, feel personally betrayed by Braun

        • Which is great, but how does that excuse not only allowing Selig to make the rules up as he goes, but cheering him on in the press as well?

        • Josh G. says:

          Doesn’t the union have a fiduciary obligation to defend all its members in administrative hearings, whether the person in question is well-liked or not?

          • Richard says:

            The rules give Selig the right to go after guys even in the absence of a positive drug test. And Weiner represents a union, the majority of whose members seem to believe that Braun deserves severe punishment and has betrayed fellow union members. Weiner’s job is to represent the players, not undertake quixotic crusades which would alienate the majority of the union members.

            And while the union has the duty to represent its members in arbitration if they want representation, Braun has his own counsel which negotiated this deal with MLB. A union member does not have to accept union representation and it was Braun’s own counsel that won the arbitration hearing last time. This time, they figured they couldn’t win

          • mark f says:

            Isn’t this analogous to a defense attorney counseling a client to plea something out? It doesn’t mean that the attorney wouldn’t present the best case in court if the client chose not to bargain.

            • Do attorneys routinely encourage clients to agree to longer prison sentences than the law allows as part of a plea deal?

              • mark f says:

                As I understand it, Braun was suspended for fifty games for JDA violations and an additional 15 for conduct relating to the 2011 incident. I assume the latter 15 games were agreed to have fallen within the regular CBA.

                B. Conduct Detrimental or Prejudicial to Baseball
                Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially
                detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of Baseball
                including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal,
                state or local law. The Commissioner and a Club shall not discipline
                a Player for the same act or conduct under this provision. In cases
                of this type, a Club may only discipline a Player, or take other adverse
                action against him, when the Commissioner defers the disciplinary
                decision to the Club.

                Not saying it’s right, necessarily, but I do think they probably found a basis that would stand up to scrutiny in arbitration.

                • So your defense of the union is that they giddily allowed Braun to incur additional punishment for…appealing a past suspension and taking advantage of a screw up in the process?

                • mark f says:

                  My defense of the union is limited to noting that it can fulfill its fiduciary obligation by advising its members of all realistic options, not by always pursuing full exoneration even when it would be quixotic. As for the union’s state of mind, I’ve no idea how giddy it is.

                • Sherm says:

                  Objection. Assuming facts not in evidence. It doesn’t appear that the Union had any involvement here. It appears that this decision was made independently by Braun and private counsel.

                • You didn’t see Michael Weiner’s big “fuck the cheaters” interview with the Daily News?

                • Sherm says:

                  That’s a different issue than accusing the Union of allowing unnecessary punishment to one of its members.

                • Okay, but that doesn’t change the fact that that’s exactly what they’re doing. Even if the union doesn’t have to go to the mats for Braun if they think he’s guilty, they very much have an obligation to fight the league trying to impose anything more than the 50 game suspension prescribed by the JDA.

                • mark f says:

                  I’m uncomfortable with the extra 15 games. In Braun’s case, and Braun’s only (of the first timers, obviously), I can see how he and his advisors accepted >50 as inevitable. I’m waiting to see how ARod etc play out. And I won’t be happy if, as Scott says, Colon or Cabrera is suspended for a second time relating to the same offense as the first.

                • Are you uncomfortable with Weiner saying that “just cause” suspensions don’t fall into the JDA punishment scale when the JDA says otherwise?

                • rea says:

                  Likely, what’s going on is that he’s agreed to take a 65 day suspension now, because (1) he’s hurt, (2) his team is out of contention, and (3) he’ll get paid more in subsequent years. Management was floating implausible rationales for a suspension longer than 50 days, but they probably would not have stood up under arbitration if contested–but if contested, the suspension probably wouldn’t take effect until next year. We still don’t really know what the evidence agsaint him was.

                • Well sure, it’s understandable why he agreed to the arbitrary number, but it’s still unclear why the union would not only allow him to do that, but publicly agree with the league’s nonsensical reading of the JDA.

                • Sherm says:

                  Are you uncomfortable with Weiner saying that “just cause” suspensions don’t fall into the JDA punishment scale when the JDA says otherwise?

                  If he said that, he should be removed immediately as there might be enough ambiguity in the JDA to permit the introduction of evidence at a hearing concerning the parties’ understanding of the punishments for the “just cause” suspensions.

                • mpowell says:

                  I generally agree that it’s bullshit that Braun is getting extra games for, essentially, challenging his previous suspension. However, I do feel we have to let this play out since it was almost certainly preferable for Braun to get hit with 65 games this year than 50 games next year (which might have been the outcome otherwise). It’s just a weird circumstance. In some of the other cases union actions will be a big deal. If they decide to sell out players who are getting suspended twice for the same violation, then you will see that there is a problem.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Well sure, it’s understandable why he agreed to the arbitrary number, but it’s still unclear why the union would not only allow him to do that, but publicly agree with the league’s nonsensical reading of the JDA.

                  On the first point, I don’t agree; it’s the union’s job to fight for due process that the player requests, not to force him not to cop a plea that’s in the player’s interest. The second point could be a serious problem.

                • Huh? The union has an established track record of putting the collective interest over the desire of individual players going back at least as far as refusing to let A-Rod rip up his contract in order to be traded to Boston in 2004. The same basic principle should mean they don’t stand by and let the league set the precedent of trampling on the collectively bargained drug agreement, ESPECIALLY since they essentially browbeat the player into it by threatening to pursue even harsher punishment (after the union said the JDA didn’t apply!) if he turned them down.

                • mark f says:

                  I’m taking a wait and see approach. I know less about Weiner’s overall tenure than you do, and have been basing my presumptions of MLBPA’s competence in the Braun case on its reputation as a strong union. If this really marks a shift in the way the union deals with PED accusations against its members, then my opinion will change.

                • MLBPA’s reputation as a “strong” union is purely based on reputation at this point, as well as the fact that Selig realized he could kill them much quicker with honey than vinegar, as it were.

                • Sherm says:

                  Brien — Thanks for the link. That’s a fucking outrage.

                • No problem. And to be fair, I conflated his interview with the Daily News (where he said the union would push the players to cop pleas) with his appearance at the ASG.

                • It’s also worth noting that, if the appeals process is the same as it is in the event of a failed test, the arbitration panel is comprised of a representative of the league and the union, as well as the independent arbitrator. Suffice it to say, that makes it even more outrageous that Weiner is joining Selig in ignoring the letter of the JDA.

    • drkrick says:

      They’re congratulating him for not dragging out his appeals, despite the fairly obvious fact he’s doing that to minimize the competitive and financial impact of the suspension on him. That statement, along with the one from MLB, were no doubt negotiated with Braun’s lawyers as part of the deal.

  4. Sherm says:

    Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass what adults choose to put into their bodies, but I believe in a level playing field and think that its unfair for clean players concerned with their health to have to compete for jobs with users.

    As for your due process concerns, I would like to think that the arbitration process can handle these issues, but I fear that MLB engaged in a little preemptive jury tampering when it terminated the arbitrator who ruled in Braun’s favor.

    • “clean players”

      Objection: Facts not in evidence.

      “As for your due process concerns, I would like to think that the arbitration process can handle these issues, but I fear that MLB engaged in a little preemptive jury tampering when it terminated the arbitrator who ruled in Braun’s favor.”

      Meh, I would think just the opposite. If MLB is going to be so petulant as to fire an arbitrator every time they lose, the arbitrator has an even greater incentive to keep their professional reputation intact so that they can get other gigs.

      • JRoth says:

        Objection: Facts not in evidence.

        Oh my fucking god is this the most tiresome thing about steroid apologists. Oh, the world-weary, all-knowing cynicism. It’s a pig-ignorant pose that pretends to be smarter than anyone else. It’s nauseating when it’s applied to politics, and no less so here.

        • I’m so old, I remember when Ryan Braun was a sweet faced All-American good guy. How long ago October 2011 was!

        • Besides, we’re talking about baseball, where literally every other form of cheating (well, with the possible exception of corked bats) is lauded as “savvy” and a mark of the great ones.

          • Mike Schilling says:

            Nonsense. Stealing signs (that is, being clever and keeping your eyes open) is considered cheating.

            • And it’s wholly approved of as much as it’s condemned, I’d say.

              • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

                I’ve never really understood why covertly communicating to teamates is ok, but figuring out the other teams communication system is cheating. It’s not like you’re sneaking into the other team’s dugout in disguise (which would be kind of awesome, actually.)

                • Mike Schilling says:

                  Makes no sense to me either. Or why hitting home runs when you’re up by 10 runs is fine, but stealing a base will get you thrown at.

                • Johnny Sack says:

                  That’s funny to me. My high school coach basically trained us in baseball cryptography. He was a savant at breaking signs (admittedly not *that* difficult). Same when I played club ball in college. Maybe the rules are different or it was against the rules.

                  It’s funny, I never cracked any book on baseball rules. I just learned from red faced middle aged men and experience. I always run into minutiae I don’t know about so I should look into it.

        • Kurzleg says:

          This is a little indirect, but Naughlty seemed to think that use was pretty widespread.

          • Kurzleg says:

            Whoops, misspelled his name. It’s Naulty.

          • JRoth says:

            Widespread in the ’90s, no doubt. Caminiti defined that as 50%. Canseco, about the least reliable witness imaginable, claimed 95%. Brien is saying the default is 100%, right now, under the testing regimen, and I’m calling bullshit.

            • Kurzleg says:

              I suspect it has become more sophisticated. If you use cycling as the example, then you know that over time doctors like Michele Ferrari developed regimens that allowed you to benefit from drug use without testing positive. The same is probably true in MLB given the money involved. In cycling, at least, for certain events you had to use drugs in order to simply keep up, let along to win. Have we reached that point in MLB? It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we have.

            • drkrick says:

              Canseco has been jerk in just about every way imaginable, but have any of his (widely dismissed at the time) assertions about PEDs been disproven?

              • Are a cold readers assertions ever “disproven?”

                • mark f says:

                  Then there’s this:

                  I remember one day during 2001 spring training, when I was with the Anaheim Angels in a game against the Seattle Mariners, Bret Boone’s new team. I hit a double, and when I got out there to second base I got a good look at Boone. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was enormous. “Oh my God,” I said to him. “What have you been doing?”

                  “Shhh,” he said. “Don’t tell anybody.” Whispers like that were a sign that you were part of the club …
                  — p. 264 [of Jose Canseco’s Juiced]

                  This conversation almost certainly didn’t take place.

                  The Mariners and Angels played five spring training games in 2001.

                  On Friday, March 2, the Angels beat the Mariners, 5-2. Jose went 0-for-2 as a DH, and did not reach base.

                  On Friday, March 9, the Mariners beat the Angels, 8-3. Canseco struck out twice in two at-bats. Boone did not play.

                  On Sunday, March 11, the Angels beat the Mariners, 5-4. Neither Canseco or Boone played.

                  On Monday, March 12, a Mariners split-squad beat an Angels split squad, 4-2. Canseco did not play.

                  On Tuesday, March 27, the Mariners beat the Angels, 15-2. Canseco did not play.

                  In spring training 2001, Canseco hit only one double in 39 at bats. He did not steal a base.

                  That’s one of several examples.

                • Denverite says:

                  In fairness, it could have happened in one of the split squad or minor league spring games that they don’t always record.

                • Split squad games get recorded, and B-games are rarely played against other major league teams.

                • Denverite says:

                  “rarely” being the key word.

                  (For the record, I think Canseco was almost certainly lying, though it’s theoretically possible he wasn’t.)

                • Well, okay, but rarely here means that there’s a VERY small chance that Boone and Canseco would have appeared in the same B-game in 2001, since even when you do play other major league teams, established big league players wouldn’t go on those trips.

        • Denverite says:

          Yeah, plus I think there’s a good bit of evidence that the MLBPA is really backing off protecting PED users (and players suspected of PED use). That would indicate to me that there is a critical mass of clean players who want to see PEDs gone from the game. (Whether that’s to level the playing field or just to mitigate the overwhelmingly bad press they’re getting is a different story.)

          • Or that the dirty protest the most.

            • Denverite says:

              Sure, or they’re using but just don’t care if the few that get caught are thrown under the bus because the PR is so bad right now. But evidence that can be argued either way is still evidence.

          • howard says:

            so what makes a player who doesn’t use steroids “clean?”

            that modern surgery that he had in the offseason that didn’t exist 30 years ago?

            lasic surgery?

            intensive monitoring of diet?

            scuffing the ball?

            • Sherm says:

              30 years ago is irrelevant, Howard. I’m talking today. Dieticians and surgical advancements are available equally to all modern players, without any of them feeling pressured to use prohibited substances to make it in the majors.

              • howard says:

                sherm, my point is twofold.

                the first is that one of the arguments against steroid use is “think of the record books.” well the record books are shite for any number of reasons (segregation being the leading one), but among them is the fact that players were “dirty” for decades.

                the second is that i’m trying to understand what the objection to steroids is: that some players bulked up unexpectedly? as i’ve often said, if all you had to do to hit home runs was get big, then frank howard should be the career home run leader.

                in other words, joe dimaggio had to retire young because of a heal problem that today would be no sweat through surgery; mickey mantle could have been an even greater player had modern knew surgery techniques existed 60 years ago.

                but those medical interventions are “clean” while steroids are “dirty?” where’s the line and why?

                now, i understand that the player’s union, in a perfectly legitimate collective bargaining process, agreed to make steroid use illegal, and therefore, after due process, i’m not objecting to punishment as such, but i am objecting to the moralizing that steroid use is some new, unique, “dirty” problem for baseball.

                • Sherm says:

                  Steroids are controlled substances which are illegal in the absence of a prescription for a legitimate medical purpose due to their known side-effects. The same can not be said for surgeries. There is a crystal-clear distinction here.

                  And I would never moralize over what adults choose to do to their own bodies. But its not fair to a player who doesn’t want to take the health risks associated with steroid use and doesn’t want to break the law to obtain them to have to compete for his livelihood with players who are willing to break the law and risk their health in order to get ahead.

                • Why the fuck are we still talking about steroids? No one is being suspended for steroid use, and the current banned substances at issue are actually quite analogous to medical treatment. HGH use as prescribed by a doctor, for example, would get you suspended by MLB…to say nothing of testosterone dosing.

        • howard says:

          what’s a fact clearly in evidence is that players have been using speed for decades.

          • JRoth says:

            Right, except your tense is wrong: every player’s been tested every year since 2006. I’m sure there’s still usage – and we know about ADHD diagnoses are used to get Prozac prescriptions – but I think it’s fair to assume that usage is lower now than when there was neither testing nor any taboo.

            • I think it’s more likely to assume that most of the usage shifted to different drugs that are harder to test for.

              • Kurzleg says:

                Yup, or that players have worked with doctors to find ways to beat the tests as was done in cycling.

                • JRoth says:

                  I’m not convinced that the benefits from speed are/were so great that (most) players would go to great lengths to get them. Put it this way: if I’m risking suspension, do I do it for the stuff that made Bonds Bonds, or for the stuff that the likes of Abraham Nuñez took every day for his entire career? Know what I mean?

                  And the thing is, speed is really only useful on a daily basis; a single dose gets you a game’s worth of, uh, pep. Different players used steroids/HGH different ways, but nobody needed to use it 162 times in order to get (ostensible) benefit in every game.

                  So I think that, once there’s barriers in place, a lot (obviously not all) of players will just pass on it. Also, of course, AFAIK there’s never been a guy suspended. Assuming the test isn’t worthless (that is, it doesn’t test for just one specific drug), and assuming there’s not a readily available, yet non-testable, substitute, I tend to think that usage has come down significantly (that is, that many/most players don’t use at all, and that the remainder are on something other than speed).

                • As far as I know, no one has been suspended for using anabolic steroids since the JDA was put into place. My understanding is that low-dose testosterone is the PED of choice these days.

                • Kurzleg says:

                  JRoth –

                  You’re assuming that most players feel that they can maintain their level of performance without drugs. I think there’s a dependency factor in drug use, and players will find other options if they can’t use their preferred one due to testing.

                • howard says:

                  jroth, this gives me a chance to once again urge the reading of jim brosnan’s 1961 seasonal diary, “pennant race.”

                  “greenies,” as they were called then, were as easy to get as chewing gum: no one had to go to any efforts at all.

        • Oh my fucking god is this the most tiresome thing about steroid apologists. Oh, the world-weary, all-knowing cynicism.

          Oh, please. Last time I checked it’s anti-steroid fanatics who think that Jeff Bagwell shouldn’t be elected to the Hall of Fame based on nothing.

  5. Denverite says:

    Also, the NFL’s “concussion problem” isn’t infinitely more serious than anything. The league has been pretty good in recent years in recognizing and addressing concussions.

    The real problem is long term sub-concussion head trauma, which ISN’T being addressed, and which we don’t really know a lot about, even though it’s a huge health problem.

    • sparks says:

      Can I say I have much less faith in the NFL on this issue than you? Oh, I just did.

      • Denverite says:

        Faith doesn’t really have anything to do with it. The people who’s brains are rotting and then killing themselves (or others) probably are that way because of concussions. They’re probably that way because they spent two-plus decades of their lives getting hit in the head over and over and over again even if none of those blows cause a concussion.

        • Denverite says:

          Sorry, “aren’t that way.”

        • Paul Campos says:

          This seems like an unhelpful semantic quibble regarding the formal definition of a concussion.

          • Denverite says:

            Totally disagree. If it’s a concussion problem, the NFL is going to try to fix it as they have — by implementing protocols designed to identify players with concussions and then removing them until the effects have passed. (And again, they’ve actually gotten fairly good at this.)

            If it’s a repeated head trauma/sub-concussion problem, they’re going to try to fix it by…. Well, that’s the problem. No one really knows how to try to fix it without fundamentally altering the nature of the game.

          • medrawt says:

            I disagree; “concussion” in the sense people use it (and I presume the medical sense) is an obvious thing now that personnel have been trained to look for it, it’s a big issue in the NFL but it’s also been an issue for both the NHL and the NBA, all these leagues have policies in place trying to take seriously the severity of not treating a concussed person properly, and we can all be cynical about those efforts.

            But by using “concussion” as a shorthand for “head trauma experienced in the course of playing football” both the NFL and its partisans are able to play a shell game with the growing medical evidence that repeated minor head trauma of the sort that causes no apparent effect on the player in the moment – not even “oh, he got his bell rung!” – causes brain damage. They can say “we’re dealing with concussions” when they’re not in fact dealing with the chronic head trauma that might be irresolvably baked into the way the modern game is played. So the semantics matter.

            • Denverite says:

              ding ding ding

            • Paul Campos says:

              I don’t think we’re disagreeing. My understanding is that people researching the subject of head trauma produced by concussion consider the distinction between a frank concussion, and the micro-concussions that don’t produce any immediate outward symptoms, to be somewhat arbitrary for the purposes of dealing with long-term damage from head trauma.

              Naturally the NFL would like to treat these things as separate problems, since taking the latter seriously would probably require fundamental changes to the way football is played.

            • Anonymous says:

              Seconded. I think the micro-trauma issue is one reason why the NFLPA pushed for a reduction in full contact practices during the last negotiations.

  6. JRoth says:

    On steroids vs. concussions, I’m not sure how you’d measure (since baseball has always attracted a lot more masturbatory punditrycolumnizing, and since concussions, unlike steroid use, happen during the game and on camera), but it’s a tough comparison since the steroid issue is (as a known issue) much older.

    But I feel as if pretty much the entire 2012 NFL season was played under the shadow of concussions, both on the news side and the opinion side. It’s been a couple months since the initial Biogenesis names came out, and I don’t feel as if the period from then until now has been dominated by steroid talk.

  7. Josh G. says:

    Why is it considered OK for a pitcher to extend his career with Tommy John surgery or a cortisone shot to the arm, but not OK for a player to extend his career with HGH or testosterone supplements? This has never made much sense to me. I think baseball is a better game when great players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens can play well into their forties. I want to see players on the field, not on the DL.

    If you read the comments on an A-Rod article, there’s lots of cynical talk about how his nagging injuries are a result of no longer having steroids to fall back on. What the cynics miss is that this actually makes a case for the steroids being a legitimate medical treatment!

    • Denverite says:

      This is a good question. I think the best answer is that it’s too hard to draw the line between “responsible” PED use (i.e., a pitcher using steroids or HGH under a doctor’s supervision to recover) and irresponsible use (Barry Bonds going on a regime that made him more machine than man), so rather than trying to come up with a super-fine distinction, baseball basically just adopted a zero tolerance policy.

    • JRoth says:

      My understanding is that long term, ongoing steroid* usage does have significant negative medical effects**, which means that an ethical doctor can’t administer them as an ongoing thing, which is why they’re a controlled substance. If players were getting back alley TJ surgery, I think people would have a problem with that as well. If TJ surgery resulted in shortened lifespan, you’d probably have trouble finding doctors to perform them.

      And just to head off Scott’s inevitable accusation of hypocrisy, I consider football in the same category as MMA at this point, and if my town didn’t have a team, I wouldn’t follow the sport at all (as it is, I pay attention after baseball wraps up and will watch the playoffs with friends). Oh, and I consider NFL team doctors to be pretty unethical.

      *not sure about HGH

      **people try to downplay this, but it’s not as if steroids would have to kill players at age 50 to make it unethical; doctors aren’t supposed to risk people’s health for non-medical reasons

      • Denverite says:

        My understanding is different. I thought that a monitored steroid regime under a doctor’s supervision is generally pretty safe.

      • Josh G. says:

        I’ve heard the negative health effects of steroids talked about, but this talk usually isn’t accompanied with specific citations. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Do you happen to know of any studies showing that modest use of steroids and/or HGH, under medical supervision, has detrimental health effects?

        And lumping football in with MMA is quite unfair to MMA.

        • Sherm says:

          The problem — which is routinely ignored by steroid apologists — is that there are ethical complications in performing the studies required to determine the precise effect of steroids on humans.

          But I have witnessed their impact on my nephew with lupus (under medical supervision of course), and it ain’t pretty.

        • JRoth says:

          I’m talking about regular use over the course of a 10 year career, not occasional use as part of injury recovery. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought that, scare stories aside, a guy taking that much (2000 doses?) would have negative effects.

      • John Protevi says:

        This is a review article on health riks on steroid use: http://www.jssm.org/vol5/n2/2/v5n2-2pdf.pdf

        From the Conclusion:

        When examining the potential medical issues associated with anabolic steroid use, evidence indicates that most known side effects are transient. More so, few studies have been able to directly link anabolic steroids to many of the serious adverse effects listed. Although clinical case studies continue to link anabolic steroid administration with myocardial infarct, suicide, and cancer, the evidence to support a cause and effect relationship is lacking and it may be other contributing factors (i.e. genetic predisposition, diet, etc.) play a substantial role and potentiate the harmful effects from anabolic steroids. Consistent physician monitoring is critical to the athlete who consumes anabolic steroids. However, many athletes may not undergo extensive medical exams prior to androgen administration and few physicians may be willing to provide such monitoring.

        Sherm and I have discussed this article previously; it was a good discussion. Some notes from that discussion: 1) it’s only about steroids, not all PEDs; 2) it does not say there are no side-effects from steroids; 3) establishing “cause-and-effect” is very tricky in medicine; 4) there may be more recent studies that confirm, nuance, or even contradict its findings; I would be happy to get links to such such studies

  8. phantomist says:

    For those who don’t know, you mean Melky.

    Cabrera, Alberto RP Chicago Cubs
    Cabrera, Asdrubal SS Cleveland Indians
    Cabrera, Daniel SP Arizona Diamondbacks
    Cabrera, Edwar SP Colorado Rockies
    Cabrera, Everth SS San Diego Padres
    Cabrera, Felix 3B San Diego Padres
    Cabrera, Mauricio SP Atlanta Braves
    Cabrera, Melky LF Toronto Blue Jays
    Cabrera, Miguel 3B Detroit Tigers
    Cabrera, Ramon C Detroit Tigers
    Cabrera, Yordy 3B Oakland Athletics

  9. Interesting how the linked post blames consumers for the scandals. Just saying.

    • drkrick says:

      I don’t think that’s accurate. The consumers aren’t in a position to cause or cure the problem, although they do like a higher scoring version of the sport, especially if they can pretend it’s happening on the level. It does point out that because the “juiced” game is more attractive to fans the people running the sport gave in to the temptation to cut that corner to lure them back after the 1994 lockout fiasco. Not the same thing

      • the outrage that was once there in baseball is gone, and the fact that half of the National Football League looks like drug-infused lab rats doesn’t seem to bother anyone either

        Fans . . . enjoy what steroids create: longer home runs, harder hits, stronger and faster players, and more entertaining sporting events.

        The ellipses cover a statement to the effect that fans are hypocrites who pretend to care. What follows was an argument that MLB can’t act on principle because it needs the fans too much and fans want home runs. (Not that statistically ratings are better when there are lots of home runs, but that for the majority of fans, individually, they actively want to see more home runs and don’t care about anything else.)

        It’s the reverse of the (bad) idea that what’s good is a function of what “the market” wants: Hollywood makes movies with lots of explosions because “people” like explosions.

        • Well, I think the charges of hypocrisy are quite right in baseball, broadly speaking. In the NFL, on the other hand, I think the fans are generally quite upfront that they don’t give a damn and actively like the gladitorial nature of the game.

      • mpowell says:

        The weird thing is that if they could just convince the umpires to shrink the strike zone, lower the mounds or just bring the fences in a bit (which makes for a better stadium too!), they could increase the level of offense if they really wanted.

        • Darkrose says:

          just bring the fences in a bit (which makes for a better stadium too!)

          One day, the Giants front office will cave and bring in the fences at the Phone Booth.

          I will cry.

          I’m happy to accept our guys getting AT&T’ed as the price for watching opposing hitters fume when balls that would be out anywhere else are caught on the warning track.

  10. cs says:

    Getting re-suspended for the same offence (or potentially the same offence) seems so obviously wrong that, as little as I think of MLB, I refuse to believe they’d actually do that, or get away with it, until it happens.

    (I am rooting for Oakland, so that could be wishful thinking.)

    • Josh G. says:

      I find it hard to believe that any arbitrator would allow MLB to ban A-Rod for life for what is essentially one infraction, when the CBA makes it clear that three strikes are required for that punishment to be applied. His previous public admission to using steroids from 2001-2003 doesn’t count, since the CBA in place at the time did not prohibit steroid use at all. Nor have there been any proven infractions against him since then.

      • Sherm says:

        The CBA makes it clear that three positive tests are required for a lifetime suspension, but it fails to define the punishments for player violations of the drug policy based upon the Commissioner’s finding of “just cause”. This ambiguity will be an issue at any arbitration hearing I imagine, and the notion that a player could receive a lifetime ban without a single failed test is pretty fucking disconcerting to say the least.

        It would be interesting to see the evidence at a hearing as I imagine that players will be relying upon their negative MLB drug tests to refute the biogenesis records and on expert testimony regarding the significance of the test results in light of MLB’s accusations. MLB might have to contend that its testing failed or was inadequate in some respect.

        • Well, no, this notion is laughable on its face. Or would be if Weiner hadn’t given it the union’s seal of approval!

          • Sherm says:

            I stand corrected. Section 7A, which contains the 50-game, 100-game and permanent suspension penalties, also applies to a player who “otherwise violates the Program through the use or possession of a Performance Enhance Substance.” I had not noticed that language when I last glanced at the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The “otherwise violates” language clearly should apply to Section 7G, which states that “A Player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just cause by the Commissioner for any Player violation of Section 2 above not referenced in Section 7.A through 7.F above”, but does not contain any specific penalties.

  11. Kurzleg says:

    I think the freakout about steroids boils down to the history of use in high-profile Olympic sports like track and field and the evident advantage it gave to those who used them before they got caught. When a world record holder and Olympic gold medalist like Ben Johnson gets caught using steroids, his success is immediately attributed to the steroids (and rightly so, IMO). Steroids have been talked about for far longer and far more frequently than amphetamines or any other drug, and their efficacy has been firmly established in the mind of the public.

  12. J.W. Hamner says:

    There’s an article in that new Peter King venture about how the new HGH “population study” the NFLPA agreed to is actually a move in the wrong direction (if you would like to curb HGH usage in the NFL). In it the author says that there is basically no long term negative health consequence for taking it:

    But here’s how NFL players might differ: It’s long been suspected (if not taken for granted) that HGH use is prevalent in the league. While it might not reach the 60% to 70% level that former quarterback Boomer Esiason estimated last year, NFL strength coaches who spoke with me on condition of anonymity said they believed a significant number of players use HGH, given that it can be used with impunity, that many of the potential short-term side effects (like joint swelling) appear reversible when a player stops using, and that the lone, randomized study that looked at HGH specifically for speed enhancement found a real benefit in using it. Essentially, if NFL players aren’t using HGH, it’s more an ethical or health decision than anything else.

    Obviously there is a strong argument for player health that artificially stronger and faster players in a sport based on collisions is dangerous, but it is indeed hard to see how that plays out in baseball. Even in football, if HGH is really responsible for Ray Lewis and Adrian Peterson coming back supernaturally fast from injuries… why exactly is that something we want to stop?

    • I don’t really know why anyone would suggest that there aren’t health problems resulting from long term abuse of human growth hormone…since it’s basically inarguable that there are.

      • J.W. Hamner says:

        Well then surely you can cite numerous studies laying out all of these “inarguable” long term side effects!

        • Of what? Controlled use of limited doses or infrequent treatment for injuries, or prolonged, regular, abuse? If it’s the latter, the effects should be pretty obvious based on, ya know, what growth hormone does. Of course, anyone who’s not an idiot knows that abusing HGH like this is actual detrimental to performance, so my guess is that basically no one is actually doing this…which does rather complicate the anti-PED argument.

          • J.W. Hamner says:

            Define what you mean by “abuse” then? Drinking too much water can kill you after all. None of the uses these players are putting HGH to are FDA approved, and even if we assume they have some secret off-label prescription from a doctor the NFL would consider it abuse certainly.

            The problem is that there is very little research done on the effect of HGH on healthy young men and women. Indeed, it seems that, much like steroids, most of the “research” is being conducted on an ad hoc basis by professional athletes and their doctors/chemists.

  13. Joe says:

    Braun is a “man bites dog” story. It is atypical that someone, especially someone who already fought it because of procedural concerns, is suspended in this fashion & accepting it … especially after he fought so hard before. He also is a top player.

    Also, this isn’t a criminal court of law. I wasn’t aware double jeopardy was as much a problem for sports players. Is it in other employment? Blandly saying they were ‘convicted’ is a bit silly.

    Like an animal rights advocate saying cruelty to dogs shouldn’t mean torture of humans should be ignored, this doesn’t mean more attention should be given to the concussion issue. A problem there, probably, is that concussions more go to the core of the game of football itself, which involves grown men ramming into each other much of the time.

    Society is selectively concerned about some things, especially dealing with the “American past time” — this is not news. Also, if Braun and A-Rod wasn’t involved here, it probably will get a lot less play. Yeah, top celebrities get more attention. Horrible, I know. It also isn’t a shocker.

    This also doesn’t change that steroid use is not overall healthy and the system VOLUNTARILY having a rule, now actually enforced, is fine. It also helps low level players on the margins (including young ones who risk their future for possible short term gain) who are willing to risk their health. I guess we can get all libertarian, or complain that realistically certain lines are drawn, but didn’t really think that it was that sort of blog.

  14. Tyler says:

    Scott’s claims about the disparity of media coverage in these cases seem … odd, since the examples he chooses are hardly comparible. Braun is a league MVP whose suspension is set in stone; Miller is a prominent player whose suspension is still in limbo. If, say, Peyton Manning was suspended for half the season, ESPN would start a new channel devoted to that story and that story only. In addition to the one they have devoted to Tebow, of course.

  15. Timb says:

    I skipped the comments, Scott, but just use this story about the THIRD Colts player suspended for performance enhancing drugs

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/colts-te-draws-8-game-215205323–nfl.html

    It just ain’t real news when NFL players do it

    • Karate Bearfighter says:

      Shawne Merriman was chosen as the first team all-pro OLB — by the AP, the Sporting News and the Professional Football Writers Association — the same year he tested positive for steroids and was suspended for 1/4 of the season. Not only do the fans not care, the sportswriters don’t care either.

  16. politicalfootball says:

    I’m always surprised when I see athletes’ steroid use endorsed or downplayed by people who perfectly well understand the concept of “race to the bottom.”

  17. Ed K says:

    Agreed.

    As a cycling fan and thus someone who’s thought this through a lot more than Baseball / Football fans have, usually, I’d add that I’d *like* everyone to start freaking out about health, or more specifically about the fact that the health risks that go along with this stuff, directly and indirectly (as your football example illustrates) have become part of the de facto working conditions for professional athletes, and the leagues’ unwillingness to really look at the problem / let the unions prevent them from doing so is mostly about them trying to avoid taking responsibility for what’s happening or may happen in the future to these workers.

    The working conditions angle is, in other words, the one that makes me care about sports doping. Otherwise, I couldn’t give a shit.

    • actor212 says:

      Is the owner forcing or condoning the use? Because if it’s condoning, then those working conditions are self-imposed.

      • Ed K says:

        If the competitive environment is such that ‘making the team’ includes a de facto requirement to dope, then we’ve got a problem. I don’t give a fuck about the legal hair splitting here. Sham bans (i.e., those that aren’t enforced in any meaningful way, as is the case in all major U.S. pro sports) are there to allow owners to argue that their neither forcing nor condoning, and so the entire business is the responsibility of the horrible cheating players. In reality, there are well organized networks of providers, trainers, coaches, para-coaches, etc. that ensure that no athlete who’s got the potential to get anywhere near the pros doesn’t get whatever he or she ‘needs’ to make it — especially because once these folks invest in a player, their payoff depends entirely on how successful or not he or she is. You can make all the legal distinctions about ‘voluntariness’ you want to, but there’s a system that makes a shit ton of money for a lot of people out of producing these athletes, and using whatever means they can get away with to do so, regardless of the athlete’s health beyond the very limited scope of their ‘money years’ as a pro.

        • A de facto requirement to play hurt, on the other hand (especially in the NFL, where this is taken to extreme lengths pretty regularly) is totally cool.

          • Ed K says:

            Not at all (and what on Earth would make you think I would affirm that).

            I’d be thrilled if the unions actually started to try to do something meaningful about the working conditions of professional athletes. It’s particularly disheartening that where there are strong unions, they’re essentially trying to protect the status quo on this (b/c their members are able to play b/c of doping, fairly obviously). I get the dilemma there. But generally they’ve been nearly as bad as the owners with regard to player health. It’s been retired players who have, as far as I can tell, the ones who have actually started to advocate and put pressure on leagues to produce the kind of serious reforms that might improve working conditions. But it’s all more than enough to make you long for the days when unions actually made working conditions a major part of all bargaining exercises and were able to really make it difficult for employers to abuse workers.

    • I dunno. Because left unsaid in that is “Ryan Braun would beat out Skip Schumacher for a roster spot with or without doping.” It’d be the 23-27th guys on the roster where this effect was really making a difference.

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