JAY DAVIS: Baseball taking steps to rid game of PEDs

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Major League Baseball has taken its most important step yet in trying to do away with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) with suspensions of 14 players, including star players Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.

While Braun took all the early headlines when he accepted his suspension and had to surrender the rest of this season (and about $52,000 a game), Rodriguez and his mess have consumed nearly every headline since.

The Rodriguez situation will not go away soon. MLB suspended the Yankee third baseman for 211 games, which is 111 games more than any player has ever been suspended for PED use. The league’s reasoning for the long suspension is pretty sound. A-Rod has been allegedly using steroid and other PEDs for a long time now. His first (and only) failed test came way back in 2003. That was early in the process when MLB was conducting a “survey” and just learning how to deal with steroids. There were no suspensions. There has been no “second failed test,” but MLB has a lot of other evidence that the game’s most polarizing figure has been a big part of the problem for a long time now.

This won’t go away for a while. Rodriguez has filed an appeal. The arbitrating judge will need a lot of time to pore through the paperwork. Rodriguez will play the rest of this season, and the playoffs if the Yankees can turn things around. The appeal hearings won’t be heard until at least November so you can expect a lot more A-Rod headlines as the season progresses.

There is one more elephant in the room that no one seems to have the desire to delve into. Take away Rodriguez who was born in New York City and Braun who is from Los Angeles, and every other player suspended for PED use is Latin American. Of the other 12 players, one is from Nicaragua, three are from Venezuela and eight are from the Dominican Republic. There were seven players suspended last year and six were Latin American.

The PED problem has to have some major socio-economic reasoning with 18 out of 21 players coming from island countries and South America. Is it that these players feel a deeper need to pull off the “American Dream” and provide for their impoverished families? Can it be that players are coming to the Major Leagues with too much pressure and too much need to succeed? Maybe.

Here in America the average citizen pulls in nearly $50,000 a year. That may seem high, but remember, that covers everyone from Bill Gates to the guy sweeping floors. Here are the matching numbers. The average income in Venezuela is $13,500. It drops to $10,000 in the Dominican Republic and all the way down to $4,000 in Nicaragua.

Now I won’t pretend to be smart enough about economics to understand the underlying implications of that last paragraph, but if I can see a correlation, intelligent baseball people have seen it too. I would venture a guess that this is already being deeply investigated.

The biggest step ever in wiping out PEDs has been made. The next steps may have to be in educating and working to make the transition to life in America a less traumatic step in a young man’s life.

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