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    Duck Drugs: The Science Of Melky Cabrera
    By Hank Campbell | August 21st 2012 01:49 PM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, coming off an an All-Star Game MVP award, had unusually high testosterone levels to go along with his .346 batting average and 11 home runs.  These are not the days of Steve Howe (1), when baseball could try to ban players only to have the unnaturally powerful Player's Union block any efforts at a drug policy, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games.

    But you do get to appeal - oddly, something that Cabrera did not do.  Arbitration is mandatory and arbitrators for baseball are basically of the UN mentality - it doesn't matter who is right or wrong, they are going to split the difference, so players can't lose, even the ones who cheat. He also did not deny the exogenous testosterone. A strange turn of events.  Integrity?

    No, it turns out he and an acquaintance had been laying out a 'Ryan Braun defense' and it failed. If you are not familiar with Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers National League MVP of 2011 also tested positive for elevated (synthetic)  testosterone.  But his lawyers got him off on a  technicality.  They did not argue that the test itself was faulty or even that the results were wrong, they argued the 'chain of custody' was improper because the urine sample collector could not get to the FedEx office before it closed on Saturday, so he stored it in his refrigerator until Monday.

    The fact that Braun's T/E ratio was more than 20-to-1 and it was confirmed as synthetic testosterone in his system was irrelevant. Braun got off, so now it is open season for every performance-enhancing test conducted - players and their friends (agents and teams have nothing to do with that stuff) are on the prowl for ways to get the benefit of cheating without the penalty.

    The MLB Players Association had filed a grievance for Cabrera, so they could get this into arbitration.  No matter how guilty Cabrera was, they knew the suspension would be reduced or maybe eliminated so they had nothing to lose.  If Cabrera could prove he ingested something without knowing it, he would get off. But some plans are more thought out than others. On the exterior, creating a whole fake website that makes a product in another country and claiming the product made his test results look suspicious is fine if you work in some local company - but this is Major League Baseball, and they just got burned by Ryan Braun, they have nothing but time and money.  So off they went to the Dominican Republic, where they bought some stuff from some guy there who claimed to have a company.  Really, they got on s plane because of a picture of a jar and a phone number and a paid vacation.   Off it went to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s laboratory in Utah and, sure enough, it was testosterone. 

    That was a little too convenient to believe and MLB investigated and found that the website (well, three websites, all in Spanish) had been bought by a friend of Cabrera's, Juan Nunez.  Nunez is one of those 'paid consultants' players often attach to their management agent contracts.  The actual agent has nothing to do with them, they just pay some fee to a friend to keep the player happy. At least Nunez was smart enough to buy an existing site.  The only thing that would have tripped them up quicker is a brand new website created after the Performance Enhancing Drug test.


    Credit and link: New York Daily News.

    Victor Conte, who became famous in the BALCO scandal, calls it "the 'duck-and-dodge' system. The only people that get caught are the dumb, and the dumber."

    But why not use actual duck drugs instead of ducking blame? Oscillococcinum  is a homeopathy cure for the flu (a lot of those around, it seems) and is a big seller in France and other anti-science countries.  It is made from Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum - diluted duck livers and hearts. How diluted?  A ratio of one part duck to 10400 parts water, which means if there is even a single molecule of duck in your magic potion, you got really, really lucky.

    That takes quackery to a whole new level but at least Cabrera would not have gotten suspended for it. And it may have helped his performance just as much as it has any chance of helping cure the flu.

    NOTES:

    (1) These were also the days when drugs were 'not the fault' of the addict.  Seven times being suspended is a sign that it isn't going to get any better and in July, 1992, Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent suspended Howe for life due to his repeated violations of baseball's drug policy. The Players Association successfully got arbitrators to overturn the order later that year.

    As you can imagine, if a real drug policy had been enforceable, a lot of the problems of the next 10 years and beyond regarding performance-enhancing drugs could have been avoided.  Thanks, Players Union, for doing your part to ruin the game for a generation. The Braun ruling does much the same thing regarding testing now.

    Comments

    UvaE
    A ratio of one part duck to 10400 parts water 
    Interesting, considering that there are only 4.5 X 1046 molecules of water on the entire planet. Whoever prepared the homeopathic medicine must have access to a googol comets and extrasolar planets. :)

    Hank
    Is that phrased poorly?  How can you write that there isn't even a molecule of duck in the magic water and that they sell the water in 200 cc amounts and use a ratio?  It is a 1 followed by 400 zeroes of duck part and they are claiming something impossible but I don't want it to look like a math error on our part. You chemists say after the 12th dilution there is probably no molecule of the original left in a vial you might buy. So how can it be phrased properly.  The source I used wrote 
    A 1 followed by 100 zeroes is called a googol. The estimated number of particles in the universe that we can see is a googol, give or take a few zeroes. So in order for one of the original molecules to be present in a container of Oscillococcinum, the mass of that container would have to be about a googol googol googol times our world, which would be incomprehensibly larger than the visible universe.
    but, honestly, after 1050 I have mentally checked out so maybe I got it wrong.
    UvaE
    Your phrasing is fine, and I've seen that figure elsewhere for Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum . I was just poking fun at the homeopathic dilution.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...after 150 I have mentally checked out so maybe I got it wrong.
    Don't know about the original, but this you definitely got wrong.  150 is still just 1.  :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE

    150 is still just 1. 
    Yeap!  I missed that too from his comment, but I fixed it since then.
    Hank
    Well, we were talking about ratios and I just shorted it in the comment. "one part duck to 10400" water and then I was just showing it was a lot of zeroes.
    I think it would be awesome to have top athletes seeing who can cheat the most with homeopathy. Mind you, maybe that's already the case! On second thoughts, no: pseudo-science is well and good when dealing with things like your family's health, but with things that really matter -- like who can go furthest in the triple jump -- you want the best science you can get.

    Hank
    In English soccer they had to create an English Premier League because the wealth, and therefore talent pool. was clearly on the side of some. Maybe that will happen in sports too, like they do in Formula One.  You just have to have the money.   When everyone can cheat equally and legally, it's no longer cheating.

    Cabrera won't have the money.  He probably lost $75 million in free agency because of this. No one trusts his production now.
    "...France and other anti-science countries. "

    Fox News again

    Hank
    Well, they are anti-science.  Anne Glover, the head of science for the entire EU, says her goal is to make Europeans less anti-science.  I don't think they carry Fox News over there.