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.
(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.
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