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CLARK: Braun is hopefully the beginning of the end

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CLARK: Braun is hopefully the beginning of the end

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The steroid era was supposed to be over.

It was supposed to have ended with Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens. The only traces of it were supposed to have been with veterans like Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who grew up in the prime of the steroid era.

Sadly, none of what was supposed to happen with steroids in baseball actually did. Ryan Braun, who is one of the best players of this generation, a former MVP and a perennial top-three fantasy baseball pick, had so much evidence against him that he accepted a longer-than-usual suspension without an official positive test.

This is monumental for several reasons.

First, it gives credibility to Tony Bosch, the founder of the Biogenesis clinic that supplied Braun and many others with performance-enhancing drugs. It means that Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz and Johnny Peralta can’t claim that he was lying. People like Braun don’t accept 65-game suspensions based on accusations made by someone who was lying.

Second, it means that performance-enhancing drugs are ahead of MLB’s testing policy. Braun’s only positive test was thrown out on a technicality. Rodriguez tested positive only during anonymous testing in 2003, and he couldn’t be punished for it. Peralta has never tested positive, and neither has Cruz.

This means that drugs are still ahead of drug testing. The MLB got lucky with Tony Bosch and Biogenesis. It won’t have the evidence Bosch provided next time around. It will eventually need a positive test.

Finally, Braun’s suspension means steroids are still being used, possibly at every level of baseball. Several minor league players were on the list of names linked to Biogenesis.

The college game may be corrupted by steroids as well, but it’s less likely. The NCAA has a testing program in place, and the penalty for a positive test is much tougher. According to the NCAA website, a first positive test results in the loss of one full year of eligibility. A second positive test results in permanent ineligibility.

Using performance-enhancing drugs just isn’t worth the risk in college. Players aren’t making any money, and they run the risk of losing their scholarships. Plus, the highest reward isn’t anything more than a spot on a minor-league baseball team, where salaries are low and bus rides are long.

The MLB has been fighting steroids for well over a decade now, and every time it looks like the war has been won, more big-time players turn out to be users. Braun will disappear for the remainder of this season, but he will be back next year. Rodriguez may be banned for much longer.

In any case, the faces of the sport can’t be the ones that test positive. A new wave of young, talented (and presumably clean) stars like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Yasiel Puig have brought hope and a new image to baseball. If the sport can move past Braun, Rodriguez and (hopefully) the last of steroid users, it has a bright future.

But right now, steroids are still in baseball’s reality. Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before they go away.

1 Comment

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