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This is the calm before the storm. A trickle will turn into a torrent in just a few months. As the calendar nears the end of May, PED suspensions in baseball will rise dramatically.
The reason for the increase is a major minor issue. That is, PED suspensions for minor league players stateside but mostly, from the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues.
Last year, eight days after the All-Star break, press releases announcing minor league drug suspensions started coming at a rapid clip. Three on July 25. Two the following day. Three days later, it was two more. The suspensions hit their high-water mark of 12 suspensions on Sept. 5. This after a period of over two months (May 16-July 25) with no PED suspensions whatsoever.
In total, there were 66 PED suspensions in the minors, a steep increase from the year prior when there were a scant 29 minor league suspensions.
(Click the chart above to see details on minor league suspensions in 2008)
When asked of the increase at the time, MLB spokesman Rich Levin shrugged it off by saying in an email, “Sometimes they come in bunches.”
But, that wasn’t exactly the truth.
The truth was the Dominican Republic had reached an agreement allowing the names of players that had tested positive in their country to be publicly released. That agreement arrived just after the All-Star Game, and the increases in suspensions were reflective of that.
From the end of the All-Star break to the end of 2008, 49 minor league suspensions from the DSL and VSL were announced, a staggering 74 percent of the total. The lion’s share came from the DSL where there were 43 suspensions compared to only 6 suspensions from the VSL. From the All-Star break to the end of 2008, only 10 suspensions for players stateside in the minors were announced.
As a social commentary, the reasons for the increased PED suspensions from these leagues could involve communications between MLB and the DSL and VSL. Another possibility may be one of economics.
The average annual income in the Dominican Republic is $2,370 (US). With the MLB minimum salary being $400,000 in 2009, a player could very well weigh the risks of being suspended for PED use against the gains that could be made as part of an MLB farm system, or in MLB, itself.
For more information on PED use in baseball, see The Biz of Baseball’s Drug Violations page for a complete historical listing.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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