Depending on how you look at it, the drug policy in MLB, and Minor League Baseball (that includes the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) did much better in 2009, or far worse. The reasoning? There were more drug suspensions in 2009, so is the system working better (doing what it is supposed to), or are players not getting the message?
The raw numbers shake out as follows:
- At the MLB drug policy level there were 4 suspensions (Sergio Mitre, J.C. Romero, Kelvin Pichardo, Manny Ramirez), two more than in 2008 when just Eliezer Alfonzo and Humberto Cota were suspended as part of the MLB drug policy.
- At the minor league level (which, as mentioned, now includes suspensions from the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) totaled 82. By the raw numbers, the number of players at the minor league level were the second highest of all time (2005, the first full year of testing saw 87 suspensions at the minor league level).
But, the raw numbers don’t paint a complete picture.
The Complexity of Dominican and Venezuelan Summer League Players Suspended
The minor league policy that is used in North America is also applied to the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues where 39 of the 82 minor league drug suspensions occurred (48 percent of the total). In both countries where these players (kids) reside, many of the banned substances in the MiLB policy are perfectly legal and can be purchased directly over the counter. Also, as these are teens, many are told by buscones – advisors that are not agents – to take substances to improve performance. Many that have followed the culture in the DSL and VSL say that the policy is unfairly applied to those leagues.
But, even if those numbers are removed, the number of players at the minor league level from North America was exceptionally high.
By comparison, there were 16 players in the minors that were part of N. American clubs suspended under drug policy in 2008. This year, that number was 43.
Drilling down further, not all suspensions under the drug policies are for performance-enhancing substances. Some are for “drug of abuse”, defined as Cocaine, LSD, Marijuana, Opiates (e.g., Heroin, Codeine, Morphine), MDMA (“Ecstasy”), GHB, and Phencyclidine (“PCP”). This year, there were 12 players suspended for Drug of Abuse at the minor league level (all from North American clubs), compared to only 1 last season.
Select Read More to see a complete breakdown by league, drug, and a count for each of the 28 clubs that had players in MLB or MiLB suspended under drug policies in 2009
Breaking Down Drug Suspensions in 2009
So, breaking down PED suspensions looks as follows at the minor league level:
- 2009 (total): 70
- 2008 (total): 65
- 2009 (DSL/VSL PED suspensions): 39 (32 for DSL, 7 for VSL)
- 2008 (DSL/VSL PED suspensions): 49 (44 for DSL, 5 for DSL)
- 2009 (N. American PED suspensions): 31
- 2008 (N. American PED suspensions): 16
So, there was a decline of 10 PED suspensions from the DSL and VSL from 2008, and nearly double the amount in North America (from 16 to 31). Irrespective of location, here are the totals by substance by program. Only two clubs (Pirates and Indians) did not have a player at the MLB or MiLB level suspended as part of their respective drug policies.
- PED (league does not release what MLB players test positive for) (4 ea.)
- Amphetamine (11 ea.)
- Boldenone (16 ea.)
- Boldenone & Clomiphene (1 ea)
- Clenbuterol (1 ea.)
- Drug of Abuse (12 ea.)
- Methandienone and elevated T/E (1 ea.)
- Methandienone (1 ea.)
- Nandrolone (10 ea.)
- PED (undefined by league) (1 ea.)
- Ritalinic Acid (1 ea.)
- Stanozolol (27 ea.)
By club (MLB)
- Yankees (1)
- Phillies (1)
- Giants (1)
- Dodgers (1)
By Club (Minor Leagues)
- Angels (1)
- Astros (3)
- Athletics (3)
- Blue Jays (1)
- Braves (1)
- Brewers (3)
- Cardinals (6)
- Cubs (4)
- D-Backs (4)
- Dodgers (1)
- Giants (1)
- Mariners (2)
- Marlins (3)
- Mets (8)
- Nationals (4)
- Orioles (1)
- Padres (1)
- Phillies (3)
- Rangers (2)
- Rays (4)
- Red Sox (1)
- Reds (1)
- Rockies (3)
- Royals (6)
- Tigers (5)
- Twins (3)
- White Sox (1)
- Yankees (3)
- Free agent (1)
As mentioned, you can look at drug suspensions in baseball two ways: the increase in 2009 means more players are being caught within the system (the system is effective in ferreting out drug users). Or, players are not getting the message (players are undeterred from using PEDs). The issue of young Dominican and Venezuelan prospects using could be due to impressionable players doing what they are told by older advisors (buscones); using substances that are legal, but banned, or; players that are desperate to get a contract. It’s obvious that applying the standard Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program that is applied in North America is not functioning properly.
Lastly, there’s this… The total number of games suspended for being in violation of drug policies in the Majors and Minors was 4,450 games. The lost wages to the players was tens of millions of dollars, possibly more. Educating the players will need to continue.
For details on each player and what they tested positive for in 2009 (and each year back to 2005), see The Biz of Baseball’s All-Time MLB and Minor League Drug Suspensions page
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 available for hire or freelance. 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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