In the fallout from Melky Cabrera’s 50-game suspension for PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) use this week, Victor Conte made a big splash with what he said about drug use in baseball in an interview with USA Today:
”I’m not going to name names, but I’ve talked to a lot of top players in Major League Baseball, and they tell me this is what they’re doing,” Conte said. “There is rampant use of synthetic testosterone in Major League Baseball.”
He would go on to say “it’s so easy to circumvent” referring to a drug test. This raises a big question: Have we really gotten past the “steroid era?”
We have thought over the past few years that for the large part, steroids and other PEDs have, for the most part, disappeared from baseball and that the vast majority of players around the league are clean.
Victor Conte was the founder and owner of BALCO, a former Bay Area-based company that for years, distributed steroids and other drugs to pro athletes for years until being shut down by the government in 2003. I’m sure Conte is exaggerating to some degree, but he is right about the testing system being flawed and that there are likely quite a number of players each year who get around the system.
One of the problems is the weakness of the offseason testing policy. This upcoming year, there will only be up to 200 random offseason tests. They need to test players more often and at different times of the year. Until every player is tested randomly both in the season and during the offseason, the problem will not go away.
However, I do believe there has been at least progress and fewer players are using PEDs. For one, the numbers support it and second, fewer players are testing positive. Of course, this could just mean that players are learning to get around the testing like Conte said.
The numbers are looking better. Home run totals are returning to normal and the amount of positive tests has gone down dramatically in recent years. But Conte may be right. The system is flawed and we may still have a big problem on our hands.