Needle Pricks Again: Cincinnati Reds' Edinson Volquez Revives Steroid Era Stain
"The so-called 'steroid era'—a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances—is clearly a thing of the past."—Bud Selig, Jan. 11, 2010
According to a FOX Sports article, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez has tested positive for a banned, performance-enhancing substance. That oopsy-daisy will cost the 26-year-old right-hander 50 games...kind of.
The 17-game winner in 2008 is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and since the suspension is effective immediately, he's missing time during a period that wouldn't see him on the diamond anyway. That removes some of the teeth from the sanction, but not all of them, because the kid won't get paid.
The bite out of his checkbook will certainly hurt, as will the stigma of coming up hot.
Nevertheless, the most serious damage has been done to the tenuous PR assault launched in recent months by Bud "Lite" Selig and the suits atop Major League Baseball.
The commissioner's quote in the wake of Mark McGwire's apology was the most overt shot fired in the ongoing offensive that insists the Steroid Era is a over.
Ordinarily, the league's front office and the MLB Players Union can't agree on what color the sky is. On this particular subject, though, they've found a sweet harmony—both agree it's high time to move past this infatuation with performance-enhancing drugs.
Either PEDs were never a significant problem in the first place or they were, but effective testing is in place such that offenders are caught and would-be juicers are dissuaded from the endeavor.
This despite the fact that The Show still doesn't test for human growth hormone and competitors are still being suspended (you may recall a certain Los Angeles Dodger slugger also got the 50-game boot in 2009).
Furthermore, it doesn't appear anyone connected to the Big Leagues seems overtly interested in rectifying the gaping loophole. The union was quick to issue a preemptive strike in the wake of English rugby player Terry Newton's suspension for a positive HGH test, and Selig's suits didn't exactly seize the opportunity to push for the test.
And what about guys like Volquez who are still getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar?
In a truly astonishing bit of spin, the party line has taken to touting these positive tests as proof that the Steroid Era is gathering dust.
Anyone else see a problem with using proof of use as proof of absence of use? I can't put my finger on the contradiction, but I know it's there somewhere...
My logic says that if players are still getting caught using the stuff that Major League Baseball does test for, then it stands to reason that others are doing the same while escaping detection.
After all, no regulatory body is 100 percent effective.
Additionally, it's tough to believe HGH is no longer an issue if dummies are still using PEDs for which they can be caught under current testing protocols. Certainly a moron looking for a boost implies the existence of his more intelligent relative, right?
Obviously, there will always be ballplayers looking for an edge.
It follows that there will always be players testing positive for some banned substance or another; nobody is suggesting the Steroid Era will be revived by each tainted urine or blood sample.
But therein lies the rub—the temptation is an indelible part of human nature that some will find irresistible no matter what.
Consequently, Selig and the rest of baseball must address every possible vulnerability in their anti-PED brigade if they want to sincerely bring the Steroid Era to an end. The watchdogs will never be able to completely stamp out use because challenges to the testing protocol will be constant and driven by innovation.
Any gaps will be exploited.
The only safe haven lies in the perception that the powers-that-be are seriously and vigilantly policing the matter. Only then will the Steroid Era have truly come an end.
See, it's never been about actual use. The era has been defined by the tacit acceptance of behavior explicitly cast as unacceptable.
In a word, it's been about hypocrisy.
As long as openings in the regulatory framework remain blatant, each subsequent violation will remind the public of this hypocrisy and simultaneously extend an era "resented" by those who enable its existence.
As Edinson Volquez has just done.
And others are sure to do in his wake.