By Brad Fauber
Here we go again, another wave of major suspensions linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs is about to sweep over Major League Baseball.
Unless you have literally paid no attention to the MLB this season, you know that a list of about 20 baseball players reportedly linked to Biogenesis, a Florida-based anti-aging clinic accused of distributing PEDs, hit mainstream media in January, and speculation about possible repercussions of the report have been simmering for months.
Now, things appear about ready to boil over, as recent reports from various news outlets have stated that the MLB aims to start dealing out suspensions to those linked to Biogenesis sometime after the All-Star Break.
All signs are pointing to the Biogenesis scandal being the next great chapter in the PED witch-hunt, and to be honest, it's really starting to get quite sad.
As a lifelong fan of Major League Baseball, I absolutely want to see anyone who has cheated their way to mind-blowing statistics, giant paychecks and superstardom get the proper punishment they deserve. I want to see Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun -- if indeed found guilty, and they certainly appear so at this point -- and the countless other players who have risked the integrity of the sport that I love get slapped with suspensions from commissioner Bud Selig.
Rumors of 100-game suspensions for Rodriguez (who has admitted past PED use, but was never suspended) and Braun (who was set to serve a 50-game suspension last year but got off on a technicality) have been flying around the internet, while the fate of other past offenders, like Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, remains unclear. Both Colon and Cabrera each served 50-game suspensions last season and may not have to serve additional time.
But as much as I want to see every cheater pay the price for their actions, if and when Rodriguez, Braun and the others are found guilty and given their respective punishments, I won't be cheering. Why? Because no one wins in the world of the PED witch-hunt.
On the outside, any cheater caught by the league's increasingly strict drug testing policy looks like a win for the MLB and commissioner Selig. But when those cheaters are some of the biggest names in the sport, that "win" is hard to celebrate.
Both Rodriguez and Braun are former MVPs, and Braun most recently won the award for the National League in 2011. Both are two of the biggest names in the sport. And now, both have directly contributed to the dark shadow that has steadily enveloped professional baseball. It is never good for business when one of the faces of your league is discovered to have deceived his way into that position.
Also, fans pay to see the stars, and it hurts the league when those stars are spending most, if not all, of a season serving a PED suspension. Who is going to watch a Braun-less Milwaukee team this season? Count me out on that one.
Fans of every team need that superstar to cling to, someone they can look at and be proud to have them as the face of their favorite franchise. But it's getting harder and harder to watch someone put up eye-popping numbers and not wonder whether what you are seeing is truly legitimate. Is that player's success the result of hard work and natural talent, or is there something else at work there?
Even those players with no history of PED use (as far as we know) suffer the unfair judgment cast upon them from fans and the media. Jose Bautista was heavily scrutinized when his sudden power surge helped him lead the American League in home runs in 2010 and 2011, and Chris Davis has started to hear more and more questions about PEDs thanks to his torrid first half with the Orioles.
As much as I hate it, the stigma of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball is something that we are just going to have to deal with for a long, long time.
Plenty of great hitters and great pitchers are going to come and go, and some will play their way into the Hall of Fame. We as fans will cheer them on, but we will always be left wondering if what they did was truly legitimate.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org