Major League Baseball: Drug Testing Still A Flawed System

  on August 17 2012 8:10 PM

On August 15, the San Francisco Giants were delivered devastating news that could derail their playoff hopes. Their All-Star MVP left fielder, Melky Cabrera, tested positive for testosterone and was suspended 50-games. 

All of Cabera's numbers are now tainted for this season, and some might even say his numbers from last year are tainted as well. 

From 2006-10, the "Melk-man" never batted over .300. Never had a season with a slugging % over .420. He had one season with over 70 RBI in 2007 with the New York Yankees. He never scored more than 75 runs in a season.

In 2010 with the Atlanta Braves, Cabrera's stats were: .255 batting average, 4 home-runs, 42 RBI, .671 OPS, 50 runs, and only had 34 extra-base hits in 147 games. 

In 2011 with the Kansas City Royals, he had a career season: .305 batting average, 18 home-runs, 87 RBI, .809 OPS, 20 stolen bases, 102 runs, and 67 extra-base hits in 155 games. Cabrera had career highs in batting average, home-runs, doubles, RBI, SLG%, OPS, hits, and runs scored in 2011. 

Cabrera's recent hot streak continued this season with the Giants. Before he was suspended, he was having an MVP-type of season. His 2012 regular season ends with him batting .346, 11 home-runs, 60 RBI, .906 OPS, 84 runs scored, 159 hits, and 46 extra-base hits in only 113 games. 

I hate to say it, but it is hard to believe that Cabrera achieved this all with talent and hard work over the last two years. It is hard to believe he went from having his worst year as a pro in 2010, to all of the sudden having a career year the next season. 

This is what happens when you decide to try and beat the system. If you get caught there will be a lot of questions to how legitimate your stats really are. His 2012 numbers are tainted, and the same could be said for his work done in 2011.

Major League Baseball finally made the right move in 2006 to enforce a drug policy. "The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program" was established by the MLB Players Association and the Office of of the Commissioner of Baseball in the Spring of 2006. 

MLB players are subject to a urine test when reporting to spring training, one unannounced random urine test during the season, and a urine test at the end of season to test for performance enhancing substances and stimulants. Also, over 200 players are subject to a random urine test in the off-season.

HGH testing is a little bit different. Each player is subject to an unannounced blood collection during spring training. The only way a player can get tested during the regular season is if there is reasonable cause. The IPA (Independent Program Administrator) may schedule an unannounced random HGH test during the off-season. When a players blood is drawn for HGH testing, it will be tested for HGH only. 

I do believe "The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program" is a great thing for the game to make it cleaner than it use to be, but it is still a flawed system. 

There needs to be more testing done throughout the season than just one random test. Why not test players once or twice a month at random? This would ensure no player is "juicing" during the season. There are ways to beat the system under the current testing rules in Major League Baseball. Four players have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs this season. (Guillermo Mota, Freddy Galvis, Marlon Byrd, and Melky Cabrera.) 

The more severe question is are there more players who have beat the system this year? That is a question that no one knows the answer to. There are ways to beat the system to get your testosterone levels back to normal in no time. 

Synthetic testosterone gels, creams or patches work through the body and return a player back to normal levels within a week. There is an easy and efficient way to erase synthetic testosterone going under the rug under the current drug testing system.

CIR (Carbon Isotope Ratio) screening is the way to fix the problem. CIR is currently a testing that Major League Baseball does, but only as a follow-up confirmation test. Under current testing regulations a player's urine sample is initially screened for their testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio and if it is 4/1 or above then a CIR test is required. It is easy for a player to get his levels under 4/1 in a matter of days when using synthetic testosterone. CIR fixes this loop-hole.

CIR screening definitively judges how much testosterone in the body is synthetic. There is no loop-holes if baseball would just do CIR screening from the start. The first test is flawed when it comes to judging how much of the testosterone in the body is synthetic, and this allows players to beat the system. CIR is a definitive way to screen more efficiently for testosterone. 

Another option is to make the punishment more severe. Arizona Diamondbacks' manager Kirk Gibson said it best, "One failed drug test and you are suspended for one-year, another failed test and you are banned." This will scare players a lot more to even think twice about "juicing." 

If Bud Selig really wants to make baseball the cleanest sport in the world, he needs to make significant changes. The current policy is working, but it could be way more efficient with a couple changes.

It's a shame for the game because we really don't know how many players are cheating. This is a problem that could be fixed if the MLB Player's Association and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball agreed to do CIR screening from the start and to make the punishment more severe.

America's pastime is not as pure as it use to be, but Major League Baseball still has a chance to eliminate performance enhancing drugs for good if they do what is best for the players, organizations, and more importantly, the fans. 

 

Stats used from: Baseball-Reference.com