Friday, February 1, 2013

The case for extreme penalties for PED users

-- by @Josh_Suchon

What’s the best way to get rid of performance-enhancing drugs in sports? One strike and you’re out. Forever banned. Think about how that would change an athlete’s willingness to press his luck on using PEDs.

Of course, that’s not realistic. False positive tests happen. Not all illegal drugs are the same. Sometimes there are legitimate mitigating circumstances that occur. Even if they’re blatantly guilty, people deserve second chances.

The next-best strategy -- and perhaps the only hope for those of us who do want to believe what we are seeing is real in sports – is two strikes and you’re done. If I were the Commissioner of sports, this would be my penalty system.

First offense: 365-day suspension with no pay. Not 50 games in baseball. Not four games in football. One year total. During that year, you can’t negotiate a new contract, even if you’ve become a free agent. You can’t practice with your teammates or workout at your team’s minor league complex. You can’t participate in minor league games as part of a “rehab” assignment. You don’t get service time during this year, your arbitration clock doesn’t run, you don’t appear on MLB-licensed baseball cards or video games.  You’re completely on your own for 365 days, with no pay, left on your own to stay in shape. After the 365 days is up, you can return your team (or sign with a new team), head to the minors or whatever is necessary to return.

Second offense: lifetime ban. No playing. No coaching. No managing. No scouting. No broadcasting. The only way you’re going inside a ballpark is if you purchase a ticket. If you’re banned for life that means your name is not eligible to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot. That takes the decision making out of the hands of baseball writers. Just ask Pete Rose what it’s like, not being allowed on the field (except for special moments like the 1999 All-Star Game) and knowing your plaque will never appear in the Hall of Fame.

Is this extreme? You bet. Damn straight it is. That’s the whole point.

I don’t agree with Curt Schilling very often, but we have the same opinion on this topic.

Of course, you need a truly independent panel to hear grievances and challenges to positive tests. The panel should be more than three people, and not include people from the players union or commissioner’s office.

It should be a jury of your peers. Perhaps a couple retired players, a couple retired front-office executives, a couple highly-respected members of the media, and a retired judge or arbitrator as the seventh and final vote. Have them serve a two-year term. Maybe the fans can vote for the judges. 

I’m not sure if it will make a difference. People cheat. That’s just what they do. Athletes are people. They will always look for an edge.

If this doesn’t work, then Matt Hurst is right, we should give up on having a clean sport and let athletes put whatever they want into their bodies. Hell, make it mandatory to take ’roids and televise the ceremonial pre-game needle injections.

But I’m not ready for that. Not yet. I still want my sports clean.

The only way to make it happen is the stiffest, most extreme penalties possible.

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