Bloomberg BusinessWeek recently delved into the crossroads that Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez, and performance-enhancing drugs have met at recently, with enough information provided to show what the best course of action is to take. On one side of things, punishments are in place for players caught using these drugs: 50 games, 100 games, and lifetime bans for first, second, and third offense respectively. Though these penalties seem harsh, they may fall short of deterring players from using performance-enhancing drugs, since attempting to control a community rarely works as intended. These penalties are incapable of being harsh enough considering how much some of the latest users to be caught make in salary; even suspending Alex Rodriguez for 211 games only loses him 1/3 of the remainder of his contract ($32m out of $93m). This offense coming right after that of Ryan Braun shows that the 50 game threats is not enough to deter these players, but what is the best punishment?
A lifetime ban may seem too severe if a player is wrongly accused, but as shown by the numbers, even 211 games will hardly dent Rodriguez’s bank account. A ban of a certain period of time is not going to reform the players from using, so baseball has two options: either test players more frequently and make the rule that first time offenses result in lifetime bans, or implement a sort of don’t ask/don’t tell policy. The prior would avoid attempting to change players by slowly removing the problem from the game, allowing players to make their own decisions. The issue with testing will always be that instead of stopping the use, players that want to use will find ways around the rules with untraceable substances or something of the sort. Though removing punishment from drug abuse would cause controversy across the nation, it would help even the playing field and remove the current high risk/high reward lifestyle some players follow when using cutting-edge drugs to boost their game. The removal of penalties would end the cat and mouse game that the players are currently stuck in. With performance-enhancing drugs allowed, the drugs players take would be entirely up to them, similar to how they are free to choose their own diet and exercise regimen. The final step to this process would be removing the current stigma around drug use. Although it is horrible when players are caught cheating, the current situation with these stars caught in the mix will provide baseball enough motivation to fix their punishment system and help clean up baseball.