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Drugs And The Future Of Baseball


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Time now for sports.


WERTHEIMER: A big week for Major League Baseball. The trade deadline came, the trade deadline went, but the pennant races are close, games were won in the final at-bats, but everyone is still talking about a clinic in Miami - Biogenesis - and the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the major leagues.

To break it down we're joined by Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Hi, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Linda. How are you?

WERTHEIMER: Not bad. I wonder, what would you have to say about baseball? The MLB is expected to make an announcement before Monday about suspending players who use banned substances. What's happening here?

BRYANT: Well, what's happening is that baseball thought that its steroid era was over, and like track and cycling and everything else, it's very much alive. And I think that what baseball's doing now is they've decided, with a lot of help surprisingly from the players who say they want a clean game, to really throw the book at a lot of these players.

And one of the things that they're doing is, I think that already you've got Ryan Braun out for the rest of the season and now you're going to get about eight other players, but the big guy people are talking about is Alex Rodriquez because he is the only player so far who has said he is going to fight any suspension that Major League Baseball attends to levy upon him, and baseball has responded by saying, OK, well, if you fight this then we're going to try to ban you for life.

So, we've got a big showdown at the same time he's telling people he wants to return to the Yankees on Monday morning. So, once again, it's going to be quite a battle to see whether or not the Yankees get their third baseman back or whether or not we've got a Pete Rose situation here where a player is actually in trouble of losing his career.

WERTHEIMER: So the focus is on Alex Rodriquez because of his big salary, because of his - because he's a star.

BRYANT: Well, it's interesting because the focus on Alex is mostly because they feel - they being Major League Baseball - feels that Alex Rodriquez has lied to them repeatedly and to the public and to the game, that they believe that he has used performance-enhancing drugs, at least my sources and a lot of sources say, pretty much since he admitted using them in 2009, and that he's been using them every single year despite saying he's been clean.

They say they have evidence of this. They also say they have evidence of him trying to destroy the documents that prove that he was a user in his relationship with Biogenesis before Major League Baseball's investigation acquired those documents. So, those two obstruction of their investigation and also his related steroid use are reasons for the ban.

And I think that part of this is very, very dangerous territory because you have the players also saying, look, we want a game that's clean and we're going to go so far to clean this game up that we are willing to have contracts voided, and Alex Rodriquez is still owed $95 million in his contract.

And also to support lifetime bans. One shot, you know, one steroid offense and you're gone for life, and that is an extreme response and Alex Rodriquez is at the center of this. I think on the one hand, you've got people who have said, look, the only way you're going to get a clean game is to threaten people's money and to threaten people's livelihood.

On the other hand, you have other people saying, look, there's still a due process here and you can't make an example of Alex Rodriquez when you have many other players - Mark McGuire, who used steroids and admitted using steroids is still in the game. He's a hitting coach right now for the Dodgers.

You have Miguel Tejada, who admitted to lying to Congress. He's still playing for the Royals. How do you have this selective justice? It doesn't - you don't have justice if you have selective justice. So, the question once again is going to be how Major League Baseball is going to try to discipline one player that is an easy target, that nobody likes, everyone's tired of, against the fact that they have their own inconsistencies in how they deal with everybody else.

WERTHEIMER: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Howard, thank you.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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