MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Players tied to PEDs take reputation into own hands

Players tied to PEDs take reputation into own hands

No Major League Baseball player should seek advice from anyone running an "anti-aging clinic," whatever that is, especially one operated by a man who has been connected to the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs. To do so is to invite questions of illegal or unethical behavior.

Even if Ryan Braun is again being wrongly accused, he's at least guilty of a stunning lack of common sense by dealing with Anthony Bosch, who has been linked to the distribution a variety of substances to athletes in South Florida. Bosch has billed himself as a "doctor" and a "biochemist," but he is unlicensed to practice medicine in Florida, according to ESPN.com.

This isn't a man baseball players should go near. Nor should they purchase substances from him. To trust his counsel is to display a monumental lack of good judgment. This is not rocket science.

Baseball players have access to world-class doctors and trainers. Every team prides itself on making sure players have the best of the best in terms of facilities, nutritional advice and training methods.

And if a player lives elsewhere during the offseason, every team has a list of trainers and doctors who would help prepare them for Spring Training. Likewise, the Major League Baseball Players Association warns players annually not to take any substance that has not been approved by its medical staff.

Players know there's a protocol in all of this, especially at a time when baseball has come so far and worked so hard to eliminate the use of performance-enhancing substances.

It almost defies imagination that a player who wanted to play by the rules would risk his reputation -- or his health -- by doing business with people he can't be absolutely sure about. That is, unless the player did want to cheat. Perception is reality in performance-enhancing drugs. If fans perceive there's a problem, then there's a problem.

From February until at least September, baseball players trust their training to men and women employed by the team. They trust them and know they have their best interests at heart.

So if a player wants something other than what his team can offer, if a player decides to do business with an "anti-aging clinic," he shouldn't complain when his reputation suffers.

They surely had to know the risks when they made the decision to do business with Bosch. Now, these players who have been linked to Bosch have again cast a cloud of suspicion over every baseball player.

No other sport has been as vigilant in attempting to both discourage the use of steroids and human growth hormone and to punish those who break the rules anyway.

At a time when we should be discussing the start of Spring Training, the conversation is again focused on those who get their ambition and their judgment mixed up.

It was just a month ago that Commissioner Bud Selig proudly stood in front of baseball's 30 owners and announced that agreement had been reached for in-season HGH blood testing and to create a testosterone profile for each player. While the National Football League has never tested for HGH, baseball will be testing for it year-round.

"This is a proud day for baseball," Selig told the owners.

And now this.

Amid the noise, the vast majority of players want PEDs out of their sport. They want a clean game, and if that means more testing or tougher penalties for first-time offenders, so be it.

What has gotten less attention the last couple of weeks is the number of players who've publicly said they want tougher penalties for first-time offenders. Fifty games no longer seems to be enough, and some players have suggested that a one-year ban might be more appropriate. Many of them apparently intend to voice that suggestion when union officials meet with players during Spring Training.

Players will also be reminded of the high costs associated with performance-enhancing drugs. Even if only a few players cheat, all of them suffer. Baseball's drug-testing program is as good as any on Earth, making it tougher than ever to break the rules.

But there'll always be some who try. All baseball's players and owners can do is remain vigilant, continue to close loopholes as they appear and make the punishment for a first-time offense so severe that players will be putting their careers at risk. Once upon a time, players resisted drug testing. No more. Players and owners now want exactly the same thing. That's all anyone can ask for.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.