The ESPN.com report saying that Ryan Braun refused to answer questions from Major League Baseball regarding Biogenesis is a non-story as far as I’m concerned. Was anyone expecting Braun or any other player to fall at the feet of the investigators and beg for mercy? This is especially true with a player like Braun, who embarrassed MLB by winning his appeal from his failed test in 2011 and then took the step of maligning the tester and accusing baseball of pursuing him unjustly. With Braun, this the equivalent of the government not being able to get Al Capone for his business practices, but getting him for tax evasion. A sufficiently motivated authority is going to find a way.
MLB must feel sufficiently comfortable with their freedom in the Basic Agreement to suspend players for performance enhancing drug use without a failed test as evidence to move forward and worry about any consequences later. Safe in the knowledge that there might be collateral benefits for the greater good (as they see it), they’ll risk it. While the players will have lawyers and multiple prongs of defense strategies planned, perhaps MLB is willing to gamble on losing a long court battle to have the hammer hanging over other players’ heads saying that even if they don’t fail a test, their associations can lead to them being suspended. That might function as a deterrent.
What has to be answered, however, is if there is a true decision on the part of everyone in positions of power in baseball to stop PED use. MLB can issue suspensions and put forth the pretense of a hardline on drug use, but until teams stop paying players who are caught having used PEDs, these players will still try to circumnavigate the rules to improve their performance and paychecks. If, for example, MLB clubs manage to put it into player contracts that the agreement will be voided if there’s a PED suspension, there might be some movement on player PED use.
The key question will be if players like Braun, Alex Rodriguez, Bartolo Colon and anyone else on the list would accomplish what they did without the drugs. The argument could be made that the drugs were the impetus to them being paid and if the drugs weren’t used, then their performance and paycheck wouldn’t be what they are. Braun’s and A-Rod’s contracts are so massive that a suspension and potential for voiding that contract would stand a greater chance of precluding the drug use than the mere threat of getting caught, negligible suspensions and short-term public floggings they’d take. In the players’ minds, at worst they might not play up to the levels they did with drugs, but at least they’d get paid. The suspensions don’t matter all that much, but the money does. With the money in jeopardy, players will be reluctant to go the PED route.
It may be that MLB is trying to tear at the root of PED use with these suspensions while simultaneously ignoring that it was MLB itself that helped plant it to begin with. They’re trying to cage the monster they created and with the clever manipulation of the rules, they might just do it.