Yesterday, Major League Baseball levied heavy suspensions on 13 players for their connections to a Miami clinic (Biogenesis) which is accused of supplying them with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Among the players suspended are three current All-Stars, as well as New York Yankees third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, the sports highest paid player.

An article published by the New York Times yesterday remarked that this effectively makes it the “biggest single-day drug action in the sport’s history.”

As a result, some are calling it baseball’s “darkest” day.  Others mark it as “Baseball’s Black Eye”.

But, to me, yesterday was a very good day for Major League Baseball.

By wrangling down a handful of high profile cheaters and bringing them to their knees publicly, MLB is officially now dealing with the subject of PEDs, an issue it had seemed to shy away from in the past.

Commissioner Bud Selig confirmed his dedication towards the future and cleaning up the sport for good in a statement issued yesterday, “We are committed to working together with players to reiterate that performance-enhancing drugs will not be tolerated in our game.”

And, while I am happy to hear that MLB is trying to make strides in its war against steroids, I feel sad for the individual players caught up in this scandal.

I think it’s a shame that any player would play Russian roulette with their own professional future by going down the dark road of seeking out and consuming PEDs.

Yet, on some level, I can understand the reasons why a player may have done it.

Take Alex Rodriguez, for example: As a boy, playing the game of baseball came easy to him. He had pure raw talent and was a physical specimen at an early age.

In his junior year in high school, ARod led his school to a national championship and in 100 games batted .419 and stole 90 bases.

In his senior year, he was first team prep All-American, hitting .505 with 9 home runs, 36 RBIs, and 35 steals in 35 tries in 33 games.  He was selected as the USA Baseball Junior Player of the Year and as Gatorade’s national baseball student athlete of the year.  And, he was the first high school player to ever try out for Team USA in 1993.

When he graduated from high school, ARod was highly sought after by major league teams.  He originally signed with the Seattle Mariners from 1994–2000 and while there, broke many records and earned several accolades.  Along the way, he was known for his hard work ethic & thirst for knowledge to improve himself as a player every day. In 2000, former teammate Brian Hunter, who played with Rodriguez in Seattle in 1999, said about ARod when he sought him out to learn more about base running, ”That’s one thing that amazes me about him: he always wanted to learn.  He wants to learn more, more, more every day. I remember thinking, this guy hits 40 homers a year, and he wants to talk about base stealing? That just shows how much he puts into his game.”

When he became a free agent in 2000, Rodriguez went on to sign the richest deal in sports history when he contracted with the Texas Rangers for 10 years and $252 million.  And then in 2008, ARod trumped his own earnings record by signing with the Yankees for 10 years and $275 million.

But, over time, ARod aged and realized that hard work & talent alone wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the enormous amount of pressure looming large over his head from the huge contract he signed with Texas.  In a 2009 interview , ARod admitted to using steroids starting in 2001, “I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day.”

Rather than accept physical defeat and watch the natural erosion of his talents go away with age, ARod probably turned to PEDs to keep his performance up, help his team win, and silence the critics.

Of course, I’m not saying what ARod did is right or is justified.  But, on some level, I can understand why he did it.

Let’s face it, our society rewards excellence, and we all want it.  Whether it’s to be the most beautiful, the most talented, the best at our job or our accomplishments, make the most money, or to be the greatest player in MLB history, we like it when we win & covet others for it.

In the end, perhaps the actions taken by MLB yesterday will serve as a lesson to up-and-coming athletes who aspire to have the big money, fame, and contract: You better be prepared to live up to those high expectations without the assistance of PEDs.  If not, you may end up marred in history like ARod has.


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