New Penalties for Performance Enhancing Drug Use
MLB and the players’ union have reportedly reached agreement on a new penalty regime for performance enhancing drugs (“PED”) use which could go into effect as soon as Opening Day. The new penalties call for an 80-game suspension for a first-time positive test, 162-game suspension for a second positive test, and a life-time ban after three positive tests.
The new rules also close a loop-hole that allowed suspended players to be paid for off-days during the period of the suspension, but will now allow players to appeal to an arbitrator if they claim that the PED use was accidental. If the suspended player can prove the PED use was accidental (for example, in cough medicine or a foot cream), the arbitrator can cut the suspension in half. The upshot is that there will probably be a number of future arbitration hearings, as I would expect many in-denial cheaters to claim accidental use, as, for example, Melky Cabrera did two years ago.
The enhanced penalties are pretty much what I predicted last Fall when the Biogenesis America suspensions were handed down. I didn’t think then that the MLBPA would allow suspensions of more than 75 to 80 games for a first offense or 150 to 160 games for a second offense, because of the union’s institutional interest to keep player punishment as small as possible to deter the conduct. If players continue to be caught for PED use at the same rate over the next couple of seasons as they were over the last couple of seasons, MLB and the union can always increase the suspension periods again.
Obviously, the new suspension lengths are more of a deterrent than the old suspension rates. However, I think it will probably take at least a 150-game suspension for first-time use to really scare all professional baseball players away from PEDs.