Steroid Usage Throws MLB a Curveball

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C. Compton/MCT

The Giant's starting center-fielder Melky Cabrera hits it out of the park in an intense game against the Braves.

Claire Marvin, Staff Writer

That’s one, no two strikes in just one week for Bay Area baseball after both the Giant’s Melky Cabrera and the A’s Bartolo Colon tested positive for increased levels of testosterone. The news of Cabrera’s positive test broke on Aug. 15, and Colon’s on Aug. 22. Both Cabrera and Colon have been suspended for 50 games. “From a baseball standpoint, we’re scrambling. We’re all disappointed, not just for the Giants and the A’s, but for baseball,” the A’s General Manager Billy Beane said in an interview with ESPN.

Twenty-eight-year-old Cabrera was having a dream first season with the Giants. The Kansas City Royals traded him last November, replacing the Giant’s Jonathan Sanchez in a $6 million deal. Since the trade, Cabrera has gone from a .284 career batting average to a .346 batting average after just half a season on the Giants. He led the National League with 159 hits and was second for his overall batting average. Cabrera set the Giant’s record for the most hits ever in May with a total of 51 hits. Making up those 51 hits, he had three home runs, five triples, seven doubles and 17 runs batted in (RBI) and a .429 batting average for the month.

It was the glaring contrast between Cabrera’s previous season average stats and Cabrera’s stats while on the Giants that fueled the most controversy. Before donning the SF orange and grey, Cabrera averaged 139 hits, 67 runs, 43 extra-base hits, 10 home runs, and 60 RBI a season. On the Giants, Cabrera ended his portion of the 2012 season with 220 hits, 116 runs, 64-extra base hits, 15 home runs, and 83 RBI. However, most baseball fans still never would have guessed that the grinning Dominican Republic native holding the All-Star game crystal MVP bat over his head could have possibly stooped so low as to use performance-enhancing drugs.

In a statement released through the Major League Players’ Association, Cabrera owned up to using illegal substances.

“My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down,” he said.

Colon found himself in an eerily similar situation with the A’s organization.

“I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A’s,” Colon said in a statement also released by the Players’ Association. “I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program.”

Colon had undergone a controversial shoulder and right elbow surgery just two years prior to the scandal. As the A’s 39-year-old starting pitcher, Colon’s joints in his right arm had started to wear out. During the off-season, Colon traveled back to his native home, the Dominican Republic, for this surgery.

Doctors allegedly used stem cells in an unproven and new technique on the athlete. One of Colon’s surgeons, Joseph R. Purita, admitted to using Human Growth Hormone (which is banned in MLB) in similar procedures, but denied using them in Colon’s surgery. There is still question as to whether this surgery had anything to do with Colon’s positive steroid test.

Drug-testing labs check urine samples to see if the ratio of testosterone to epitesterone is the normal one to one ratio found in most adult men. If they detect any abnormalities the lab conducts an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS). This test checks if the testosterone came from outside the body. If the testosterone is indeed found to be foreign, athletes can be suspended, fired, and even have previous titles revoked from them.

So then why do athletes continue to use steroids? US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart wrote in an email to the Associated Press that the drive behind steroid usage is to “win at all costs in sport at every level. Athletes and their entourages will do whatever it takes if they think they have a chance to get away with it.”