REPORT: Baseball’s updated drug program to include better testing, 80-game suspensions for first offenses

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It used to be that when baseball did things with its drug program, the league was accused of merely being reactive in an effort to calm down P.R. problems. If baseball had merely jacked up penalties for drug offenses — which they are reportedly doing — one might arguably say that’s what MLB was doing here, as a reaction to Biogenesis stuff. But, according to this Bob Nightengale report — from an unnamed source, so the specifics could still change — that’s not all they’re doing:

The new agreement will not only increase the drug penalties, but also implement widespread carbon isotope testing, the official said, hoping to dramatically increase the detection of a synthetic testosterone.

That’s a big deal, because the biggest problem with the Biogenesis thing wasn’t that it was somehow different or more insidious than your usual run-of-the-mill cheating, it’s that MLB didn’t catch the guys without help of an alternative newspaper in Miami. If MLB catches A-Rod on a drug test in 2012, it’s a totally different situation. Other players involved in Biogenesis may stop using. A protracted dispute about the length of penalties is not had and that arbitration from last year doesn’t exist. Toughening the testing and not letting players who use PEDs feel like they can get away with it is essential to cutting down on PED use.

But of course, increased penalties are part of the system too:

The official said first-time offenses will be 80 games, an increase from 50, and a second offense will be for an entire 162-game season instead of 100 games. There will be a lifetime suspension for a third offense.

I have no problem with this. It’s what the players want, and that’s the most important thing. It isn’t terribly draconian yet it does raise the stakes. Most importantly, there have been reports that there will be safeguards in place for players who can show that they inadvertently took a PED, so the situation that is most worrisome — a guy’s career being put at risk for an honest mistake — is off the table.

Interesting times for what many consider to be U.S. sports’ strongest drug program.

Former major league pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez dies in traffic accident

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Former Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez died in a traffic accident in Havana on Thursday, per reports from the El Nuevo Herald and CiberCuba. No other deaths or injuries have been reported in connection to the accident. Gonzalez was 34 years old.

The Cuban righty defected from his home country in 2013 and signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Phillies. A bout of right shoulder tendinitis compromised his bid for a major league role, but he finally broke through to the big leagues at the tail end of the 2014 season and turned in a 6.75 ERA, 5.1 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 in just six outings. Another case of shoulder inflammation derailed any progress he might have made in 2015, however, and he recorded just five innings in Triple-A Lehigh Valley before the team officially released him prior to the 2016 season.

The Phillies released a statement following news of Gonzalez’s death: