Since the beginning of calendar year 2011, Major League Baseball has suspended 10 major-league players for violating the sport’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Seven were born in Latin America.
The names of 12 players have surfaced in media reports relating to MLB’s investigation into the Biogenesis wellness clinic in South Florida. Seven were born in Latin America.
These are extremely small sample sizes, so one should be careful not to draw broad conclusions. But those ratios are greater than the overall share of Latin American-born players in the majors, which was 24.2 percent as of Opening Day last year.
That raises the following question: Have Major League Baseball and the players’ union done enough to inform Spanish-speaking players about the particulars of the sport’s drug policy?
The answer is a resounding yes, according to one of the sport’s most respected voices.
Toronto Blue Jays All-Star Jose Bautista, who was born in the Dominican Republic and attended college in Florida, said MLB and the union have done a “great job” with their educational outreach on the subject.
“Everybody knows what’s going on,” Bautista told FOXSports.com this week. “Nobody can plead ignorance. I don’t think a lack of education or language barriers has anything to do with it. MLB and the Players Association have done a great job making sure that everybody knows.
“We have information everywhere.”
To illustrate that point, Bautista reached into his locker and pulled out a red paperback book. It was a copy of MLB’s Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program.
“Bilingual — here you go,” he said, holding it in front of him. Then he flipped the book over and rotated it 180 degrees, to show it included the details in both languages. “Spanish and English,” he added.
Bautista said players are instructed to check any nutritional supplements with NSF International, a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor, Mich. MLB contracts with NSF to run tests on supplements and determine which of them could include banned substances.
NSF maintains a searchable, continually updated database of safe supplements on its website and through an app for the iPhone or Android — which, by the way, Bautista has downloaded onto his smartphone.
During our conversation, Bautista picked up a nutritional supplement container from his locker and pointed to the circular, silver dollar-sized “NSF” logo on it — meaning NSF-approved.
Bautista said players also are provided an MLB Players Association hotline number to call if they have questions about supplements.
“We have resources,” Bautista said. “If you want to know whether you can eat a popsicle or a bag of chips, you can call them and ask. There’s multiple sets of people you can ask, ‘Can I eat this? Can I drink this?’ And they’ll say, ‘Unless it’s NSF-approved, there’s no way to confirm the substances that the label says are in it, are in it.’
“You have to go by this little logo right there,” he added, pointing to the ‘NSF’ on his supplement container. “That means the particular batch this was made from, the stuff that’s in here, the organization tested it, and what’s (on the label) is accurate.”
The specter of performance-enhancing drugs is haunting baseball again, after the Miami New Times published the names of seven players linked to the Biogenesis clinic shortly before spring training began. Bautista said he’d never heard of Biogenesis proprietor Anthony Bosch until the story broke in late January.
Bautista didn’t want to comment on the investigation, saying, “To me, they’re just rumors and allegations for right now.” Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli, whose names reportedly appeared in Biogenesis records, have said they consulted with Bosch but did not use any PEDs. Without referring to any player by name, Bautista questioned the wisdom of seeking Bosch as a consultant.
“I know nothing about this dude, but if I was a player looking to consult a doctor, I would first go to my team doctor and ask for a referral for somebody that’s in our network, in our system,” Bautista said. “I wouldn’t go to a random person. I’m not saying that’s what these guys did — because, again, it’s all circumstantial.
“I’m not saying any reports from that Miami newspaper are accurate. I have no idea if they are or not. But if they went and consulted with an outside doctor without team consent, if that’s accurate and that’s proven, then they’re vulnerable to anything being put in their bodies. If they allowed somebody to do anything to them, that’s not an excuse. And I have no problem, if those guys are proven guilty, that they’re disciplined in the way the program states it. That’s why it’s there.”
Bautista did add that he’s not entirely comfortable with the notion of players being suspended without positive tests. But the basic agreement permits that, if MLB deems there to be sufficient evidence of PED use to convince an arbitrator.
Bautista said he would support MLB if it decided to explore stiffer penalties for PED use. (Currently, first-time offenders are suspended for 50 games.) Bautista suggested that the union might even push for such a change.
“If MLB would like to increase penalties, I don’t think the players would oppose it, as long as it’s something reasonable, and as long as the testing systems remain reliable,” Bautista said. “As long as they don’t start throwing substances in there that they don’t even have a test for — like it was attempted to do with HGH [human growth hormone] before the reliable test came out. It was unreasonable for players to agree to the testing of a substance when the test — a reliable one — doesn’t exist.
“There’s not going to be an opposition from players in trying to clean up the game. Everybody wants to have a clean game. Everybody wants to have a level playing field. The majority of players would be all for that, I’m pretty sure. I can’t speak for everybody but my perception is that most players would be all for that, including myself.”