Players Union should follow Holliday’s lead on PED penalties

Major League Baseball is in the headlines again for the wrong reason. Tuesday’s story in the Miami New Times named a number of players reportedly having secured performance enhancing drugs from a Miami clinic. The biggest, but not only fish netted is New York Yankees’ star Alex Rodriguez.

Though MLB is initiating random testing for human growth hormone this season for the first time, it remains to be seen if the chain of control exposure for blood samples has been resolved. One year ago, a positive test from Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun was invalidated for that reason.

Some players don’t think the current penalties are strict enough to deter their peers – a 50-game suspension for a first offense and 100 games out for a second. One of the more outspoken players is outfielder Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals.

In a Wednesday interview with MLB Network Radio, Holliday called for a player who fails his first test to sit out an entire 162-game season. For a second offense, the punishment would be a lifetime suspension – with the possibility to apply for reinstatement after two years.

It isn’t the first time Holliday has been in the forefront, pushing for change. In early 2010, the outfielder said he stopped taking all supplements to avoid any possibility of a problem.

In an ESPN audio interview after Mark McGwire apologized for his use of steroids, Holliday proved to be three years ahead of his time. Back in 2010, Holliday came out in support of hGH testing, even if it required players to submit to giving blood samples. At the time, the Players Association was opposed.

To its credit, Major League Baseball has pushed through more stringent testing in 2013. The Union should take the lead from some of its leaders on the penalty issue as well. MLB would surely go along, if the players took the initiative to try to do more to clean up the game – in this case by negotiating more stringent penalties for their peers who cheat.

Let’s hope they move more quickly on Holliday’s idea this time.

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