The Associated Press is reporting that Major League Baseball and the Players' Association might be close to a new drug policy agreement that would increase PED suspensions. The article's writer, Ronald Blum, stated that they hope to make such an arrangement official by Sunday, when the regular season resumes. Contrary to Blum's initial report of 100 games for a first offense (Joel Sherman had a source who denied it), Ken Rosenthal reported that suspension lengths would be changed thusly:
1st offense = 80 games (previously 50)
2nd offense = 162 games (previously 100)
3rd offense = Still lifetime
The new policy would also have another interesting feature--reduced suspensions to half the penalty length of inadvertent use. That seems kind of arbitrary, as the classic PED user excuse for testing positive is "I was just using a cream for an injury that I had no idea contained PEDs," "I didn't know that stuff was in this drink/over-the-counter drug I was taking," or "I tripped and stumbled into a steroid needle." The AP said that, for instance, Freddy Galvis's 50-game suspension from 2012 would have been reduced to 25 since he claimed the drug was in a foot cream, and Guillermo Mota's 100-game suspension for a second career violation in 2012 would have been reduced to 50 games since his cough syrup had Clenbuterol in it.
Following the craziness of the Alex Rodriguez suspension last year, it's not surprising that MLB would act to bump suspension lengths up. They seem to be focused on erasing any public doubt about their toughness regarding PED penalties, and numerous players in the MLBPA said they wanted increased penalties. However, that inadvertent use policy appears to swing the door wide open for a litany of bad excuses in hopes of reducing the suspension. Additionally, as Jesse Spector noted, I can't imagine 80 games for a first offense is really going to make players hesitate about using PEDs any more than the 50-game ban. Then again, the financial incentives are so high for possibly cheating and finding a way to not get caught that getting an edge through less-than-legal means is never going to truly leave baseball, or any other sport for that matter.
Regardless, it looks like there will be changes to the PED suspension plan forthcoming. Let's check in with PSA legal correspondent Joe Tacopina for his thoughts: