This week, Florida Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton became the sixth player in major baseball history to reach the 50-home run mark before the end of August. Stanton became a member of a select group including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, three of the most prolific sluggers in the MLB doping scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
At the four corners of the major leagues, this season is the players who excite crowds by blasting balls over the fences. As rookie Rhys Hoskins of the Philadelphia Phillies, who recently became the first player in history to hit 11 dingers in his first 18 games in the Show.
When McGwire beat the mythical record of Roger Marris in 1998, he hit an average of 1.04 four-home runs per game in the MLB. And when Barry Bonds broke McGwire’s record three years later, the average climbed to 1.12 home runs per game.
We are talking here of a time when doping products, like growth hormones, were not even banned in the MLB. The doors of the pharmacy were somehow wide open.
In an autobiographical book entitled ‘The Yankee Years,’ ex-manager Joe Torre reports with horror that at that time MLB CEOs even attended a conference where doctors praised the virtues of doping To improving sports performance.
This year? The doors of the pharmacy are supposed to be double-locked. However, the average number of home runs per game is 1.27! If the trend continues (there is a month remaining on the calendar), the major league hitters will have some 6187 dingers this season. It is 2000 more hits than in 2014! We are talking about a 47.67% increase in three years. It’s incredible.
The year after the Mitchell report, the home runs-to-match ratio had dropped by approximately 10% (about one per game). Then suddenly, in 2016, the sticks began to explode and once again balls were flying out of parks.
Unless you believe in Santa Claus and unicorns, it’s pretty easy to imagine what’s going on.
Officials with the MLB say they have the most sophisticated tests and that 12,000 of these tests are done during a season. Last year, 13 MLB players were pinned.
However, there are other indications that doping is still deeply rooted in baseball culture. In minor leagues, where athletes do not necessarily have the means to afford sophisticated and less detectable drugs, 54 players have been suspended this season alone, and the year is not over. By 2016, no fewer than 86 players had their hands caught in the bag.
In short, the numbers just don’t add up.
In addition, the NHL has proudly announced in recent days that it will allow Russian forward Danis Zaripov to join its ranks for next season.
Zaripov, who was a member of the Russian national team at the Sochi Games, had his contract revoked in the KHL due to a history of doping. For this offense, the International Federation suspended the 36-year-old athlete until 2019. Zaripov appealed.
After conducting its own investigation, the NHL simply decided to ignore the suspension given by the International Ice Hockey Federation! That says a lot about the relationship between the two organizations. The failure of the Olympic negotiations may have left more scars than we believe.
But most importantly, it is the wording of the NHL release that leaves pensive. Among other things, it shows that it is more permissive than the World Anti-Doping Agency and ignores the use of certain doping products.
“First, and primarily, it should be noted that because of the differences between the NHA Prohibited List and the WADA Code, the result of the initial Zaripov test would not have resulted in suspension in the NHL . Because, among other things, pseudoephedrine is not one of the substances prohibited by the NHL, “the statement said.
You read that, and you wonder how many other drugs are excluded from the NHL list. And you remember those amazing statistics that suggest that NHL hockey is the cleanest sport on the planet, because even if millions are at stake, less than 0.0001666% of players are identified as cheaters.
In the NHL, the collective agreement even excludes cocaine from the list of prohibited substances. The coke is rather seen as a recreational drug. If traces are detected in an athlete, the result remains anonymous and only statistics are compiled.
The leader of a team told me recently that the athlete using cocaine may be contacted by the player assistance program if the detected rate is likely to endanger his health.
In short, the largest hockey league in the world does not respect the suspensions imposed by the International Federation on doping. And when you put the pieces back together, their list of prohibited products appears so short, or so ineffective, that NHL players seem to be as likely to be struck by lightning as to be intercepted for doping.
That too, it does not sound good.