Last week, MLB dropped a juicy surprise on everyone with the announcement that Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte had tested positive for a steroid, and would be suspended 80 games.
Reactions around the league were as you’d expect, with disappointment and support coming from the Pirates and other players, but also with an edge of “this is the right thing to happen, because guys are still trying to cheat.”
Having just been swept by the Pirates, the Cubs perhaps were in a unique position to react to the news, and Anthony Rizzo offered a pointed take (CSN): “Is it a big risk if you’re suspended 80 games and you got a guaranteed contract? Do you take that risk to get the reward? That’s the question you ask. For some guys, it is a big risk, for others, you get away with it, you get the big deal. But it’s part of the game. And my opinion is we need to drug test a lot more.”
Rizzo went on to point out that he, himself, had yet to be randomly tested all year, quipping that he’d probably get tested soon because he was saying these things out loud.
… and then he was randomly drug tested just a few hours later.
That is per an interesting report from the Sun-Times, which notes that the system is set up such that it should be impossible for MLB to test Rizzo in response to his comments, but the timing was suspicious nonetheless. Jake Arrieta, by contrast, said he gets tested all the time, including twice in the past two weeks, and previously on back-to-back days. A totally random thing? Perhaps. But it does seem strange.
Read the Sun-Times piece for more on the testing protocols, and how they’ve impacted (or not) Cubs players.
In the end, no system is going to be perfect, and so long as the rewards for success are so extremely disproportionate to the downside of never making it in the show, you’re going to have players trying to get an illicit edge. At least MLB is relatively serious at this point about keeping performance-enhancing drugs out of the game, with testing and punishments seemingly increasing every couple of years.
Presently, players busted for PEDs are suspended without pay for 80 games, and are ineligible for the postseason. Second time offenders are suspended a full season without pay, and third time offenders are banned from the game.
Not to jinx it, but: in the PED-suspension era, the Cubs have never had a big league player fail a test and be suspended. Marlon Byrd failed a test in 2012 after he was traded by the Cubs to the Red Sox (and after he was released by the Red Sox). Arodys Vizcaino failed a test in early 2015 after he was traded by the Cubs to the Braves for Tommy La Stella.