PEDs and keep­ing your­self in the game

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter and pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­

Toronto Blue Jays first base­man Chris Co­la­bello was the last per­son you’d think would test pos­i­tive for a per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drug.

The 12-year vet­eran of pro ball isn’t beefed up nor does he hit a base­ball 400 feet. Of all the peo­ple in the Jays’ club­house, not once did you think Co­la­bello would be the one to set off the PED Geiger counter for Ma­jor League Base­ball.

Think about it. He’s six-foot­four-inches tall and weighs just 210 pounds. That doesn’t ex­actly in­spire im­ages of early 2000s Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds us­ing their car­toon bi­ceps to crush base­balls into dif­fer­ent time zones.

Those guys used steroids. They fit the mold. At times it ap­peared McGwire was one gi­ant arm mus­cle wait­ing to tear a hole in the uni­verse with the bat slash he called a swing.

Surely Jays team­mates Jose Bautista, Josh Don­ald­son or Ed­win En­car­na­cion would fail a test be­fore Chris Co­la­bello.

Heck, even Justin Smoak was more a can­di­date than his first base pla­toon part­ner.

De­spite all the signs that pointed to the con­trary, Co­la­bello was sus­pended 80 games for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s sub­stance abuse pol­icy.

Co­la­bello in­sists he doesn’t know how de­hy­drochlormethyl­testos­terone, an an­abolic steroid sold un­der the name Turin­abol, got into his sys­tem.

If Co­la­bello doesn’t know how he took the drug — which is kind of baloney, he knows — maybe we can look at why or rather, the pos­si­ble why.

When you reach the top of your sport, train­ing be­comes about stay­ing there. It be­comes putting you in the best pos­si­ble po­si­tion to re­main a pro­fes­sional ath­lete at the high­est level.

The jour­ney be­fore­hand is about get­ting there; it’s about reach­ing the top. Now, it be­comes re­main­ing, in this case, a big lea­guer.

Steroids and sports are in­tri­cately linked whether we like it or not. As long as steroids have been around, ath­letes have been try­ing to skirt the rules in order to gain a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

And, there is no sport out there that has such a rocky his­tory with PEDs than base­ball.

The good ones fig­ure out how to do it and not get caught. The bad ones, like Ryan Braun and Co­la­bello, get caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Since 2005, 43 ma­jor lea­guers have been sus­pended for us­ing. An­other 60 mi­nor lea­guers have been sus­pended for the same rea­son.

If you look at each player, outside of the Alex Ro­driquez and Ryan Braun types, they all have sim­i­lar sto­ries.

Take the ma­jor lea­guers for ex­am­ples. They’re play­ers on the edge of stay­ing or go­ing. Guys who could just as well be tak­ing the long bus rides in AAA ball as they are rid­ing char­ter planes in the MLB.

They feel they need the ex­tra jump to stay rel­e­vant. In pro­fes­sional base­ball, there is al­ways some­one nip­ping at your heels.

In a way, base­ball’s dog-eat-dog sys­tem is a key pro­ducer of the sit­u­a­tion they find them­selves in.

Cer­tain ath­letes are go­ing to take a short­cut if it means they get to stay on top. They’ve shown that. There’s no ex­cus­ing Co­la­bello for what he did. If he used, he de­serves the sus­pen­sion. Can you blame him though? He’s just a prod­uct of the sys­tem.

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