Kahn: Starling Marte And The PED Carousel

By Andrew Kahn

CBS Local obtained the original statement from Starling Marte, the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder suspended for 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Marte submitted this to the Pirates before the franchise altered it on Tuesday afternoon:

“To my family, friends, teammates, the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and its fans: I am sorry. In an attempt to perform better on the field, I knowingly took a banned substance. I began using drugs several years ago, when I was making the league minimum salary and the Pirates had not posted a winning season in 20 years.

“With the help of a cocktail that included Nandrolone, my performance improved: The Pirates made the playoffs in three straight seasons and signed me to a multi-year contract worth tens of millions.

“I did not think I’d get caught and—having helped turn around the franchise and received a big payday—it didn’t matter much to me if I did.

“My only two regrets are that I can no longer help my teammates for the next 80 games and that I’ve hurt my chances of signing another, even more lucrative contract.

“Go Bucs. See you after the All Star break.”

As you probably realized two sentences in, that was not real. Marte’s actual statement was far more typical of a PED user. Marte doesn’t blame someone else or suggest he’ll appeal the punishment; good for him. He does cite “neglect” and a “lack of knowledge,” however. A friend who played Division II basketball said he was given a thorough list of approved and banned substances and told to consult the athletic department before taking anything that didn’t appear on either list. This was D-II athletics. You don’t think major league players are provided the same information? If you’re cheating, it’s on purpose.

Marte, 28, is in the fourth year of a six-year contract (with a club option for two more years). It seems like a strange time to take PEDs, at least for a financial gain. More likely, given that he was dinged for an old-school steroid, Marte was primarily taking other drugs, perhaps for years.

Tuesday was not a good day for MLB. Fans can rejoice that the “system” is working or assume that for every Marte there are a dozen more getting away with cheating. If the league is confident its testing isn’t producing false-positives, there should be harsher penalties. The latest collective bargaining agreement, however, only led to more random testing in-season. Until that’s changed—two full years for first-time offenders would be a good start—expect the Marte story to play out a couple of times a year. That means a pathetic apology, a lenient punishment, and pitchers complaining on social media. The cycle is predictable, even if the culprit isn’t.

Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn

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