Young athletes weigh PED use, understand risks
Alex Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players in a drug case - the most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal nearly a century ago.
Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous punishments bring to 18 the total number of players disciplined for their relationships to Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. His suspension covers 211 games, starting Thursday, and he is expected to appeal.
The news of Rodriguez's suspension comes as a crushing blow to many fans and young athletes who look up to the $275 million man. "It's just a downer to see them kind of cheating their way into the big leagues," said Jonathan Serven, a sophomore infielder at Long Beach State and former Palm Desert high school standout. "That's not the way I want to go."
The 13 suspensions today continued the discussion about PEDs in sports. Serven said there's a pressure for young athletes to keep up with others who used PEDs. "You're just going to be able to be stronger and faster and you're going to be able to throw the ball harder," said Scott Burcham, a Palm Desert alumni and a junior at Sacramento State. "It's just a lot of pressure to stand up to."
Both Serven and Burcham say they don't used PEDs but understand the draw to them. Darol Salazar understands the draw because he's coached baseball in the valley for 36 years. He says the temptation for players to dope only gets worse from the allure of multi-million dollar contracts. "I think the root of all of this is greed, greed for the big pay day," said Salazar. "Our game is getting cleaned up right now, I honestly believe it's getting cleaned up."
While baseball looks to recover from the blemish of the most recent suspensions, it could take a lasting physical toll on the athletes who used them. "If you are constantly reducing the inflammation and not letting your body recover, it's eventually going to break down and collapse," said Casey Washack, the owner of Next Level Fitness in Palm Desert.
Burcham and Serven say they think the league needs to give out even harsher punishments in the future, but for now, they think Rodriguez's suspension might as well be a lifetime ban. "He's going to be forty when it gets back," said Burcham. "He's not going to be the same player anyways."
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