MLB will be implementing longer suspensions for players who test positive for PEDs. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
According to an Associated Press report, Major League Baseball is close to increasing its penalties for performance-enhancing drug use, aiming to lengthen the suspension for a first positive test from 50 to 80 games and the suspension for a second positive test from 100 games to 162, or the length of a full season. Third positive tests already result in lifetime bans, though a player has yet to test positive for a third time. Baseball hopes to have the new punishment schedule in place before Sunday night's stateside season opener in San Diego.
In addition to those punishments, MLB is hoping to close a loophole that allows players to receive a small portion of their salary during a suspension, as well as create a system that would allow arbitrators to reduce significantly suspensions for players who can prove their use of a prohibited substance was unintentional. In the former case, the current system docks players the number of days pay matching the number of games of their suspension, but in doing so essentially allows players to be paid a pro-rated portion of their salary for off-days. As a result, Alex Rodriguez will earn roughly $2.9 million this year because he was suspended for 162 games, and thus docked 162-days' pay, but the 2014 regular season is 183 days long. The revised language would simply suspend a player's salary for the length of the suspension.
With regard to inadvertent use, MLB hopes to incorporate language that would allow arbitrators to cut suspensions in half if the player can prove his use was unintentional. Two examples cited by the AP are Giants reliever Guillermo Mota, who was suspended in May 2012 after testing positive for the Clenbuterol in his cough medicine, and Phillies infielder Freddy Galvis, who was suspended the next month after testing positive for a Clostebol metabolite that he claimed was in his foot cream. That clause is the primary concession the commissioner's office is offering to the player's union in their ongoing discussions, though one imagines that language would also give arbitrators a path by which they could reduce a disputed suspension such as Ryan Braun's rather than overturning it entirely, which would make it a win for the commissioner as well.
According to Forbes' Maury Brown, any final agreement reached by the representatives of Baseball and the union, represented in these talks by new executive director and former major league first baseman Tony Clark, could be implemented immediately without ratification by the owners or players, making the existence of a revised policy by Sunday quite likely. Given the reactions to last year's Biogenesis suspensions around the league, both sides would likely approve any revision matching the above description, anyway.
Assuming the new policy is put in place, the only question remaining is who will be the first player to test positive under the new rules. Increased suspensions very well may reduce the number of players willing to risk getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs, but no punishment schedule seems likely to fully eradicate PEDs from the game.