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Is the World Really Any Better with Tony Bosch off the Streets?

Earlier this week, it was announced that Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch would plead guilty to distributing PEDs to players in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.  Once Bosch is sentenced – some reports indicate his deal will result in a 3-4-year term – it will end one small chapter in the story of PED use in MLB, in which players including Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez were suspended for taking Bosch’s drugs.

Of course, the story won’t end there.  The DEA poobah heading the case made sure to let the public know he’s not done fighting the scourge of professional athletes trying to entertain us:

“I’d like to point out that this investigation is not over,” said Mark Trouville, the DEA special agent in charge of the Miami division. “I’d like to send a message to those individuals who illegally distribute PEDs and other controlled substances, and the recruiters of underage high school athletes who pose as mentors and advisers to these people. The DEA will continue to investigate you.”

What a relief.  Hopefully the DEA will be as successful in stopping PED use among minors as they have been with marijuana.

The prospect of Braun and other players having to take the stand and describe the details of their PED use is…intriguing, to say the least.  But I’m skeptical Bosch’s case and the authorities’ continued pursuit of drug dealers will have much of an impact on the demand for PEDs by professional and amateur athletes.  The only thing more certain than athletes seeking to improve their performance by any means necessary is law enforcement officials making self-serving statements about their work.

The futility of stopping PED use mirrors the pointlessness of the drug war and prohibition in general.  As most adults are aware, the fact that certain substances are illegal does not mean they are difficult to obtain on the black market.  In terms of PEDs, the means of administration and concealment are more sophisticated than ever:

The drugs were administered in a number of ways, through injections, pills, creams and even lollipops, according to a source with direct knowledge of the investigation.

Masking agents were used to hide the drugs. “It was so good. The key was being able to fool testers with the league (Major League Baseball), the source said. “The masking agents in the creams would hide the actual drug, and (Bosch) would know the timing involved. He knew if the athlete took the drug right before a game, they’d be tested 12 hours later and the drug would no longer be detectable.”

No matter how many PED suppliers are put behind bars – or how much fans attempt to shame cheaters – there will always been a significant number of players willing to break the rules.  And like with the larger U.S. drug war, one of the biggest impacts of prohibition is the corruption of once respectable institutions.  Recounting how MLB resorted to bullying, threats, and bribes to root out PED users, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale observes that the league feels no shame:

One year later, MLB has no regrets. Simply, officials say, they had no choice if they wanted to acquire information that was circulating in South Florida.

“While we take no joy in proving that our players were involved in PED use,” Rob Manfred, MLB vice president/labor, told USA TODAY Sports, “I am very proud of the way the Commissioner’s office performed under very difficult circumstances. …

“When baseball learns of possible PED violations, Commissioner (Bud) Selig made clear we have no choice but respond aggressively. I believe that over the long haul, the Biogenesis case will cause players to avoid PED use.”

That seems unlikely.  Players like Braun, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Bartolo Colon are still playing in MLB.  In just the last few weeks, not one but two Brewers minor league players were suspended for using banned substances.  Somehow I doubt Bosch’s guilty plea will deter others like them.

Maybe even stiffer penalties like a no tolerance PED policy would be more effective, but I’m not sure.  No PED test is perfect and there would certainly be false positives.  Then there’s the certainty that masking techniques will outpace officials’ ability to catch rule-breakers.  About the only thing I’m pretty sure of is that the world isn’t really any better with Tony Bosch about to go behind bars – so it’s unseemly for DEA agents to act too proud of themselves.

(Image: Associated Press)