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Suspensions Probable For MLB Players In Latest Drug Scandal


Anytime now, the other shoe, or shoes, could drop in Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing drug investigation. A handful of players will likely be suspended for their involvement with the Miami-area clinic Biogenesis. There are reports that many of those players have agreed to accept their suspensions, but Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is not among them. A-Rod is still in talks with the league about the length and financial details of his suspension. If they can't strike a deal, he could be banned from the game for life.

NPR's Mike Pesca joins us to discuss what's going on. And, Mike, we're going to get to A-Rod in a second, but first, remind us of where we are in this investigation, how many players are involved and what they're accused of doing?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Well, Biogenesis, that South Florida clinic that distributed PEDs, performance-enhancing drugs, and was sued by baseball. The owner of Biogenesis flipped and he gave up all the players that he had been supplying. There were dozens of names. A lot of them are minor leaguers. Minor leaguers can appeal any sentences. And so right now, baseball seems to be looking at eight or so players. And word is that six of the eight will be accepting suspensions.

Baseball has already suspended Ryan Braun, the 2011 National League MVP. He accepted a 65-game suspension. I should caution about this. Word is, you know, word is that the announcement was supposed to happen today or yesterday. So the commissioner's office is giving information, but they're doing it off the record because they're not authorized to talk about it before anything is actually hammered out.

BLOCK: OK. Well, let's talk about A-Rod. He - we mentioned he, or his lawyers, are in talks with the league. What's up for discussion here?

PESCA: Well, I think it's a lot of saber-rattling, but here are the terms. The - baseball is saying you will take a multi-year suspension, maybe this year and all of next year. And if you don't take that, accept it and don't fight it, we're going to ban you for life from the game.

A-Rod's lawyers obviously are saying, oh no, you're not. And one of the reasons they're saying that is, you know, he is although the most loathed player in a team sport that I could think of - sometimes fairly, sometimes not fairly - and although steroids are really unpopular with fans, and although Commissioner Bud Selig knows that by going after steroids, he is getting plaudits from all corners of the sports world, even though that's true, you know, A-Rod is in a union. And there is a union contract, and the contract spells out what the penalties are for suspensions. And if you test positive, it's supposed to be 50 games on your first suspension, not a lifetime ban.

BLOCK: Well, who has the upper hand as A-Rod and his team negotiates with the league here?

PESCA: Right. I would say that the - even though that it is spelled out a player who tests positive he gets 50 games, if he does it again he gets 100 games, it is true that the commissioner has powers beyond tests that are - in positive urine tests, for instance.

So he - Ryan Braun took a 65-game suspension. That was beyond the 50 games. So he does seem to have some leeway, and he can operate in the best interests of the game. The question is, is a lifetime ban really feasible? Is a lifetime ban the sort of thing that goes so far beyond what is written down as what the stated bans are for doing steroids that, you know, what wouldn't be enforceable under a contract?

And I should also add, even though A-Rod has admitted to past steroid use, he never tested positive. And that admission came up under murky circumstances where a past test was leaked out of, possibly, the commissioner's office. So, yeah, by letter of the law, A-Rod, if this offense sticks, it really would be his first offense.

BLOCK: Well, there has been lifetime bans handed down in baseball before, right, Pete Rose? Call your lawyer.

PESCA: Yeah. Sure.

BLOCK: Will this be different if A-Rod got a lifetime ban?

PESCA: It would. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, he suspended players for throwing the World Series. He also - he was a pretty strict judge, that Judge Landis. He suspended a guy for not - or a few guys for just not accepting the terms of his contract.

But, you know, no one has ever been suspended for life for trying to do better at baseball. You get suspended for throwing games. Former owner of the Reds was suspended for having, you know, Nazi sympathies. But this would be the only time someone was suspended for cheating to try to win. And there are penalties for that, but it's never been a lifetime ban. It's never even been close to a lifetime ban. Steroids are in an entirely different category.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's sports correspondent Mike Pesca. Mike, thanks so much.

PESCA: You're welcome.



You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.