What's missing? Talk of who's on drugs and what will be done about it - East Valley Tribune: Sports

What's missing? Talk of who's on drugs and what will be done about it

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Posted: Sunday, August 31, 2008 11:31 pm | Updated: 11:22 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The biggest news in Major League Baseball's, um, war on drugs this year: There hasn't been any news.

Barry Bonds has been in the headlines this season only for being unemployed. Sen. George Mitchell hasn't upbraided a single MLB or Players Association official since his scathing report on performance enhancing drugs was released last winter. Roger Clemens? Brian McNamee? The names sound familiar, but we really can't place the faces.

Not a single guy from a major league team has been popped this season.

The biggest names caught using?

Tough call. You decide: Eliezer Alfonzo or Humberto Cota.

Alfonzo, at one time the Giants' backup catcher, and Cota, who had the same role for Pittsburgh for several years, are the only players who were on a club's 40-man roster at the time they were suspended. Neither was in the majors.

"The big story is that it has been a non-story," MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred said Friday. "We feel like we are making a definite change to the culture of the game.

"Low positive rates are encouraging," Manfred said. "They suggest that the policy is having the desired deterrent effect. But we want to remain diligent with respect to the policy. Low positive rates can also suggest that maybe people are figuring out ways to avoid testing positive. So, on one hand we're very encouraged, but we want to make sure that the testing is as effective as possible."

For instance, MLB is looking into reports that a reliable urine test has been developed to detect Human Growth Hormone. Right now, MLB has no way of testing for HGH. Nonetheless, MLB was able to hand out an HGH suspension this season, thanks to the independent investigative arm that Sen. Mitchell recommended to strengthen the policy.

As a result, highly-touted Atlanta outfield prospect Jordan Schafer was suspended 50 games in April. MLB said the suspension was a "non-analytical" positive, suggesting its investigators had turned up evidence that Schafer either had purchased HGH or had possession of the substance.

Through Friday, a total of 50 suspensions had been handed out. That's up from 38 last year. The reason for the up-tick in total suspensions: Teens in Latin American Summer Leagues have been added to the pool of players who can be suspended for testing positive. Of the suspensions, 37 have come from the Dominican and Venezuelan Rookie Leagues, including Rangers 18-year-old right-hander Michael De La Cruz.

Positive results

As of Friday, a total of 50 players had been suspended this season under Major League Baseball's enhanced drug testing policy, but only two were on 40-man rosters and none were in the major leagues at the time of their positive tests. A total of 20 teams have had at least one suspension. The great majority of suspensions have occurred in the Latin American rookie leagues, where baseball obtained the ability to suspend for the first time this season. A team-by-team list of the suspensions:

Chi. Cubs . . .9

St. Louis . . .5

Kansas City . . .4

Cincinnati . . .4

Tampa Bay . ..4

NY Mets . ..3

Arizona . ..3

NY Yankees . .3

Florida . ..2

Pittsburgh . ..2

Rangers . ..1

Atlanta . ..1

Baltimore . ..1

Boston . ..1

Colorado . . .1

LA Angels . ..1

LA Dodgers . ..1

Minnesota . ..1

San Francisco . ..1

Toronto . ..1

Note: One player, previously with Washington, was suspended as a free agent.

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