The head of baseball’s players union said Tuesday he doesn’t expect suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, specifically from the Biogenesis investigation, to be served this season.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players Association, said the ongoing investigation and the subsequent appeals process would likely prevent any suspension to be imposed before 2014.
Based on a provision in the joint drug agreement, MLB may announce the suspensions of players before an appeal is heard behind closed doors if an allegation is made public before then. A handful of players, including Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Gio Gonzalez, have been linked to Biogenesis, a now-defunct clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., that is at the heart of an ongoing investigation.
Although Commissioner Bud Selig declined to discuss the status of the investigation, Weiner said he expects to have discussions with Selig about possible suspensions within the next month.
The union believes players should be given the opportunity to appeal and have a case heard by an arbitrator before any suspension is announced, the standard practice if there is a positive drug test. MLB is building a case for suspensions when there are no positive drug tests, known as “non-analytic positives.”
“Our players that deserve the suspensions, we’ll try to cope with their suspensions,” Weiner said during a luncheon with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “Our players that don’t deserve suspensions, we will argue that they don’t deserve a suspension.”
Those arbitration hearings could be heard as early as September, which means players could avoid suspensions this season. Players that are appealing discipline would likely be allowed to play until the process is complete. The suspensions for “non-analytic positives,” however, aren’t bound by the 50-, 100-game and lifetime ban structure and suspensions could be individually negotiated.
“In theory, they could be suspended for five games or 500 games,” Weiner said. “We could then choose to challenge or not but the commissioner’s office is not bound by the 50-100-life scale.”
Gonzalez was among those linked in January to the clinic, founder Anthony Bosch and several substances, including a testosterone-laden “pink cream,” by a Miami New Times report. Gonzalez has maintained that he didn’t have any contact with Bosch. He also said he wasn’t a patient of the clinic and has never used performance-enhancing drugs. According to Gonzalez, his father, Max, used Biogenesis for weight loss.
An ESPN report in June said that Gonzalez was the only player linked to Biogenesis who ”will be scrutinized but possibly exonerated.” The report echoed another ESPN report from February that cited two unnamed sources that said that the substances Gonzalez received from the clinic were legal.
Weiner, however, has publicly thrown support behind Gonzalez, saying in April “we’re confident that Gio shouldn’t face any discipline based on what he might say” in an interview with MLB investigators. Union officials still believe Gonzalez’s case is not the same as other linked players and remained unconcerned that the left-hander will face any discipline.
MLB investigators expected to interview all players linked to Biogenesis and Gonzalez met recently with league officials.
Selig reiterated his stance Tuesday on the Biogenesis investigation and potentially looming suspensions. “It’s thorough, comprehensive and it’s aggressive,” he said. “That, I believe, I‘m proud of.”