In My Opinion

Linda Robertson: No excuse for cheating by athletes

America’s former pastime is staggering again.

Baseball is like the stranded baserunner who can’t get home.

Every time the sport tries to get beyond the Steroids Era, it lengthens.

Now Major League Baseball is being used in the same sentence with “major drug bust.”

Some of its biggest stars are on the verge of going down like Lance Armstrong.

Baseball just can’t beat its drug problem, which is a cheating problem, which is an integrity problem. If fans can’t believe what they see on the field or in the statistics, they might as well watch pro wrestling, where there’s no pretending that unnatural muscles came from nature.

No surprise that Miami, home of Medicare fraudsters and Ponzi schemers, is the scene of baseball’s latest scandal. It’s radiated across the country and affects at least 20 players, but it started here, in a nondescript office off U.S. 1 in Coral Gables.

First we had BALCO. Now we’re stuck with Biogenesis.

Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, who have played and trained across the road at the University of Miami field named after A-Rod, are among alleged customers at the anti-aging clinic. They face 100-game suspensions if MLB’s investigation proves they obtained performance-enhancing drugs and lied about it, too.

Other players tied to the clinic include Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera. Robinson Cano and Hialeah’s Gio Gonzalez have more tenuous links.

MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement means commissioner Bud Selig doesn’t need positive tests to end their seasons. Non-analytical positives, such as confirmation that players bought drugs, are enough to violate anti-doping regulations.

What is indisputable is that any player who associated with Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch has an IQ lower than his batting average. Not only is Bosch a quack but a failed quack with a string of dubious business ventures trailing him.

These athletes would entrust their bodies to “Dr.” Tony? Their careers?

They would risk trashing their reputations for pills and injections from a drug dealer who simply substituted a fountain-of-youth storefront for a back alley?

Are they unaware of the fates of drug cheats Armstrong, Marion Jones, Barry Bonds?

It speaks to an addiction — not the chemical kind, but addiction to a sense of invincibility and entitlement that puts one above the rules of fair play in an elite profession that would not exist without rules of fair play.

And for that, if they are guilty, they deserve not only punishment from the league and scorn from fans but utter rejection by clean teammates who are fed up.

“Until something concrete comes of it, I think it’s real foolishness to speculate,” said Miami Marlins pitcher Kevin Slowey, a former players’ union rep who serves on MLB’s Pension Committee. He emphasized that names written on clinic records don’t prove anything.

Bosch has denied selling banned substances or being the author of documents turned over to Miami New Times six months ago. Apparently, he has changed his tune, according to ESPN’s Outside the Lines. Bosch, sued by baseball, is ready to cooperate in exchange for MLB dropping the lawsuit and protecting him from damages in resulting lawsuits.

Slowey also expressed his frustration.

“We want a clean game,” he said. “Those of us who are here and know how hard it is to get guys out and hit home runs and compete at this level — I think everybody desires an even playing field.”

Braun, former University of Miami star and current Brewers slugger, got off once on a technicality when he challenged the protocol of a positive test from the 2011 playoffs. He has gone to that well again, explaining that a notation of payment to Bosch was for consultation on his appeal of the test.

That’s kind of like consulting Bernie Madoff on how to invest your life savings, but Braun is sticking to his story.

Rodriguez, 37, faces the death knell on a corroded career that once had him a lovable shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He’s now probably the most unpopular player in baseball. The Biogenesis allegation follows his 2009 admission of previous drug use. The Yankees would love to void the $105 million remainder of his $275 million contract and dump him.

Don’t excuse cheating athletes as desperate and dumb and doing what everybody else stoops to. They are unethical and dumb and ruinous to their teammates. No mercy for those who drag baseball into the dirt.

Read more Linda Robertson stories from the Miami Herald

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