When I first heard the news, I was not one of Ramon Laureano’s biggest supporters. After opening AN and being shocked by the headline referencing Laureano’s 80 game PED suspension, my first thought was, “Please don’t let me read a quote about how ‘I never knowingly ingested...’” Then, of course, I read the quote about how he “never knowingly ingested...” and I rolled my eyes. Sure, Ramon, and I have never knowingly ingested a chocolate martini.
When it comes to rules or conduct I am not a homer, and if one of my players goes headhunting, uses too much sticky stuff, fails to hustle, or takes PEDs, I cannot be on their side just because they play for the A’s.
The banned substance at issue here is nandrolone, and as best I can tell only two possibilities are likely to exist. Either Laureano injected it into his bicep and is lying, which would be incredibly disappointing, or he tested a false positive from trace amounts in ordinary food and is more of a victim than a perpetrator.
And herein lies the flaw in MLB’s system. The purpose of drug testing athletes is not to suspend them for half a season if they show trace amounts of opium because they ate one too many poppy seed bagels. If the thresholds are too low, they risk punishing athletes who are not aware, and have no reason to be aware, that they will fail a routine drug test.
What I know about nandrolone couldn’t fill the bottom of a thimble. Luckily, google exists to make me appear more knowledgeable than I am, so I can explain that “eating pork can lead to a false positive for nandrolone, since certain types of pigs produce it naturally in high amounts. Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone.” Keep that in mind next time you are enjoying a seemingly innocent meal of pig spleen in cuerpo-corazon sauce.
That doesn’t mean that every baseball player who enjoyed a pork chop this week is about to test positive for nandrolone. At the same time, it feels intuitively unlikely that a player would inject a banned substance that would be revealed in a routine test he knew was coming. Only Laureano, and possibly one pig, know the truth and the pig isn’t speaking.
On this issue, I find myself incredibly conflicted. I am irritated that every athlete seems to hire the same PR guy who doesn’t write like athletes talk and plays the tired “I was as surprised as anyone” card. I bemoan the “It’s okay to cheat as long as you don’t get caught” mentality and the “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” mindset that corrupts our country and world on a daily basis. And the players I happen to love are not exempt from my ire.
On the other hand, I am no more enamored of the “presumed guilty” paradigm that goes something like this: “If he denies it, he’s a witch!” For all I know, the only reason I don’t test positive for trace amounts of several banned substances is that nobody ever tests me. For every athlete who eats one too many poppy seed bagels, there are probably 10 who knowingly break the rules and then lie about it. but that doesn’t make it any more fair for the one who is burned at the stake for the crime of enjoying breakfast.
All of which is to say that in the absence of information we all make assumptions about what is really going on. And in the light of day, all I can assume is that I really have no idea. The A’s will miss him on the field, and in the clubhouse, though — this I know.