MLB needs consistent drug policy

Players in many sports face drug testing to ensure that no one is cheating to gain an unfair advantage.

Major League Baseball’s doping policy has resulted in numerous suspensions of high-profile athletes and has led to endless questioning about the integrity of the league.

The latest noteworthy baseball figure to get caught up in a drug scandal, however, hasn’t played in a major league game in more than 20 years.

Ron Washington, manager of the Texas Rangers, stole headlines Wednesday when he publicly apologized for using cocaine during the 2009 season. Washington made the admission in an attempt to head off a report from Sports Illustrated’s John Heyman, who also made public the manager’s drug use.

As only players are addressed in the Collective Bargaining and Joint Drug agreements between MLB and the Players Union, managers and other team personnel fall under a separate set of rules.

While MLB has not seen fit to publish the standards by which it holds such employees accountable, Evan Grant wrote Thursday in a piece for, “According to The Associated Press, management has a different set of drug-testing rules than the one for players on 40-man rosters that were negotiated by MLB and the MLB Players Association.

“Managers and coaches are tested four times per year for all three classes of drugs. Other front-office personnel — anybody in the club’s employ — can be tested at random.”

In the immediate aftermath of Washington’s admission, Rangers president Nolan Ryan announced that the team stood behind the manager and would not accept his resignation.

To date, Washington has received no punishment from the team or from the league other than being required to attend counseling for drug abuse.

Assuming that Grant’s information is accurate, anyone involved with the operation of an MLB team — from the owner on down to the interns — can be drug tested at any time. But when a person fails a test, if Washington’s case is any indicator, they receive no punishment.

This juxtaposition might seem confusing, but it’s all par for the course for MLB.

Although it might not make sense to the average person why a company would drug test its employees randomly and then not punish workers who fail tests, I’m sure this is all a part of commissioner Bud Selig’s master plan for stopping drug use in the league by doing absolutely nothing.

Everyone knows silence and inaction are the best ways to get a point across.

If Selig truly cared about the league and its image, he would hold Washington and other violators accountable for their actions. Players are suspended for 50 games following a first positive drug test, and managers should get the same penalty.

Because the identities of people in the league who fail drug tests are supposed to remain anonymous, it’s unclear how big of a problem drug use is with off-field personnel.

It is unlikely that Washington is the first non-player to be caught using illegal narcotics; he simply had the misfortune of being the first person cast into the media spotlight.

The best way for MLB to protect Washington and deter anyone else in the league from abusing drugs is to send a message that doing so will end in punishment.

After all, testing for drugs with no regard for the results makes about as much sense as having an exhibition game decide which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.

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