“The weather may be tricky or a bat may slip or a ball may bounce in some unexpected way; now and then the best man may go stale or lose his nerve; the professional honor of the player, however, has been taken for granted. We do not trust cashiers, diplomats, policemen, or physicians as we trust an outfielder or shortstop. … The man at the bat, cheer him or hoot at him as we may, is supposed to be doing his best.” ~ The Nation magazine, October 13, 1920
Baltimore Orioles first baseman (and home-run slugger) Chris Davis was suspended today for 25 games for testing positive for Adderall, an amphetamine, which is restricted by Major League Baseball.
His suspension means he will miss the rest of the regular season and the first eight games of the post-season – should the Orioles get that far.
Davis was having a weirdly unsuccessful (.196), successful (26 home runs) sort of season.
So, sure, it’s a weirdly insurmountable (who will hit home runs now?), surmountable (Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Steve Pearce, and all those other guys) problem for the Orioles as they make a run toward the post-season (something they’ve done only one other time this century).
I am mad at Chris Davis. Because I trusted him not to be stupid.
(Trusting guys in their 20s to not be stupid, I realize, is stupid. I have just put my head down on the keyboard in shame.)
I am mad at Chris Davis because he cheated and now he is screwing up everything. He has let down his team and fans. (If we don’t win the World Series this year – no matter what happens – I will blame him.)
But, I’m also mad at Orioles fans who have been whining since the news broke this morning, “He wasn’t really cheating. Adderall isn’t a performance-enhancing drug (PED). It’s not that bad. Oh, why does everyone gang up on the Orioles?”
Let me clear something up, you whining tweeters.
Yes, yes, he was cheating. Yes, it is that bad. And, no one was ganging up on the Orioles. Chris Davis broke the rules.
Davis used a drug he did not have permission to use. (He had a “therapeutic use exemption” for Adderall in previous seasons. He does not have it now.) This is his second offense – hence the 25-game suspension which begins today.
Adderall, used for Attention Deficit Disorders in children and adolescents, is one of those sneaky gray-area drugs. Its benefits to athletes aren’t physically obvious – with steroids you can see the effects in the beefy muscles and resulting power. Adderall acts more like a super dose of caffeine, enhancing concentration, focus, and reaction time.
Dr. Gary Wadler, a former chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List Committee, told The Seattle Times in 2012 that Adderall is “one of the quintessential performance-enhancing drugs.”
Adderall, he said, “masks fatigue, masks pain, increases arousal — like being in The Zone. … It increases alertness, aggressiveness, attention, and concentration. It improves reaction time, especially when fatigued. Some think it enhances hand-eye coordination. Some believe it increases the mental aspects of performance.”
(Apparently, it does not enhance the “mental aspects” of making good decisions.)
Since Adderall has very little therapeutic value in adults, it’s curious that baseball offers exemptions to players. Nearly 10 percent of current major league players have an exemption.
And, Jayson Stark of ESPN pointed out: “Athletes who have taken it have told me that once you’re used to playing your sport when you’re taking Adderall, it’s incredibly difficult to play without it.”
Oh, sure, you wisenheimers can argue that Adderall was doing a lousy job of enhancing Chris Davis’ .196 batting average this year. But, you’re just being cheeky.
Davis had permission to take Adderall in the past, perhaps even during last year’s monster 53 home run season. If something gives you an edge or a boost or helps you achieve amazing things it can’t be easy to just up and quit. And, Adderall is highly addictive.
But, rules are rules and the rules say this – you cannot take Adderall without an exemption. Pretty simple.
I hate writing posts like this. (I’ve written this blog for two years and every season I’ve had to sigh and try to make sense of some cheater or other – relive previous cheatery here.)
I hate when stupid and ugly things get in the way of the game that I love.
Orioles rightfielder Nick Markakis has been outspoken regarding PED use in baseball.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun last season, Markakis said of players who fail drug tests, “These guys are big boys; they can make decisions. If I go out there and rob a convenience store, I know the consequences that are coming with it. We are all adults here.”
He continued: “These guys that are doing performance-enhancing drugs are taking away from a lot of other people that are doing it the right way. They are taking opportunities away and they are basically stealing.”
“I’m sorry” goes a long way with me. I forgave Nelson Cruz. (Cruz served a 50-game suspension for failing a drug test last season. He apologized.)
I’ll forgive you, too, Chris.
I still trust Nick Markakis.
Everyone else? I just don’t know.
Photos: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. August 10, 2014