Blue Jays’ Chris Colabello & MLB’s Role in his Suspension

Jays From the Couch examines the role of Major League Baseball in PED suspensions like Blue Jays’ Chris Colabello

 

So, by now, everyone in Blue Jays Land has had the opportunity to hear about and opine about the 80 game suspension handed down to Chris Colabello for PED usage. Heck, at this point, it is somewhat old news and some have even started to make jokes about it. How quickly we move on. Time has indeed passed and many have weighed in. If you listened to the latest episode of the Jays Nest Podcast (if you haven’t, I’ll wait. Go on!) you would have heard me add my voice to the noise.

I criticized MLB for not being more proactive about putting a stop to the usage of PED. In fact, the approach has been iffy. How many of the top performers in baseball are being caught for cheating? Taking nothing away from them, woudn’t it stand to reason that top performers would be the most likely culprits of ‘enhancement’? Instead, what we’re seeing, for the most part, are minor leaguers and second or third tier talent being busted. That is, unless we’re talking about big name targets like Alex Rodriguez, who get caught and punished after the fact. There is a list out there that has been compiled that details those who’ve been punished for cheating. You can judge for yourself the talent level of that list. That is not really the issue. I am also bothered by the punishment for PED usage being half a season while domestic violence instances are being met with 30 games. If MLB wants to protect the image and integrity of the game, perhaps, they need to look at this.

That said, my issue, as laid out in the podcast, is why MLB is not taking more control over what is being ingested by its players. I suggested that perhaps there needs to be vitamins and supplements handed out by the league with giant stamps on the boxes that read “MLB Approved”. Something like this would certainly eliminate the “not knowing” excuse that Colabello seems to be sticking with. He swears that he is confused about how it got into his system.

The answer is something that, really, only he knows. But, the real question (for me) is: “How did he get in a position that he is using vitamins and supplements that could get him in this predicament?” To answer this question, I went to MLB’s JOINT DRUG PREVENTION AND TREATMENT PROGRAM. It is a 58 page document. It spends a great deal of time outlining what happens if a player is caught using PED. I wanted to know what the league is doing to prevent it.

That section begins at the end of pg51 and ends on the top of pg52. It is 2 paragraphs long. It is broken down into Educational Programs and Educational Materials. An educational program will be developed each season that “will include instruction on proper nutrition, training and conditioning…” That’s well and good. The ‘materials’ efforts include: “…a hotline, website, Smartphone application or other technological resource to answer Player questions regarding whether prescription or over-the-counter medications are banned under the Program, to inform Players that only NSF Certified for Sport supplements are guaranteed to not cause a positive test result, and to answer questions regarding the availability of NSF Certified for Sport supplements.”

So, basically, the players get an instructional session, which is likely not very long and then an app on their phone and a number to call if they find something they might want to take. They can look it up before they take it. The players are left to their own devices in using products. That seems a bit dangerous in this day and age. There are so many things out there that are made up of so many chemicals and through a myriad of formulas, one has to wonder if MLB can keep up with that. Wouldn’t it be better to simply distribute a product they know is acceptable?

But, in actuality, we’re talking about big boys, here. These are grown ups who have the tools necessary to make proper choices. They are educated on the possible consequences for ingesting any supplement. Time and effort should be taken to run the name and ingredients through the app, or through the NSF (website HERE) . In 10 seconds, I was able to search protein in various forms and come up with a list of products that are approved. You can even search by product or company name. If I’m a player, I’m basing my decisions off this list. If I can’t find it on this list, I’m not taking it until I have some form of confirmation.

Not enough? How about this: the Strength and Conditioning Advisory Committee does the following:

-maintain standards applicable to all Clubs concerning the
availability of food products for Players in Major League clubhouses;
-develop Club-specific plans and/or league-wide
minimum requirements to make available to Players the NSF Certified
for Sport supplements they desire during the championship season, offseason
and Spring Training.

So, players have access to supplements that are approved. In Spring Training, a player can get the proper supplements that won’t end up in his being suspended for half a season.

Here’s the kicker:

Each Club shall be required to provide NSF Certified for Sport nutritional supplements to its 25-man roster Players during the championship season, and to all 40-man roster Players during the offseason and Spring Training. This requirement shall include making supplements available while on the road during the championship season

Not only are players given methods for finding out if their supplements are approved or not, they are actually given supplements that are. There really is no need to find your own. Now, no one can force a player to take what is given to him. That onus is on the player themselves.

MLB players have everything they need to ensure they are getting the proper supplements without risking their future. For a guy like Chris Colabello, an 80 game suspension sets his career back a lot. Right now, some are questioning his future in the league altogether. That is a pretty hefty penalty for something that could have been avoided.

It might be easy to look at the big, very rich, league as the villain (as I did) and think that they are somehow to blame here. We question everything they do. Their attempts at using instant replay are a perfect example of this. We go on and on until they use it and now we can’t stop complaining about its use. So, one can hardly blame me for somehow not really trusting MLB and their role in cleaning up the sport. But, at the end of the day, the responsibility is on players like Colabello. All of the tools necessary to play clean are literally at the finger tips. That is what makes his case so strange. If you believe what Colabello is saying, that is. He told Sportsnet that anything he’s taken, he’s received from the Toronto Blue Jays’ training staff, which would align with what is above. He is at a loss for an explanation.

The situation Colabello finds himself in is downright confusing. If you accept everything that is being said, this should not have happened. We have a league who is doing everything it can to make sure PED are not used. We have a player who seems to have done everything he is supposed to. Yet, here we are.

 

 

*Featured Image Credit: Terry Foote UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0– cropped from original

 

 

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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.

Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.

  • Maximilian Brandon

    Thanks for the extensive research on an important topic. We may never know the truth about Colabello’s situation.

    • shaun doyle

      Right now, he is the only one who does.

  • Arjonn

    It’s difficult if not impossible to have a system that is absolutely infallible. For instance, MLB / the clubs handing out approved supplements doesn’t completely prevent the possibility of adulteration. It doesn’t happen a lot, but food products and pharmaceuticals do get recalled because someone added something. This probably doesn’t apply in Cola’s case since if he got part of a bad batch, it’s likely other players would have too, which likely would have meant others testing positive as well.

    Even if MLB has every batch of every approved supplement tested, it’s also possible, although pretty unlikely, that Cola’s sample was somehow compromised.

    Another improbable but not impossible scenario is that someone dosed him. It seems we’re talking about metabolytes that stay in a person’s system for several weeks and about quantities measured in parts per trillion. So it wouldn’t take much, and since players are apparently all tested during spring training, if someone with access to Cola was out to “get” him, there was a known, fairly length window of at least several weeks for that person to slip him a tiny amount of the PED.

    I doubt we’ll ever know what actually happened, but for those who want to believe Cola, it’s not impossible. It just takes a lengthy leap of faith.

    • shaun doyle

      So, he tested positive in the middle of March. Given what we’ve heard about the timeline, he would have taken the supplement at the beginning of Feb or so. Could that be at the beginning of when he got the approved supplements? Was he taking something on his own before that? Who knows. I feel for the guy. It does sound like a fluke accident…assuming you believe him. And, right now, we have no way of pointing to something that says we shouldn’t.

      ANY system they put in place is going to have issues, it’s true. What happened to Colabello might lead to further investigation. I would hope that MLB doesn’t just wash their hands of it and say “Well, that’s on you.” If there is a legit flaw in their system and that’s how he got in trouble, they need to find out. They integrity of their system is at stake.

  • Arjonn

    It’s difficult if not impossible to have a system that is absolutely infallible. For instance, MLB / the clubs handing out approved supplements doesn’t completely prevent the possibility of adulteration. It doesn’t happen a lot, but food products and pharmaceuticals do get recalled because someone added something. This probably doesn’t apply in Cola’s case since if he got part of a bad batch, it’s likely other players would have too, which likely would have meant others testing positive as well.

    Even if MLB has every batch of every approved supplement tested, it’s also possible, although pretty unlikely, that Cola’s sample was somehow compromised.

    Another improbable but not impossible scenario is that someone dosed him. It seems we’re talking about metabolytes that stay in a person’s system for several weeks and about quantities measured in parts per trillion. So it wouldn’t take much, and since players are apparently all tested during spring training, if someone with access to Cola was out to “get” him, there was a known, fairly length window of at least several weeks for that person to slip him a tiny amount of the PED.

    I doubt we’ll ever know what actually happened, but for those who want to believe Cola, it’s not impossible. It just takes a lengthy leap of faith.

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  • ogredragon

    1 in a trillion. Read the story. The MLB test is supposed to detect 1 part per trillion. What are the odd that a 1 in a trillion sample is contaminated. Think about it. He gives the sample in a unsterile environment where is someone who was taking steroids and had sneezed and left traces on the urinal, that Colabello could have easily picked up the one in a trillion trace without knowledge. In baseball statistics they talk about the dangers of small samples. This was a one in a trillion and not of a steroid, but supposedly of a metabolite ( a chemical produced by the body when it breaks down other chemicals) of the drug. I would bet money that the chances are that you could find other chemicals that would produce that metabolite and that the chances were way less than a one in a trillion sample.

  • ogredragon

    1 in a trillion. Read the story. The MLB test is supposed to detect 1 part per trillion. What are the odd that a 1 in a trillion sample is contaminated. Think about it. He gives the sample in a unsterile environment where is someone who was taking steroids and had sneezed and left traces on the urinal, that Colabello could have easily picked up the one in a trillion trace without knowledge. In baseball statistics they talk about the dangers of small samples. This was a one in a trillion and not of a steroid, but supposedly of a metabolite ( a chemical produced by the body when it breaks down other chemicals) of the drug. I would bet money that the chances are that you could find other chemicals that would produce that metabolite and that the chances were way less than a one in a trillion sample.