By Ross Newhan
Victor Conte, the founder and president of BALCO, the Bay Area labratory intricately involved in baseball's steroid era and drug scandals, reacted to the recent 50 game suspension of San Francisco outfielder Melky Cabrera for employing a banned testosterone substance by insisting that 50% of big league players were still using a performance enhancing drug.
With the Cabrera development still fresh, baseball took another hit Wednesday when Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon was suspended 50 games for employing the same substance. Colon, 39, has been a key pitcher in the Oakland A's surprising playoff bid, going 10-9 with a 3.43 earned-run average after a poor season for the New York Yankees in which he was 8-10 with an ERA of four.
Cabrera and Colon are the fourth and fifth major leaguers suspended this year, not counting Ryan Braun, who evaded a suspension on a technicality. The other players suspended were Giants' relief pitcher Guillermo Mota for 100 games for a second offense, Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd for 50 games and Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis for 50 games.
Baseball has come a long way in cleaning up the steroid era, but Conte and others believe there are still testing loopholes and designer drugs that are staying ahead of the testing process.
It is the opinion of this writer that the only way to potentially eradicate the cheating is for baseball and the players union to agree to a policy of zero tolerance in which a player who tests positive is suspended for a full year rather than 50 games and is then suspended for life rather than 100 games for a failed second test.