Sunday, August 5, 2007

Perez's suspension leaves many questions

Neifi Perez of the Detroit Tigers was given an 80 game suspension on Friday after his third positive test for a banned stimulant. The suspension officially ends Perez's 2007 season and leaves his future employment with another organization in doubt.

Throughout his career, Perez has been known much more for his glove than his bat. Always a slick fielding middle infielder, Perez has managed to hit .267 for his career with 64 home runs. His best offensive seasons came during his time with the Colorado Rockies from 1998-2001, where his best single-season home run total was 12 in 1999. Since 2001, he's bounced around the MLB, playing for the Royals, Giants, Cubs, and now the Tigers, having very little offensive success -- though he did manage to hit .274 for the Cubs in 2005. But obviously, with a career on-base percentage under .300, Perez was never an outstanding hitter by any stretch of the imagination.

My main question is -- why would Perez start using steroids or any performance enhancing drugs at this point in his career? He's played 12 major league seasons, and he's put together a decent career. He was playing on a winning team as a backup, certainly with his best seasons behind him. Perez almost had the chance to win a World Series ring last year with Detroit, and he may have had that chance this year. Why would he knowingly jeopardize that?

According to this article on, Perez was diagnosed with ADHD last season, and he took medicine so he could focus during games. He claims that after his pills ran out after the season, he was given a new prescription and eventually started taking another medication. Perez remains furious over the way he was treated and the lack of information he received over his positive test results.

"They called three different positives on a 20-day-period," Perez said. "I was using a medicine that was supposedly authorized by the doctors due to [my] personal condition."

Perez had more to say: "Many people might be trying to understand how is it possible that a player tests positive for the same substance three times in half a season. The truth is that they tested me four times between May 10th and June 1st and they never told me if there was anything wrong. I have been using that same medicine all this time."

I'm one of those people who can't seem to comprehend why or how this happened. Perez isn't the type of baseball player who needs to take any type of performance enhancers at this point in his career. It doesn't make sense that he would take something now during the twilight of his career when he serves mainly as a pinch runner or late-game defensive replacement.

I'm not usually very interested in wondering why people do things, but sometimes, and especially in this case, things just don't seem to add up. Even though everyone can't go back in time and find out if certain players really did use steroids or not, it seems rather odd that currently Barry Bonds is leading an assault on Hank Aaron's home run record while a back-up middle infielder, who has remained essentially the same size his whole career, might find playing another game in a major league uniform impossible next year.

Perez firmly believes he was treated unfairly -- "They tested me during spring training and everything was negative. But then in May I guess I tested positive, but they never told me there was something wrong. Even twice, they only tested me, when the regular procedure is to test at least four or five players."

If what Perez claims is true, then there needs to be a whole lot more communication between baseball officials and players during these drug tests. Keeping players clean and steroids out of baseball is extremely important, but not at the cost of ruining someone's career over medication for ADHD. Perez has problems focusing on games; he's not looking to gain any edge in an unfair manner.

Sure, Perez still failed his tests, but if he was never told about what was found in his system or what was causing the problem, how was he supposed to fix it? If I was Perez, I wouldn't have figured that my ADHD medication was causing the failed drug tests. Where is the communication? And it also seems rather odd that Perez was tested by himself on some occasions instead of with other players, as he claims.

This whole ordeal makes very little sense. Hopefully this situation causes some sort of positive change in the way drug testing is done in the MLB. I guess it's possible that Perez may have indeed used steroids, but I'm not sold on it at all. "I can't care less about the money," he said. "I'm worried about my family's honor."

That's good enough to leave some doubt in my mind. What about you?

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