It's no game: Baseball must do more to prevent doping

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Major League Baseball's suspension this week of 13 players is intended to show that the game is serious about cracking down on users of banned "performance-enhancing drugs" -- steroids, synthetic testosterone and human growth hormone.

But team owners, the commissioner's office and the players' union, if they are truly concerned about preventing further damage to the image of the sport, need to do more to prevent, detect and punish cheating.

Twelve of the players are not challenging the 50-game unpaid suspensions that arose from their association with Biogenesis, a now-closed Florida clinic accused of distributing banned drugs. Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is continuing to play -- and collect his salary from a $275 million contract, the game's richest -- while he appeals his 211-game suspension.

Greater collective action is required if the sport is to fight doping effectively. Teams should be able to void the contracts of players who violate baseball's anti-drug policies. The players union, unfortunately, says it would oppose such punishment.

The game's testing program has enabled major-league officials to identify and punish other cheaters in recent years. Yet players who are determined to subvert the tests still appear able to do so; some off-season tests are announced in advance. At the least, baseball must conduct more testing and penalties need to be toughened for first-time and repeat offenders.

It's heartening to hear players such as Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer say they are "tired of cheating ... the more days we have like this, the worse it is for our game and the worse it is for our fans." Yet players, as well as owners who continue to give fat contracts to admitted drug violators, need to put stronger actions behind their words.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who announced this week's suspensions, was in that job when steroid-abusing sluggers of an earlier time, such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, turned themselves into human comic-book characters. That era appears over, thankfully. But even after the biggest drug enforcement action in its history, Major League Baseball still has a long way to go to restore its reputation.

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