THE BLOG
06/06/2013 04:32 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2013

Major League Baseball: The Coming Storm of Suspensions and What Is Next for MLB

Okay, we sort of saw this coming.

When Major League Baseball got involved in the investigation into a shady Miami sports clinic that was rumored to have supplied performance enhancing drugs to a group of professional baseball players the story felt like a ticking time bomb.

Tuesday Night that bomb went off.

ESPN"s Outside The Lines broke a story in which it was reported that Major League Baseball was going to look into suspending as many as 20 major and minor league baseball players based on their connections to the Biogenesis Lab.

The big names on the list of potential suspensions are two names that should be familiar to anyone who has followed major league baseball or performance enhancing drug issues.

Both Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez have been down this road before. Apparently they missed their exits.

What spurred the potentially bold sets of moves that Major League Baseball appears prepared to embark on?

Biogenesis Lab founder Tony Bosch has reached an agreement to cooperate with Major League Baseball's investigation into his now shuttered lab. As part of that agreement he will name names, release documents that are expected to be damning, and possibly supply phone records and text messages that link specific players to the purchase and use of performance enhancing drugs.

All of that adds up to big trouble for the players who are linked to PED use.

If you're asking yourself why or how MLB can suspend players without an actual positive drug test, the answer lies in the recent drug prevention agreement signed off on by both owners and the players union. That agreement allows the league to suspend players based on "just cause."

That's not to say that the players in question won't appeal or contest the suspensions. That doesn't mean they'll win their appeal, and it doesn't mean that they'll avoid suspension.

There's a big difference between those busted using performance enhancing drugs in the year 2013, and those who were either implicated of using, or assumed to be using, over 10 years ago.

Cheating or cutting corners is never okay, but as with most things in life, there's a lot of gray area within that determination.

Throughout the 1990's and into the beginning of the 21st Century, Major League Baseball took a very hands-off approach to the issue of performance enhancing drug use.

Then the BALCO scandal broke, Congress called players and executives to testify, Rafael Palmeiro indignantly wagged his finger at congress and then tested positive. By the time The Mitchell Report was released, baseball was up to its neck in a massive performance enhancing drug scandal in which players were all but guilty until proven innocent.

Things did change after that. Even if you're of the cynical opinion that Major League Baseball is no cleaner a sport on June 5, 2013 than it was on June 5, 2003, one thing you can't claim is that the league hasn't made an effort, or that players could possibly claim that they were unaware of the penalties associated with performance enhancing drug use.

That's why Major League Baseball will, and quite frankly should pursue as severe a level of punishment as possible for the alleged violations of the league's not-even-remotely-secret drug prevention policy.

There's plenty of room to debate the functionality and viability of the current rules.

The Nation's Dave Zirin wrote a column Wednesday Morning that suggests the league decriminalize performance enhancing drugs, and then regulate them. That would allow players to avoid "scuzzy" clinics such as Biogenesis in Miami, and instead get proper medical treatment from properly trained doctors.

As Zirin mentions, if there are drugs that merely speed up recovery from an injury, perhaps those shouldn't be banned substances?

That's a fairly insightful and logical proposal, but it doesn't change the fact that in the current situation, a group of players who couldn't possibly be unaware of the risks to their careers and reputations that taking performance enhancing drugs would entail. Still may have made very deliberate choices that they appear to be on the verge of being indicted for.

We can all hem and haw over MLB's policy regarding rumors and a he-said, she-said dynamic about who ordered, purchased and used performance enhancing drugs, but we can't say the policy was unknown or that the players were unaware.

The use of sworn testimony by people of questionable ethics is not some sort of groundbreaking technique that Bud Selig and MLB stumbled upon.

Anyone who has ever watched the television series "The Sopranos," or enjoyed the Martin Scorsese movie "Goodfellas" knows all too well that getting people associated with a criminal conspiracy to testify, and provide evidence against others involved in that conspiracy is a tried and true technique that has yielded plenty of convictions for law enforcement.

Of course let's be clear, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun might not be your favorite athletes but they're about as close to being Jimmy Conway or Paul "Paulie" Cicero as I am to being David Ortiz.

What's the solution?

There probably is no real 100 percent solution. In every competitive endeavor there are cheaters. It isn't as if Major League Baseball is the only dirty professional sport. NFL players test positive for performance enhancing drug use, but for some reason it doesn't create the same sort of outrage that baseball use does.

There have been numerous olympic athletes who have failed drug tests. By now I'd think everyone is familiar with Lance Armstrong and his long list of drug-use denials, which eventually changed to a public mea culpa in January of 2013.

If one starts from the vantage point of trying to best reduce performance enhancing drug abuse, rather than eliminate it, the options become a lot more interesting. Laws and rules are always put in place to dissuade and discourage an action. They can work towards prevention, but they don't completely eliminate the problem.

Does anyone in Major League Baseball really think that there is a set of rules, tests and punishments that would, if enacted create a totally PED-free sport?

Plus it isn't as if baseball existed in an idyllic cheat-free bliss up until those big bad steroids reared their ugly heads.

Over the years, baseball has bad cheating scandals such as the Black Sox, they've endured Pete Rose, spitballs, corked bats and other drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines.

The sport never has been clean, and it never will be.

Baseball has a right to enact rules, and dole-out punishments in an effort to establish as much integrity within the sport as it can. Don't expect the sport to ever be completely clean though.