By Zach Bloom
In the 2008 baseball season, Edinson Volquez emerged as a young star for the Cincinnati Reds. He was a hard-throwing right-hander who won 17 games and made the All-Star team to represent the National League. On Tuesday, Volquez was singled out in a negative way, becoming the first major leaguer to be suspended this season for violating the league’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs, reported TSN.com.
Volquez, a native of the Dominican Republic, was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a male fertility drug. The drug is not a steroid but is banned by baseball because it helps increase levels of testosterone in the body. Experts say that athletes use fertility drugs to compensate for the low levels of testosterone that result from steroid use.
The 26-year-old right-hander is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery he underwent last August and was placed on the 60-day disabled list at the beginning of the 2010 season. He is not expected to rejoin the Reds until midseason at the earliest. He can serve the suspension from Major League Baseball while continuing his rehabilitation, which is an issue in itself. When asked about the situation, Volquez’s teammate Bronson Arroyo replied, “I’m actually surprised they’re letting him do that.”
In a written statement read to reporters on Tuesday, April 20, Volquez admitted that he used the drug, but claimed that he used the medications in order to help him and his wife have a child. If this sounds familiar, it is because it was a similar explanation to the one given by Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez last May after he was suspended for 50 games for violating the same testing program.
Volquez said in the statement that toward the end of last season, he and his wife looked for medical advice in Cincinnati from a doctor about starting a family. The doctor provided him with prescriptions to treat a medical condition. Volquez did not identify the prescriptions or the medical condition.
In an interview with ESPN.com reporters Volquez stated, “As a follow-up to our original consultation, my wife and I visited another physician in our home city in the Dominican Republic this past off-season. This physician also gave me certain prescribed medications as part of my treatment. Unfortunately, I now know that the medication the physician in the Dominican Republic gave me is one that is often used to treat my condition, but is also a banned substance under Major League Baseball’s drug policy.”
According to an article on SI.com, Volquez also said, "I was not trying in any way to gain an advantage in my baseball career. I am embarrassed by this whole situation and apologize to my family, friends, fans, teammates, and the entire Reds organization for being a distraction and for causing them any difficulty."
ESPN.com reports Volquez’s suspension came about three months after Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig proudly stated that the steroid era in baseball was essentially over. Coincidently, Selig made his statement on the same day infamous slugger Mark McGwire publicly admitted on MLB.tv for the first time that he used steroids while breaking home run records in the late 1990s.
“The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually nonexistent, as our testing results have shown,” Selig proclaimed in a statement made on January 11, 2010. “The so-called ‘steroid era’ — a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances — is clearly a thing of the past.”
As support for his statement, Selig reminded us that very few major league players have been suspended for positive drug tests in recent years. Nevertheless, Volquez’s suspension is still a deep reminder that performance-enhancing drug use has not disappeared from the sport, even if it has declined.
Zach Bloom is a Communication Arts major from New York City. He is pursuing a career in sports broadcasting and/or sports journalism.