Agent Zero: The challenge of representing players in the PED era
The Chronicles of Agent Zero is a special feature at Through The Fence Baseball. “Agent Zero” is an agent for MLB players who writes about what it’s like to be an agent — the ups and downs, the travelling, etc. Agent Zero prefers to remain anonymous, but you can be assured his stories are true. Any questions? Just ask!
In theory, this second “Agent Zero” entry should be a continuation of how I became a certified Major League Baseball player agent. However, as we all know, life never goes according to plan. With the recent Biogenesis scandal involving current MLB players and MLB’s intent to suspend those players, I felt it appropriate to give an agents perspective on performance enhancing drugs. After doing so, I will then revert back to the original story line.
Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (The Progam) was bargained for, and exchanged by, the office of the commissioner of baseball by and through the MLB players Association. These parties routinely negotiate with and against each other, but that’s a topic for another day. The intent of the program is to:
- (i) Educate Players on the risks associated with the use of Prohibited Substances
- (ii) deter and end the use of Prohibited Substances by Players and
- (iii) provide for, in keeping with the overall purposes of the Program, an orderly, systematic, and cooperative resolution of any disputes that may arise concerning the existence, interpretation, or application of this Program.
Thus far, and from the outside looking in, The Program is working. It has suspended players regardless of their stature within the game, and the penalties for a first offense (50 games), second offense (100 games) and third offense (lifetime ban) are not to be balked at. However, there is cause for concern, and as an agent, I worry more about players who inadvertently take a banned substance than I do those who intentionally violate the program, and here is why.
To begin, I worry about how easy some of these banned substances can be obtained. For example, some of the products available at your local GNC may and could lead to a positive test. And seeing as all professional baseball players take supplements of some sort, an accidental positive test is plausible.
I understand what this may sound like, and an accidental test does not make the violation right. My point is simple: The image of syringes and anabolic steroids is more of a vision of the past than what many positive tests indicate today. Further, the fact that MLB has gone so far to ban substances that can be purchased over the counter should speak volumes on the integrity of The Program.
In addition to the inadvertent use of a banned substance, I also worry about the language barrier in MLB and those players who have a hard time determining what substance they can and cannot take. Statistics show that, as of opening day 2013, more than 28 percent of players on rosters were foreign born. Again, not to make an excuse, but I personally do not believe there is a coincidence between the number of Latin American ballplayers suspended and the fact English is often their second language.
Critics can argue these players have drug prevention meetings in their native language, and they certainly do. But many of us can relate to dozing off during meetings regardless of the importance of the topic(s). In fact, I used to use school time to recover from a night’s worth of Busch Light.
Further, even with the eight years of post-high school education, I still have a hard time understanding The Program’s list of banned substances. I cannot pronounce many of them as they carry names such as Fluoxymesterone, Ethylestrenol and Danazol. Even more troublesome is these substances are written in my first language, in the country I was born in. So, yes, I worry about the ballplayer where English is a second language, where school may have been secondary and where he may not be acclimated to life in the United States.
Aside from the worrying, I have dealt with positive results with two of my clients, and neither was a pleasant experience. However, the story of the first positive test will be saved for when I return back to the story of how I became a MLB certified agent. Therefore, I will share with you the result of my most recent client who tested positive and received a 50-game suspension.
My usual daily routine involves waking up at 5:45 a.m. and going to the gym from 6:00 to about 7:45. This time of day is the only time my phone is silent. However, this day was different. When I left the gym, I had several texts from a client of mine and the first read:
“Just found out I’m getting 50 games for Adderall.”
Well, there you have it. I instantly knew how I would spend the rest of the day. My first thought was: “You idiot! Why wouldn’t you have sought a team physician if you thought you needed Adderall.” For those not aware, Adderall is used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and it’s another reason why fans should not rush to judgment when they hear a player was suspended for violating The Program.
The remainder of the day was spent speaking with the Farm Director, who assured us they would have my client report to their spring training facility so he could train as he served his 50-game suspension. Well, this all changed a few days later when word came down from the organization they decided to release my client. I was notified again via text, which read:
“So Farm Director decided to just release me today.”
Faced with a 50-game suspension, my client is now jobless and facing the wrath at home from his wife, who is clearly upset at the prospects of providing for their newly born child without a breadwinner. I am left playing Dr. Phil, agent, friend, confidant and psychologist in one.
So, what was the end result? My client was forced into an independent baseball league, where he would be allowed to play even though he was subject to a suspension by MLB. He lost his salary of $8,000 a month, and for what? Well, his reasoning was the team had a long road trip the day before, and he had to play a day game.
In reality, I would argue Adderall is not a performance enhancing drug. And those who work in baseball can attest that a large percent of players, with a prescription of course, take Adderall. However, my client made a bad decision on a day a random drug test was administered, and he paid the price for it. Adderall is out of your system within a few days but The Program worked. Am I upset? No. All I ask is for fans to understand that behind every suspension is a story, and every story has a family connected to it. So, as we move forward, let’s hope the game stays clean while also understanding the temptations some of the players are faced with.