"These guys that are doing performance-enhancing drugs… (Rob Carr, Getty Images )
Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis says the only way baseball will rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs is to stiffen its penalties, which he believes should, at the least, include a five-year suspension for a first-time offender.
And, if Major League Baseball and the players’ union would ever consider a lifetime ban for anyone caught using PEDs, Markakis said he would “100 percent” support that proposal.
“No ifs, ands or buts about it,” Markakis said in an exclusive interview with The Baltimore Sun as MLB prepared to announce suspensions in the Biogenesis case. “These guys are big boys; they can make decisions. If I go out there and rob a convenience store, I know the consequences that are coming with it. We are all adults here.”
Baseball has strengthened its anti-drug policy in recent years, and in 2013 random blood testing throughout the season was permitted for the first time in the sport’s history. Although he has submitted to urine tests this season, Markakis said he has not been blood-tested in-season — and that irks him as well.
“I don’t know if any of my teammates have, but I haven’t,” Markakis said. “As part of the collective bargaining agreement, [MLB has] that opportunity. And I don’t know why they haven’t or what the deal is with it. But I think they need to take a better look into it and start going forward with what they say they are going to do. Saying something is one thing, but doing it is another. … I’d give blood every day if I had to. The overall deal is that this is bad for the game.”
With the Biogenesis suspensions handed out today — 12 players getting banned for 50 games plus New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez being suspended through the 2014 season — myriad players are expected to voice their opinions within the next few days
But few voices likely are as surprising — or perhaps carry as much weight — on the topic as Markakis’. The Orioles’ mild-mannered, soft-spoken 29-year-old has built an eight-season career on not calling attention to himself off the field.
This issue, though, strikes a chord, because Markakis believes he has played by the rules while others haven’t. No Orioles were suspended in the Biogenesis scandal, but Markakis said he wouldn’t have softened his stance or changed his opinion if a teammate had been involved. Loyalties aside, it’s a simple matter of right and wrong, he said. (Teammate Brian Roberts admitted in 2007 to using steroids one time in 2003.)
“These guys that are doing performance-enhancing drugs are taking away from a lot of other people that are doing it the right way. They are taking opportunities away and they are basically stealing,” Markakis said. “Stealing money away from owners because they are basically purchasing damaged products. It’s not a good situation all the way around. And all of us that have done it the right way, we are going to suffer and have to answer questions about this for a while now. I think that puts us in bad situations that we don’t deserve to be in.”
Markakis said he, like all players, could have had taken performance enhancers during his professional career, but he made the conscious choice not to.
“Everybody has had the opportunity to be put in a situation of doing it,” he said. “But as adults and grown men you have to make the right decision, not only what’s best for yourself, but what’s best for your future, what’s best for your organization, what’s best for your kids, what’s best for the fans. These guys facing suspensions are not only hurting themselves and hurting their bodies, but they are hurting their teams.”
Markakis, the Orioles’ first-round draft pick in 2003, has been one of the game’s more consistent and durable players. He has hit .284 or better in every big league season while driving in more than 100 runs twice, homering 15 or more times in five seasons and playing Gold Glove defense.
His career best for home runs, however, is 23 and though he has had double digit homers in each of his Oriole seasons, he’s considered to have below average power for a corner outfielder, especially by today’s standards.
“It’s not just only me doing it right; there are a lot of guys out there doing it right,” said Markakis, who is hitting .286 with a .341 on-base percentage, eight homers and 45 RBIs while playing in all but two of the Orioles’ 112 games this season. “I know how hard this game is, and to see some of these guys going out there and putting up these video game numbers, it’s mind-boggling. It’s disappointing; it’s frustrating. Because you know how hard you have to work just to get to this level.”