Well, the Blue Jays have their first casualty of the stricter MLB drug policy and it probably is one of the last players you would have guessed to test hot.
Mood in Song Form
Before the Friday night affair Chris Colabello was suspended for 80 games for testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone on March 13th. Deydrohchasdlfkhatwofajgoabds or whatever it is called is an anabolic steroid that probably hasn’t been used by another professional athlete since 1995, and was invented by the East Germans in the 1960s. Its basically steroids for dummies, or meatballs who don’t have to worry about professional testing. Typically it is taken orally in pill form and according to Victor Conte of BALCO fame, can remain in your system 3-6 months after use.
I ate lunch next to Chris last November when he was back in Toronto to partake in a charity event with the Blue Jays. It was a Sunday afternoon at Real Sports, and I was there with a client enjoying the NFL, a couple of pints and some chicken wings. Essentially we were doing all the things that typically happen on a Sunday in the fall at sports bars. Colabello had a friend or two who were there with him enjoying a pint or two. Colabello? He drank water from his water bottle that he brought with him, ordered a burger with a salad, and left the bun and all of his toppings behind. I noticed all this because I am a weirdo. I also immediately texted my brother and told him that Colabello was going to have a fantastic 2016 because he was dialed in. He wasn’t exactly the player I was expecting to test positive for steroids.
How can a guy that is so dialed in to his diet and his supplements end up with one of the oldest and most basic forms of steroids in his diet the week before he is unquestionably going to be tested? I looked up the MLB Drug Policy and here is the very first point on the Drug Testing:
Colabello knew he would be tested upon reporting to camp, so to test positive on that day is a little bit like knowing there is going to be a check stop by your house and then going out and getting wasted and driving home. So the natural question that comes to mind is if Colabello is just really stupid, or really unlucky.
Lets comb through some of the specifics of this situation and pass extreme judgment with only partial information, because I have read a ton of those articles over the weekend, and think it could be fun!
Thought #1: No one should be stupid enough to test positive on the date they know they are going to be tested.
Here is the truth of the MLB steroid testing. They don’t want to catch players taking steroids!!! This is bad for business. Every player knows that during the offseason the MLB tests a total of 350 times as opposed to the 3,200 times during the regular season. With 1,200 active roster players each offseason the likelihood of being tested is very low. Now, the MLB has significantly ramped this up increasing out of season testing to 528 in the offseason of 2014, still a far cry from the odd 7,000 in season tests during the 2015 season. But here is the bigger kicker…. These are only urine tests! Most sophisticated drugs that professional athletes are taking are micro doses of steroids that weren’t created in 1961. These creams and oral drops clear your system in a few hours, and usually aren’t detectable from urine tests anyways. If Chris Colabello was taking steroids willingly to cheat, I highly doubt that he was taking pills of this substance in the 7 days leading up to the date he knew he would be drug tested. That would make him almost as dumb as Milky Cabrera.
The type of steroid, and certainty around the test don’t add up to willingly taking a substance
Thought #2: If he is dumb enough to take a steroid this primitive and easy to catch on a drug test, maybe he is dumb enough to take it the week he knows he is going to be tested.
Given his other dietary habits, I have a hard time believing he would do this. Plus basically no one gets caught on opening day like this.
Thought #3: Colabello is such a good guy, he wouldn’t cheat the game like this.
Point: MLB Drug Testers and those of use who aren’t gullible.
Part of Colabello’s defense is that he loved baseball too much and has worked to hard to cheat the game like this. While I would love to believe him, this is an absolutely absurd defense.
Let me paint a picture for you. There is a 32 year old journey man who had a fantastic season last year, is making $500,000 this year and is primed for a pay day if he can contribute in a similar fashion to how he did a year ago. Is this person a candidate to try and doing something to ensure that their life is forever altered for the better by signing a legitimate big league contract next offseason? I think so. The “I care too much defense” is embarrassing, regardless of if he was intentionally cheating or not. I suspect a PR team was in charge of this response, but I hated it. Either fight the charges outright (which he kind of did) or admit your error and move on.
Thought #4: Colabello’s terrible numbers to start the season prove he was cheating last year as he was brutal so far this season.
Point: Colabello, and those of us who understand basic statistics.
While he hit a dismal 0.69 in his 10 games in 2016, it’s hard to think that off field stress, as well as a very small sample size didn’t contribute to this lack of success at the plate. 29 poor plate appearances are not nearly enough to rule that Colabello is no longer a big league batter who was only there thanks to cheating.
Thought #5: Oh well. In 80 games he will be back and can fix the hole at first base that his departure is causing.
Point: Blue Jay’s haters.
I wasn’t aware of this until the suspension, but a suspended player is ineligible to rejoin his team in the playoffs the season in which he is suspended. This seems like a particularly harsh addition to the punishment, but it is the rule. Colabello will not play for the Jays in the post-season if they are fortunate enough to qualify again.
Thought #6: Colabello’s entire story is tarnished now, and we should no longer feel good about it or support him.
If we have learned anything in baseball, it is that fans will support players who can play. Ryan Braun legitimately cheated, and then launched personal attacks and assaults on the person who properly did his job to collect the urine sample in an attempt to beat the claims. Braun ultimately had to admit that he did all of these things, and take his 65 game suspension. His first game back? Standing ovation from the Brewers fans.
Barry Bonds is beloved in San Francisco. Alex Rodriguez has rebranded himself after a fantastic run in the broadcast booth during the playoffs last year. Big Mac is on a major league coaching staff. Let’s not pretend that there isn’t a home for players that have tested positive for steroids in the past. Colabello’s 2015 season was amazing, is still amazing, and I’m still cheering for him to come back strong for this team for the back part of the season.
Do I think he cheated?
I am an eternal skeptic with professional athletes these days. If you put a gun to my head and made me pick, I would probably say yes, he willing took a banned substance. That is human nature. There is so much pressure and so much to gain by performing well that anytime a player tests positive I am not shocked or even surprised. The only thing that really surprised me in this situation was the type of steroid and the fact he knew he would be tested which does make me think that Colabello might have taken this substance by accident. Either way he needs to be suspended for 80 games, although I do think missing the playoffs as well is particularly difficult in this situation. It doesn’t change the way I think of him as a player or a person, and I hope when he comes back he lights it up and still gets paid at the end of the season by someone.