Papi: Year-long ban for positive tests
Slugger in favor of tougher measures for players who get caught
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz -- concerned by the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball -- is willing to see drastic measures taken to protect the game he loves so much.
In fact, Ortiz said that he'd be in favor of any player who tests positive for a banned substance getting suspended for the entire season. Baseball's current testing program suspends a player for 50 games on the first offense and 100 games for a second positive.
And instead of random drug testing, Ortiz thinks that every single player on every team should get tested all at once.
"I would suggest that everybody get tested, and not randomly," Ortiz said. "You go team by team and you test everybody, three, four times a year, and that's about it. You do what you've got to do ... ban them for the whole year [if they test positive]. You're going to get respect from the players when they know they're going to get tested. Let's test the whole team, three or four times a year. I know they can do that. Believe me, if someone was using steroids, it would show up. Because the way they test you, it's not a joke."
What Ortiz does not want to see anymore is players getting summoned to a court room to talk about allegations that have to do with use that took place before testing for steroids officially began in 2004.
"There's been a lot of players who have been in federal court and being judged like they just killed somebody or they robbed somebody," Ortiz said. "I don't think all that is supposed to be happening. If you admitted that you've used stuff [in the past], boom, don't use it anymore. It's not good for you. You know it's not good for the game. Let's move on, you know what I mean?
"All the drama of bringing guys to court and acting like they are serious criminals, it doesn't look good for the game. What is happening right now is about something that happened in the past. It's not something that is happening right now. Everything was banned in, what, 2004?"
Ortiz has respect for the way his close friend, Alex Rodriguez, spoke about his past use of performance-enhancers in a televised interview last week. A-Rod spoke with ESPN's Peter Gammons after a Sports Illustrated report stated that he tested positive in 2003.
"I think the A-Rod situation, it was a little tough for the game, because you're talking about the best player all the way around," Ortiz said. "At the same time, people have to give the guy credit, because he came out and said what he said at the point of his career where he had done it all. On top of that, that was what, six years ago? The guy has put up numbers his whole career.
"It was one thing that he said that caught my attention a lot and it was that he was young, and at the time, that was [happening] all around the league. When you're young and somebody comes to you with an idea of improving your production and things like that, sometimes you make a wrong decision like he did. But he's been playing clean and still producing, and he's still been the best player in the game. If I'm a fan and I had to judge a guy, I would put that in the past and move forward. The guy, he works hard, man. He's still doing his thing. He still has nine more years on his contract, and he's definitely going to do some damage."
Ortiz is sad that fans have may have lost some trust in the product they are watching.
"Like I said, man, this game has been hurt a lot already," Ortiz said. "This is not a players' game or a team's game. This is a family game. We have a lot of families that live off this game. We have a lot of families that enjoy this game, that bring their kids to watch these games, and I don't think that this game can take anymore.
"Whatever happened in the past ... I guarantee you that more than 80 or 90 percent of the players are playing clean," Ortiz said. "We're going through a tough situation all the way around. The economy, our soldiers fighting in Iraq and all this stuff, and this game is a distraction for people, for the American families. I would like to see some things. I would like people to leave this game alone and just let us play the game. I would do whatever it takes to make this game get better, but not everybody is on the same page. The game has changed a lot. There's a lot of pressure. This game, it's been getting a lot of heat lately. Let's just play the game. The game is tough enough. People need to hear something different."
Ortiz, who takes a lot of pride in the work he has put into becoming a superstar, sometimes worries that he's going to be a victim of guilt by association.
"I just want to go out there and make sure that people aren't looking at me like, 'This guy, he's big. What's going on?' There's a lot of guys here, they work, they work hard," Ortiz said.
What about human growth hormone, which is still undetected in urine samples? Ortiz said he would be willing to take blood tests, if that's what it came down to.
"They can figure out a way to test for anything, I'm telling you that right now," Ortiz said. "Like I said, man, this game needs a breather. It needs to go back to what it was. People come to have fun and watch guys with natural ability playing the game. I guarantee you one thing -- nobody is going to take a risk right now. The way they're testing and the way they're doing things, you're not going to hear from anybody testing positive for any kind of steroid."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.