Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano has been suspended 80 games by major league baseball. Cano tested positive for banned substance Furosemide which is a prohibited substance due to its use as a masking agent. Cano is not going to appeal the suspension and released a statement taking full responsibility.
Cano’s statement said that the substance was given to him “by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment.” He wrote that he was unaware at the time the medication was banned and that he wishes he had been more careful. According to the Mayo Clinic, Furosemide works by acting on the kidneys to increase the flow of urine. Furosemide is used to treat fluid retention and swelling caused by a number of conditions, including but not restricted to congestive heart failure, liver disease or kidney disease.
Cano remains adamant that he has never taken a performance enhancing drug and has undergone dozens of tests. It is worth reinforcing that Cano has not tested positive for a PED itself.
The news of the suspension comes just two day after Cano fractured his fifth metacarpal. Cano was hit by a pitch from Detroit starting pitcher Blaine Hardy. He was then placed on the disabled list Monday and was referred to a specialist. The time he spends on the disabled list will count towards his suspension. Therefore, it is likely the first six to eight weeks of the suspension would have been time he missed anyway. He will however, receive no pay during the suspension which is fairly significant for a player on a 10-year $240 million contract.
A few things stand out to me about this suspension. The first is that in his statement he commented that he was unaware “at the time”. The wording of the statement makes me query when he found out that what he was taking was a banned substance. It may just be a wording thing but if he did find out about Furosemide being a banned substance, why did he not tell MLB as soon as possible.
The second part of this is where Cano’s management team were during this doctor’s visit. Surely either Cano’s agent or the Mariners knew he was visiting a doctor with an ailment serious enough to be given a treatment? As a professional athlete, one of the first things you should do with any treatment is check you are allowed to take it. For a player who has been in the league this long to make this mistake is worth further questioning. Players have to be able to have lives but it comes with the territory to always be suspicions. It’s extremely naïve of Cano to not check what he was being given was not on the banned substance list.
The final element to consider is whether this will affect Cano making it into the hall of fame. We have seen unwillingness from voters to put players associated with drugs into the hall. Now it is definitely worth reiterating once again that this is not a suspension for taking PEDs. However, there will now always be a question mark over Cano. Partly this will be for the reason above, which is he should have checked he was allowed to take the medication. In addition, people will find this a fairly convenient story for an ageing player.
The Final Word
Personally, I want to take Cano’s explanations at face value and believe he was just naïve. However, baseball does not have a good record with PEDs and that will always make me wonder. If I had a hall of fame vote, which I do not, I would not hold this against Cano. I would consider him for his numbers alongside all of the other eligible players at the time. Even without this he was never going to get every voters vote. Sadly though this may now be enough to swing those voters who were on the fence. In 15 years’ time when we are questioning why Cano is not in the hall this is unfortunately the moment we will all look back on.