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PEDs still lost in Dominican translation

By August 14, 2013

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Aside from Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, the list of players suspended in the Biogenesis scandal showed that another glaring trend continues. Players from the Dominican Republic are continuing to use performance-enhancing drugs -- or at least getting caught -- at a much higher average than the typical MLB player. Of the 13 players suspended last week, eight are Dominican. On Opening Day rosters in 2013, Dominican players represented 10.4 percent of the players in the majors. So far in 2013, according to Fox News Latino, 15 of the 44 players suspended for steroids in the minors are Dominican.

It's not a new story, by any stretch. Just a few years it seemed to be more of a cultural issue, as many of the Dominican minor-leaguers who were hit with suspensions seemed to not know what they were taking, according to a 2009 ESPN.com report. And it's attributable to a culture where prospects -- almost always poor -- are desperate to get off the island with a pro contract. They'll do practically anything to get there with help from their advisers ("buscones"), and steroids are more easily available there than in the United States.

"If I'm going to make millions by putting something in my body, then I'm going to do it. So what if I get suspended 50 games, I just made millions," said Eduardo Ferreira of the Academia de Beisbol, to the Toronto Star, about the thought process players go through. "The alternative is I stay dirt poor."

Said author David Fidler to Fox News Latino: "We've been making these arguments for years - we need to go after this buscones system hard. ... We can't regulate in the Dominican Republic. But Major League Baseball has the power to tell the teams what to do. They haven't done it. They've dragged their feet."

The buscones aren't the only problem, however. The fact that players are still trying to get away with it is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the scandal. Dominican players such as Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz weren't on the Biogenesis list just trying to get into pro ball. They're established major leaguers who were looking for their next big contract.

It angers Dominican stars such as David Ortiz -- himself fingered for PED use earlier in his career, a charge he denies.

"Dominican players, we are hundreds and hundreds, not just 12. Because they caught some players using PEDs, that means everybody is using it? No. That's wrong. Everybody makes a choice," Ortiz said to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

It's clouded the legacy of Dominican players in baseball as well. The country of 10 million people has the greatest concentration of big-league talent of anyplace in the world. But ranking the top 10 players from the country is difficult these days because of the tarnished legacies of players such as Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon.

Cleaning up the process of signing players from the Dominican -- perhaps including them in the draft -- would seem to help. But this scandal is showing that keeping teenagers away from PEDs certainly isn't the only uphill battle MLB faces.

Related: Top 10 players all-time from Dominican Republic; Players accused of PED use

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