Former top Astros prospect Francis Martes suspended 80 games after testing positive for female fertility drug

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/10242/" data-ylk="slk:Francis Martes">Francis Martes</a> is banned from MLB for 80 games after testing positive for a female fertility drug. (Getty)
Francis Martes is banned from MLB for 80 games after testing positive for a female fertility drug. (Getty)

Major League Baseball has suspended Houston Astros relief pitcher Francis Martes 80 games after he tested positive for clomiphene.

From the MLB office:

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The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Houston Astros pitcher Francis Martes has received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for clomiphene, a performance-enhancing substance, in violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Clomiphene’s primary use is as a fertility drug to induce ovulation in women who are not producing eggs but wish to become pregnant.

Martes was a top Astros prospect

Martes is a former top prospect for the Astros who drew comparisons to Johnny Cueto and ranked as high as the 20th best prospect in baseball in 2017.

Martes made his MLB debut in 2017 with 32 appearances for the Astros that season, four of them starts. He tallied a 5.80 ERA with 69 strikeouts, 31 walks and a 1.509 ERA over 54.1 innings. He spent most of 2018 in Triple-A before having Tommy John surgery that was expected to keep him out most of the upcoming season.

The Astros released a statement on his suspension.

“The Houston Astros fully support MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. We hope that Francis can learn from this experience and that he returns to have a successful career. We will not comment further on this matter.”

Why use a female fertility drug?

Martes is not the first baseball player to be caught using a female fertility drug. Manny Ramirez was suspended in 2009 for using human chorionic gonadotropin, a drug intended to increase a woman’s chances of conceiving. 

Scientific American reported after Ramirez’s suspension that HCG can be used to artificially boost testosterone in men, which can lead to increased muscle strength and athletic performance.

Andrew Kicman, the expert consulted in the Scientific American report, noted that HCG can also be used to negate some of the adverse side effects of steroid use.

“Basically, HCG may be used in an attempt to prevent testicular atrophy that otherwise may occur when using anabolic steroids for prolonged periods,” Kicman told Scientific American in 2009.

Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Shaikin noted that former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez was also suspended in 2010 for using clomiphene. He claimed at the time that he was using it so his wife could get pregnant.

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