Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano will be suspended 80 games for violating MLB’s joint drug agreement and testing positive for a banned substance. MLB announced the suspension on Tuesday afternoon, and it is effective immediately. He will not be paid while on suspension, meaning he’ll lose more than $10 million of his $24 million salary this season.
What substance was Cano banned for taking?
The substance is furosemide, a diuretic. MLB does not consider it a performance-enhancing drug. The MLB Players Association released a statement on Cano’s behalf, in which he talks about how he came to consume a banned substance.
The Mariners also released a statement in support of Cano.
There’s more to this than a simple diuretic
While it seems very cut-and-dried, this situation is a lot more complicated than Cano taking the wrong diuretic. Furosemide can be taken for a number of medical issues, but it’s also known to be a masking agent for other substances. It essentially flushes out the system, diluting urine and making other substances (such as performance enhancing drugs) harder to detect. Furosemide is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and a number of Olympians have been banned for positive tests.
MLB classifies the drug as a “diuretic or masking agent.” Since it’s not considered a PED by Major League Baseball, there is no automatic ban. Section 3.F of the joint drug agreement says that if a diuretic or masking agent is present in a player’s specimen, it’s re-tested. If the drug is still present, an independent program administrator (who has no association with the commissioner’s office, any MLB team, or the MLB Players Association) is responsible for determining if the player intended to mask another substance by taking a diuretic. If the IPA determines that the player did intend to mask, that’s when the suspension kicks in.
Cano maintains that he took the drug for treatment of a “medical ailment.” But an 80-game suspension points to a different situation.
Cano has been connected to banned substances before
Cano, 35, is a 14-year MLB veteran who has played for just two teams: the Mariners and the New York Yankees. He’s been tenuously connected to banned substances before, but nothing was ever confirmed and he was never suspended. In 2012, it was rumored that Cano had failed a drug test, and the rumor gained so much traction that Cano, his agent (at the time) Scott Boras, and an MLB spokesperson all had to comment on it. Cano hadn’t failed a drug test, and the reporter who started the rumor publicly apologized for fabricating the entire thing.
Cano was also indirectly implicated in the 2013 Biogenesis scandal. Sonia Cruz, who was the spokeswoman for Cano’s foundation, was on the Biogenesis client list. Cruz and Cano both denied ever being involved with Biogenesis, though Cruz admitted that she had met with a nurse about a weight loss program. No connection was established beyond that, and Cano was not punished for his association with the clinic.
Cano can serve his suspension while recovering from injury
During Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers, Cano was batting when a pitch from Blaine Hardy hit his right hand and broke one of his fingers. He has been placed on the disabled list and is expected to be out for an extended period of time, though the Mariners have yet to release a timetable for his return. Cano can serve his 80-game suspension while he’s on the DL, which means the earliest he’ll be back is mid August. Over 39 games this season, Cano is batting .287/.385/.441 with four home runs and 10 doubles.
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