Does the drug testing system work? Many players say yes

WASHINGTON -- Two drug suspensions in a week. Five already this season.

The question I asked Wednesday afternoon was whether this proves that baseball's drug testing system is working, or whether it shows that it isn't.

The answer that I suggested: No one really knows.

The answer that Scott Miller and I got from a small sampling of players later Wednesday: The system works.

"Obviously it's working," said Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki, a former A's teammate of Bartolo Colon, who Wednesday drug suspension brought the topic back to baseball clubhouses.

"I still think the system has worked magnificently," Nationals infielder Mark DeRosa agreed.

"I think it shows the program is working," Padres third baseman Chase Headley told Miller.

If players around the game agree with the ones we talked to, that's significant, because any change in the system (increased penalties, for example) would need to be negotiated with the players' union.

"It's working," Braves catcher David Ross said. "It's catching guys at the right time, when they're about to become a free agent [as Melky Cabrera is] or when they're trying to hang on [as the 39-year-old Colon is]."

Ross's point is that for players like that, the reward (of a big free-agent deal or of an extra paycheck at the end of a career) could be seen to outweigh the reward.

"There's always going to be fringe players who will try to make it through the year and cash in," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "But you're playing Russian roulette."

Jones said he believes the threat of a failed test that would mean both a suspension and a severely damaged reputation is enough to scare most players from trying to cheat. He played through much of what is considered baseball's Steroid Era, and he believes that the game is mostly clean now.

"I don't see anybody trying to sneak through the cracks," he said. "I think it's pretty tight."

Headley agreed.

"99.9 percent of major leaguers want this game as clean as it can possibly be," he said. "You want guys who are doing things they're not supposed to be doing to get caught. . . . It's crazy, because since I've been in the big leagues, I've never once seen anybody use, or heard anybody talking about using anything."

He believes the system works, and quite a few players agree.

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