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Inside Story

Baseball's doping battle

What does it take to put an end to the use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional athletes?

Last Modified: 10 Aug 2013 12:17
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Alex Rodriguez, the star player of one of America's oldest and most successful baseball teams, the New York Yankees, has been suspended for 211 games for a suspected use of banned drugs.

It is the latest in a series of scandals that has hit the sporting world recently.

"I think more reform has to be done, it's just unfortunate that it's all coming down on this one guy's shoulders .... There's so many other people involved but the person who's hurting himself the most in the end is the athlete .... That's really the question: Is the money worth your health?"

Vinny Milano, Yankees fan

The 38-year-old is one of a number of players linked to a clinic in Florida that has been accused of supplying them with performance-enhancing drugs.
 
It has become a sensational case in the US and is once again putting a spotlight on doping in sport.
 
Rodriguez, who has been banned from playing for his team until the end of the 2014 season, denies he has done anything wrong and has filed an appeal with Major League Baseball (MLB).

Twelve other players received game suspensions for their connections to the Biogenesis clinic - and they join a long list of sport stars to be accused of doping.

In January, US cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted that he cheated his way to a record seven Tour de France victories. He has been banned for life and stripped of his titles.
 
Athletics has also been hit by a string of high profile doping cases, including sprinters like American Tyson Gay.

And in Russia - which will host the world athletics championships on Saturday and the winter Olympics next year - some 40 athletes have been suspended for drug use.

So, is the punishment for Rodriguez harsh enough? Who is responsible for the use of performance-enhancing drugs? What are the implications of the doping scandal on the game? And what does it take to put an end to doping?

Joining Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, are guests: Dave Zirin, an American sports writer for The Nation magazine. He is the author of Bad Sports: How owners are ruining the games we love; Michelle Verroken, the director of Sporting Integrity, a consultancy advising on anti-doping in sports; and Vinny Milano, known as 'Bald Vinny', who runs a die-hard Yankees fan club called Bleacher Creatures.

"It's the harshest punishment in the history of Major League Baseball .... Unfortunately, the terms of the debate in the United States strictly are on the level of demonisation and criminalisation and we need to have a more intelligent discussion ... these are serious medical questions - about the difference between use and abuse; about the difference between a player's safety and player recovery which are very important; and about the harm that happens when players try to beat tests by taking masking agents and dummy steroids, which happens all over professional sports, not just basball. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, instead it's much more of a witch hunt atmosphere here on the ground."

- Dave Zirin, a sports writer for The Nation magazine

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Al Jazeera
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