Reports are currently coming in from Major League Baseball that Twins starting pitcher, Ervin Santana, has been suspended 80 games for a violation of the MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Multiple websites are reporting that he tested positive for the PED, stanazolol. Ervin released a brief statement claiming that has no idea how the substance entered his body and would never do something like this. Hmm…
Here’s the thing. Athletes, especially professional athletes, and especially professional baseball players, are given as much information and resources as they possibly can to avoid this type of occurrence. MLB has an entire database of approved supplements, from the NSF For Sport third party certifying agency. It also provides athletic trainers with periodic updates of a list of products known to contain banned substances. This list is rather funny to look at because almost all of the names just scream “steroids,” and an athlete would be a fool to use one of them thinking it was safe.
Anytime a player has questions about supplements, he can ask his team’s strength coach and/or athletic trainers. The answers are going to be pretty much the same across the board. They cannot recommend to them any supplement that isn’t on the NSF For Sport list, because they cannot be guaranteed that another supplement is certified to be free of banned substances. Recommending something outside of that list is a risky move for both the athletic trainer and the player. The medical staff will provide that player with a list of supplements that are safe (not necessarily effective, that’s another topic), and then discuss what the player’s goals and needs are.
The National Athletic Training Association’s position statement on supplementation is that we, as a profession, should advocate a “food first” approach. That is, we should be able to receive all the nutrients we need from a healthy and balanced diet. Supplementation is useful for addressing nutritional deficiencies. Its effectiveness in enhancing performance is less clear, but certainly seems to have a place in athletics and the active populations.
Whenever a player fails a drug test and then makes a public statement to say that they have no idea how this happened, you should raise an eyebrow. Athletes are often taught from a young age, and certainly in the past decade this is true, to be well aware of what they are putting in their bodies. If a player really ingests an anabolic androgenic steroid like stanazolol unknowingly, they still have some explaining to do. If he is not injecting this steroid into his body, then he has been taking some risky supplements. If he’s taking some risky supplements, then he is either not doing his due diligence in researching the supplements, or he is looking for a supplement that advertises some sort of performance enhancement while claiming to be safe. Supplements are not FDA regulated, which is why the risk exists that some products are either tainted or don’t even have the active ingredients they write on their labels. Literally, a supplement company can write whatever they want in the “supplement facts” label. There’s no regulation of the industry.
Do I believe Ervin didn’t knowingly take stanazolol? Does it matter? One way or another, he has exhibited some questionable judgment. This is certainly not the best way to start things off with a new team in a new season.