Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced a 50 game suspension for Royals prospect Raul Mondesi Jr for testing positive for the PED Clenbuterol. Mondesi was rated as consensus Top 50 prospect by all the major prospect hounds, reaching as high as 16th on Baseball Prospectus's annual list. He's a 20 year old shortstop who had been holding his own at double-A, hitting .250/.304/.462 with five homers and 11 stolen bases in 25 games. He made the Royals' postseason roster last year, and got a plate appearance in Game 3 of the World Series.
It's a weird case and a weird suspension, however. Mondesi was able to show that the drug he tested positive for was an ingredient in the cold medicine he says he was taking during Spring Training. Clenbutoral is actually one of a few substances that can cause the normal 80 game suspension for a positive test to be reduced, so the 50 game suspension represents a negotiated compromise between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union. Also, as a result of this settlement, Mondesi will be available for postseason play if he's put on the Royals' roster.
It's hard not to view Mondesi as a victim in all of this. He's a 20 year old kid who was at his home in the Dominican Republic, and he bought cold medicine. It was a simple and innocent mistake that, as Mondesi said in a statement, "could not have possibly enhanced my performance on the field."
Still, ballplayers are responsible for what they put in their bodies. As Royals GM Dayton Moore wrote, "This is an unfortunate incident that we believe to be an innocent mistake, but these are the consequences that players face whent hey do not adhere to the poliies that have been collectively bargained. We have a protocol in place with our medical team should a player ever have questions about what they may be taking, even if [it's] an over-the-counter medication."
Mondesi's suspension reminds us that the PED issue is more complicated than just banning all the cheaters for life, like Justin Verlander advocated last week, and that all PEDs aren't created equally. In time, thankfully, this will be forgotten. Mondesi isn't a cheater, or even a dummy. He isn't a villain. He's a 20 year old who made a mistake and took the wrong medicine. Thankfully, that mistake shouldn't hurt the Royals on the field, since they've got Alcides Escobar holding down shortstop at the moment. And next time, the kid will presumably follow his doctor's orders to the letter.