David Ortiz has some haters.
He plays for the Boston Red Sox, a team that’s loathed outside of its own fan base. He is cocky, he flips bats, and a lot of people think he takes too long to run the bases after a home run. But most importantly, in a sport where cheating is a sin that is second only to betting on your own team, Ortiz is confirmed to have failed a screening test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.
Ortiz is a large player who didn’t start hitting a lot of home runs until he was well into what should have been his prime years, and then he had a resurgence late in his career after it looked like he was done. That positive test in 2003 has been used by opposing fans as evidence that Ortiz’s sudden success was the result of cheating.
In the minds of some baseball fans and commentators, including Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, Ortiz fits “all the models” of a PED user.
In response to those accusations, Ortiz wrote a blistering essay for Derek Jeter’s website, The Players’ Tribune, and addressed the claim that he is a cheater.
To say he is upset might be an understatement.
“In some people’s minds, I will always be considered a cheater. And that is bulls***,” he wrote.
The problem with vilifying him for the the failed test in 2003, as pointed out by both Ortiz and others such Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, is that it was just a screening test. As MLB was revamping its PED testing program, the league wanted to know what players were taking so they could decide which supplements to ban. We don’t know exactly what he tested positive for, his test was never intended to go public, and it carried no penalties.
The late-1990s and early-2000s were basically the Wild West of baseball supplements. MLB wasn’t telling players what to take or what not take, and the players weren’t going to stop to ask.
Presumably, some players tested positive for hardcore steroids during these screening tests. But there were likely a lot of things we would consider borderline supplements that were flagged also, such as androstenedione, the supplement Mark McGwire reportedly had in his locker.
To this day, Ortiz claims he has never been told what he tested positive for.
Ortiz says he is glad they cleaned up the sport and wouldn’t care if penalties were even stiffer than they are now.
So how did Ortiz defy the odds and become one of the best players in baseball in his late 20s and after being considered a failed prospect with the Minnesota Twins?
Ortiz says it was just good old fashioned hard work.
But Ortiz knows there are some people who will always hate him no matter what he says.
Ortiz continually points out that he is tested often and all of the tests are negative.
The problem with that argument is that MLB players rarely fail PED tests, and yet there is still cheating in baseball. Since November 2012, only one Major Leaguer has failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs, and yet there have been numerous suspensions, the most notable of which was Alex Rodriguez. Those players were caught by other means, including documents and links to steroid distributors.
That doesn’t mean Ortiz is guilty, but it makes the, “I’ve never tested positive” argument weaker.
The cloud of steroids is not the only reason people hate David Ortiz. They also hate what some fans perceive as a look-at-me disrespect for the game. Papi has some thoughts on that also.
In the end, Ortiz says deserves to be in the Hall of Fame but will be ok with it if he is not.
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