Robinson Cano latest to play the 'I didn't know' card after testing positive for banned substance

Tim Brown
MLB columnist

To the list of men who padded our naive disillusionment, who confirmed chemical manipulation or ignorance or wayward intentions was not solely for the last-chance arenas of the Dominican summer leagues and big-league fringes, to the list that is Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun and Manny Ramirez and so many others, add eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano.

Not yet halfway through his 10-year, $240-million commitment to the Seattle Mariners, Cano on Tuesday began an 80-game suspension for violating terms of Major League Baseball’s joint drug agreement (JDA).

Through testing, Cano was discovered to have ingested a drug called Furosemide, a diuretic on the list of banned substances. Furosemide is considered a masking agent. On Tuesday, Cano issued a statement claiming he’d been felled by technicality, that he’d been administered the drug by a licensed physician in the Dominican Republic for a “medical ailment,” and that he – Cano – was unaware the substance was banned.

Cano, 35, did not see through an arbitration hearing via the JDA. He began the arbitration process, but chose recently, before he was injured, to cancel the hearing. It was originally scheduled for Tuesday. He also, apparently, did not confer with team or league doctors when the drug was prescribed.

Seattle Mariners’ Robinson Cano has been suspended 80 games for violating baseball’s joint drug agreement, the league announced Tuesday. (AP)

Cano’s statement read, in part, “For more than fifteen years, playing professional baseball has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life. I would never do anything to cheat the rules of the game that I love, and after undergoing dozens of drug tests over more than a decade, I have never tested positive for a Performance Enhancing Substance for the simple reason that I have never taken one.

“Today I decided to accept MLB’s suspension. This was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life, but ultimately the right decision given that I do not dispute that I was given this substance.”

According to the JDA, Cano had an opportunity to explain the presence of a masking agent. The policy also reads: “The presence of a Diuretic or Masking Agent in a Player’s urine specimen shall be treated as a positive test result if the [Independent Program Administrator] determines that the Player intended to avoid detection of his use of another Prohibited Substance.”

This is the part where you get to believe what you want. That Cano was duped. That the program is unduly harsh. That sometimes a man just fouls up, and who is to judge? That the real Cano was hiding behind a masking agent. That “real,” though, it’s just something we dream up to justify the shirseys with the names Palmeiro, Colon, Cruz, Gordon, Marte, Santana, Bonds, Clemens across the back. It’s sports. We play on.

Cano suffered a fractured hand when he was hit by a pitch Sunday. He is likely to undergo surgery and miss up to eight weeks. Under the terms of the JDA, Cano will serve his suspension during his recovery. He will be eligible to return in mid-August, but will be ineligible for the postseason if the Mariners qualify.

There’ll be more at stake, of course. Near-term, the Mariners are 1 ½ games out of first place in the AL West, in part because of Cano, the slugger and team leader and face of a franchise creeping toward relevance. That goal now becomes more tenuous.

And, by virtue of the numbers he posted over 14 seasons, and the fact he’d shown little sign of slowing in his mid-30s, and at the position he plays – second base – Cano, before Tuesday, would be a likely Hall of Famer. Now he is a victim of the system, a product of the system, a manipulator of the system, whatever you choose to believe, and he will stand with rest of his kind: in the game, around the game, one day batting in the middle of the lineup again, welcomed back by teammates, two of whom – Dee Gordon and Nelson Cruz – have traveled the same road, and yet part of the first generation to have lost its ability to surprise us.

The Mariners will play their schedule. Gordon Beckham, for the moment, will be their second baseman. Cano will return with about six weeks of baseball left to play. He said he was sorry. And that’ll be it. That’s the game now.

And that little puff of breath that leaves your body when you see the news, that this time it was Robinson Cano, well, that’s because you’re supposed to be shocked, not because you are. Not anymore.

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