The second baseman tested positive for a diuretic, one that is often used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs. Cano says he didn’t realize at the time that he was given a banned substance.
Somewhere in Philadelphia on Tuesday afternoon, Robinson Cano sat in a plush hotel room awaiting surgery on his fractured right hand, 2,000 miles from the chaos he had created for the Mariners.
While designated hitter Nelson Cruz answered questions about his close friend’s mistake and general manager Jerry Dipoto tried to put a positive spin on a situation without one, Cano was absent and unavailable on the day he was suspended for 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
It was a stunning and crushing blow for the Mariners, who are off to a better-than-expected start to the season.
“Disappointment,” Dipoto said of his reaction. “We are all disappointed. We just lost one of our best players. It’s a hit. It’s a hit to Robbie. It’s a hit to our club, to the franchise in general and to baseball. This is one of the great players in the game. It’s important to know that it’s hurtful to our fans. It’s one of those things that really leaves an impression.”
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Cano’s suspension is effective immediately, even though he is on the disabled list. He is eligible to return in the 121st game, to be played Aug. 14 in Oakland. While suspended, he will be allowed to rehab his hand injury with the Mariners medical staff at Safeco Field but will not be allowed to be there for any other aspect. He will eventually be allowed to go to the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Arizona, to work out.
He will not be paid during the suspension, a loss of just under $12 million.
The positive test came in the offseason, according to sources. He didn’t test positive for a performance-enhancing drug, but for Furosemide, a diuretic. It’s often used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs.
A player isn’t automatically suspended when testing positive for a diuretic, and the policy requires a player to be retested. An independent investigator determined Cano’s usage of the diuretic was as a masking agent. A similar investigation by MLB yielded the same ruling.
Cano filed an appeal but decided to drop the appeal last week even though it was announced Tuesday, before he was to meet with an arbitrator.
Cano released this statement:
“Recently I learned that I tested positive for a substance called Furosemide, which is not a Performance Enhancing Substance. Furosemide is used to treat various medical conditions in the United States and the Dominican Republic. This substance was given to me by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment. While I did not realize at the time that I was given a medication that was banned, I obviously now wish that I had been more careful.
“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. I apologize to my family, friends, fans, teammates and the Mariners organization. I am extremely grateful for the support I have received during this process, and I look forward to rejoining my teammates later this season.”
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported that a source, most likely from Cano’s camp, said Cano was taking the medication because of high blood pressure and that he had tested clean before and after the positive test.
The players’ union and most MLB clubs go out of their way to educate players on the testing process and provide information on what players can take.
“The lists are out there,” Dipoto said. “They’re available. It’s a matter of what you are interested in looking at. We’ve all had the opportunity to take a look behind the curtain. Some choose to, some choose not to … Clearly, he knows now that he’s done something wrong, but he didn’t know that going in. If he had to do it over again, he’d read the fine print.”
Dipoto, Mariners chairman John Stanton and CEO Kevin Mather were informed about the positive test and Cano’s acceptance of the suspension Monday afternoon. Dipoto spoke with Cano on the phone.
“He was very apologetic and he realized he made a mistake and he wanted me to convey to the team that this is — he feels terrible that he let his teammates down and that he did not use performance-enhancing drugs,” Dipoto said. “It’s a diuretic and unfortunately it’s the same as if it was.”
Manager Scott Servais and the rest of the team were informed Tuesday.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” Servais said. “Everybody knows what Robinson Cano means to our ballclub and what a big part he is in our lineup and certainly our clubhouse every day, but the focus going forward is we got off to a good start this season, we’ve certainly got plenty of talent in that clubhouse and on the ballclub that can keep it rolling here.”
Results of positive tests are not released to the team because of privacy issues. Cano hadn’t even told his close friend Cruz about the positive test in the offseason. Cruz served a 50-game suspension for being linked to the Biogenesis scandal in 2013.
“It’s really tough,” Cruz said. “It’s definitely a sad day for everybody. It’s a shame.”
For Cano, his reputation is forever tarnished. He was building a Hall of Fame résumé, including the chance to reach 3,000 hits. But this positive test will almost certainly hinder or crush his candidacy.