The look says it all. 16 year-old Hugo Cardona of La Sabana, Venezuela, signs his first pro contract on July 2nd of last year. It’s for a modest sum in the land of international bonuses, but it’s an opportunity for him and his family to escape the cycle of poverty in his turmoil-filled homeland.
Cardona was one of 3 Toronto Blue Jays prospects were among 5 players handed lengthy suspensions for positive PED tests yesterday.
SS Hugo Cardona, C Leonicio Ventura, and UT Yhon Perez were all handed 72 game bans for testing positive for Boldenone. The website steroidly.com says that Boldenone, “is one of the most popular and commonly used anabolic androgenic steroids by competitive and non-competing bodybuilders and athletes today.” Available only in veterenarian’s offices in the USA, it was developed to treat horses. The list of minor side effects include acne, oily skin, excess hair growth, and deepening of the voice. Major side effects are many, such as increased risk of cancer, heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea.
All 3 players made their pro debuts with the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays this year. 18 year old Cardona was one of the organization’s top international free agents last summer, signing for a $300K bonus (the maximum the Blue Jays could offer as a result of penalties imposed for exceeding their total bonus pool limit after signing Vladimir Guerrero Jr the previous year). Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish was very high on Cardona prior to the season, calling his arm “plus,” and his speed, “plus-plus,” and that he profiled as a top of the order hitter if his bat came around. After a slow start, Cardona finished with a line of .249/.342/.285. 20 year old Dominican Ventura split Catching duties, and led the team with a .790 OPS. 17 year old Venezuelan Perez played several positions, slashing .249/.335/.332. Of the trio, only Cardona likely would be moving stateside to play in the Gulf Coast League next year.
It seems like the majority of players who test positive for PEDs are from Latin America. There are a variety of reasons for that, most of them cultural, according to Cleveland blogger Justin Lada of Burning River Baseball:
Lack of education can play a factor and I am sure a language barrier can make that an even bigger issue. I think they see it as a way that will help them earn life changing money since many are sending money back to their families in poor parts of their home countries. I think there are cases where some players and even trainers will allow them to take certain things and just tell them its OK to take.
In many cases, it’s a lack of awareness of either what they’re taking, or the dangers of taking it. And money, of course, is a motivating factor in places like the Dominican Republic, where the annual per capita income is about $2500 US. Unscrupulous Buscones, the greedier versions of the famed Latin traininers, can also be a factor. Their influence over their charges can’t be discounted, and if they say a substance is fine and will help a player’s game, the majority of 16 year olds that come to their academices to train and hopefully land a pro contract will go along willingly.
Their suspensions take effect at the beginning of DSL play in mid-June, and likely wipe out any hope of playing in 2018, a huge blow to the trio’s collective development. If past history is any indication, the Blue Jays will likely stick with Cardona, even given their comparatively modest investment in him. The other two probably will be released before spring training is over.