Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was suspended for 80 games on Tuesday after testing positive for furosemide, a diuretic sometimes used to hide the presence of other banned substances.
An eight-time All-Star, Cano is the most well-known baseball player to be suspended for the use of a banned substance since Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees in 2013.
Cano, 35, said he would accept the suspension, but he said he had taken the drug inadvertently and noted it was not a performance-enhancing substance.
“This substance was given to me by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment,” he said in a statement released by the Players Association. “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.”
“I would never do anything to cheat the rules of the game I love,” he said.
Cano did not specify what ailment was being treated by furosemide, one of 56 banned substances listed under “diuretics and masking agents” in Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Furosemide, which is sold under the brand name Lasix, and other diuretics do not enhance performance in and of themselves. But they can be used to flush out the system and mask the presence of other drugs. Lasix is also commonly used to prevent bleeding in racehorses.
Under baseball’s drug policy, a player who tests positive for a diuretic or a masking agent can avoid a suspension by convincing the independent program administrator that the drug was taken for a legitimate purpose. But the administrator will conduct an investigation, and if it is determined that the player took the masking agent to hide another prohibited substance, the specimen is treated as a positive drug test, and a suspension follows.
First-time violators like Cano are given an 80-game suspension. A second positive test results in a 162-game suspension, and if the player tests positive a third time, he is given a lifetime ban.
Cano is the fifth member of the 2009 Yankees — their most recent World Series championship team — to test positive or admit to using performance-enhancing drugs. Besides Cano, outfielder Melky Cabrera, pitcher Andy Pettitte and catcher Francisco Cervelli have tested positive, and Rodriguez admitted using P.E.D.s when he was ensnared in the Biogenesis scandal.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, asked if he had an inkling that Cano — who left the team as a free agent after the 2013 season — might have been doping when he was with the Yankees, said he would have been heavily fined by Major League Baseball if he knew about it and kept quiet. M.L.B.’s constitution allows for fines of up to $2 million for failure to report such transgressions.
“If I have any knowledge of anybody past or present, I’m obligated to convey that knowledge to Major League Baseball,” Cashman said. “And I take that seriously, and so knowledge is one thing, suspicion is another.”
He added: “If we have knowledge of anything that’s basically cheating — drug abuse, what have you — if we choose to stay silent, we are jeopardizing our career in the game as well as significant fines.”
Though Cano, who left the Yankees as a free agent after the 2013 season, has few connections to the current Yankees, he has remained close with reliever Dellin Betances. The two spoke and texted earlier this week when Cano sustained a broken bone in his right hand after being hit by a pitch in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.
“As a close friend of mine, I really couldn’t believe it,” Betances said of Cano before the Yankees’ game on Tuesday in Washington.
Cano’s injury will not affect his suspension, which began Tuesday. Normally, players are paid while on the disabled list, but suspended players like Cano are not. He is in the fifth season of a 10-year, $240 million deal he signed with the Mariners in 2013.
Cano would be eligible to return Aug. 14, but he is ineligible for the postseason.
Entering Tuesday’s games, the Mariners were 23-17, a game and a half behind the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West. Seattle has not made the playoffs since 2001, the longest postseason drought in baseball.
“Robinson made a mistake,” the Mariners said in a statement. “He has explained to us what happened, accepted the punishment and has apologized to the fans, the organization and his teammates. We will support Robinson as he works through this challenge.”
A Dominican Republic native, Cano starred with the Yankees at second base from 2005 to 2013, and he was considered to be one of the best all-around players on a team that included Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. Cano placed second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2005 and was in the top five in voting for the A.L. Most Valuable Player Award four times.
As good as he was, the Yankees were not willing to make him the highest-paid player in baseball after he became a free agent in 2013, so Cano headed to Seattle. A consistently strong hitter and gifted fielder, Cano owns a .304 lifetime average with 2,417 hits, 305 home runs, 522 doubles and a .848 in base-plus-slugging percentage. This season he was hitting .287 with four homers.
“I want to earn every penny that I get here,” Cano said this spring. “I don’t want to be like those guys that, two or three years into their contract, they do really good and then they don’t care. I do care.”
Cano is the seventh player to be suspended under the major league drug policy this season. Other All-Stars have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in recent years, including Starling Marte, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Dee Gordon and Manny Ramirez.
For Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who played with Cano for five seasons, the news of Cano’s suspension may have been a shock. But for a 37-year-old pitcher, it hardly qualified as a surprise.
“After the Ryan Braun thing, nothing’s surprising for me,” said Sabathia, a teammate of Braun with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. “That’s somebody I played with and I never suspected anything. You never know who’s doing what.”
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