Just as it seems things were looking up for the New York Mets in the pitching relief-pitching department, closer Jenrry Mejia has earned himself a lifetime ban from MLB. Contingent with MLB’s somewhat ironic “three strikes” rule when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, Mejia tested positive on Friday for PEDs for the third time in his career. This effectively makes him the first player ever in MLB history to be permanently suspended for testing positive for PEDs. Alex Rodriguez is the only other player to share a similar punishment with Mejia, both serving 162-game suspensions for failing a drug test a second time around. However, Mejia failed his third test while serving his 162-game suspension, removing himself from MLB for the rest of his life. When the lifetime ban was included in the policy, it seemed extremely unlikely that any player would put themselves in that position, but alas, here we are.
It’s been a rough road for the Dominican Republic born player. Shortly after starting his MLB career with the Mets in 2010 he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 and did not take the mound at Citi Field again until late into the 2012 season. The next season, 2013, was another tumultuous year filled with injuries, and Mejia only pitched five games. Finally healthy, 2014 was arguably Mejia’s best year; taking on the role of the Mets’ closer Mejia had 28 saves and pitched in 63 games. His luck ran out after that season, sustaining an elbow injury on Opening Day of 2015. On April 11, Mejia’s first positive test was announced, and he was suspended for 80 games for his first offense of using PEDs. Shortly after returning from his first suspension, Mejia tested positive again resulting in his 162-game ban.
Despite the positive drug test, Mejia maintains that he does not know how the banned substance ended up in his system. The drugs that he has tested positive for, stanozolo and boldenone are not sophisticated drugs. Both are older, muscle-building drugs, often used by amateur bodybuilders. It does not appear that Mejia was part of a sophisticated doping program, and may actually have been unaware of the substances being handed to him. If baseball is serious about keeping steroids out of the game, but also protecting its players, a more in-depth look into Mejia’s circumstances may be worthwhile. At the very least, Mejia’s demise should serve as a cautionary tale for future players coming up from Latin America.
Mejia will be able to apply to the commissioner for reinstatement into the league in one year. If accepted, he will have to sit out for a minimum of two years, missing only the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Optimistically Mejia will miss three seasons. Even after his second suspension the Mets chose to keep Mejia around, hopeful that he could be helpful later in the year when his suspension was over. Despite all of the support, Mejia could not stay clean. There’s a slim chance he makes his way back on a big-league mound, but for now, Mejia’s future with MLB is over.