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Will dark cloud of performance-enhancing drugs always loom large over baseball?

This spring, baseball is reeling from yet another ugly performance-enhancing drugs scandal.

As fresh as the cut grass on the back fields of spring training complexes in Florida and Arizona are the reports that several major leaguers obtained PEDs from a Miami-area clinic named Biogenesis. The now-defunct anti-aging clinic is under investigation by Major League Baseball, but two separate reports have already linked a dozen names to the clinic.

Among those linked is Orioles infielder Danny Valencia. A Yahoo Sports report places Valencia's name on a Biogenesis list, even though no specific PEDs are linked to Valencia.

On Wednesday, following the first workout of spring training, Valencia faced reporters and vehemently denied ever using a PED. He emphasized that he never has and never will fail a drug test.

You have to applaud Valencia for responding quickly. He issued a statement the night the Yahoo report surfaced saying the same. But he also wanted to address the issue again so it wouldn't linger throughout the spring.

Valencia obviously isn't out of the dark. MLB will have its own say once it gathers its own facts, but Valencia defended himself and his name. Now he can concentrate on standing out on the field and earning a roster spot this spring.

After all the years of chasing cheaters who used performance-enhancing drugs, Orioles manager Buck Showalter gave a sobering statement about whether the game can ever emerge from the cloud of PEDs.

"I would say no," Showalter said. "I hope so, but does it keep you striving to get to that point? We went through that period. So what do you do, quit trying? It’s a competitive place where people make decisions. I think what I try to dwell on is trying to take care of our own house, making sure you have things buttoned down and make sure guys are properly educated and do everything you can do."

Showalter noted that Wednesday, as players took their physicals, blood was drawn for testing. Baseball continues to take steps, most recently expanding blood testing for human growth hormone to include in-season tests. But still, is that enough?

"I don’t want to sit here and say it's wishful thinking that you’re going to completely get it out and everything," he said. "I’ve heard everyone talking, ‘The people who are supplying are always going to be ahead of the test.’ Well, I’m going to tell you what, don’t tell the testing people."

And then there's a player like Valencia. He's not a player who has made millions like Alex Rodriguez. He's fighting to save his career, and the Orioles took a chance on him. Now he will have to fight a stigma that he used, whether he has or not.

“I thought about what [executive vice president] Dan Duquette is going to think, obviously what Buck is going to think, my teammates," Valencia said. "That’s what matters. That was my first feeling. I felt upset about that.”

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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