Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano was caught using a drug that’s been an issue in another mammal-based sport.
Major League Baseball announced Cano was flagged for the use of furosemide - commonly known as Lasix, a drug that has been increasingly scrutinized in horse racing - during the offseason and was banned 80 games on Tuesday after he dropped his appeal. Cano said in a statement the drug “was given to me by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment.”
Cano insisted the furosemide isn’t a performance-enhancing drug, although it is listed as such under MLB’s joint drug agreement. Furosemide appears on the list because it’s a diuretic, which spurs the body’s urine production and frequency that can mask steroids and other banned substances.
“There are obviously legitimate reasons why furosemide would be prescribed, but there’s also a reason why it’s banned,” Oliver Catlin, an anti-doping expert and president of the Banned Substances Control Group, told USA TODAY Sports. “People use masking agents to reduce the amount of other drugs that may be present in their system. Could have it been legitimate use? Sure. Could there be something else behind it? Sure.”
Diuretics typically are prescribed to treat edema (the buildup of excess fluid in body tissues) and often prescribed in conjunction with heart medications. Cano didn’t detail what his doctor was treating specifically, although he told USA TODAY Sports in 2015 that he suffered through a stomach ailment during the 2014 season.
Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO who runs a successful supplement company in the Bay Area, told USA TODAY Sports it “may be unfair to jump to conclusions, but there is a history in place that should not be ignored.”
That history includes a link to Biogenesis, the Florida clinic that supplied PEDs to former MLB player and current broadcaster Alex Rodriguez and others. Cano’s spokesperson was listed on the clinic’s client roster, according to reports in 2013. Cano denied he was treated at the clinic.
“This Robinson Cano positive test should not surprise anybody in baseball,” Conte said. “Players from the Dominican Republic have always been part of a pipeline for PEDs to baseball, a place in history that should not be ignored.”
Catlin questioned why Cano didn’t seek the advice of the Mariners’ team doctor, who could have requested a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) on his behalf so he could use it without violating baseball’s drug policy.
“We aren’t in the dark ages anymore when the drug program started more than a decade ago and we had a number of players from the Dominican Republic testing positive,” Catlin said. “There was perhaps a lack of education in the beginning. But baseball has a clear list of banned drugs and it’s not like furosemide was just added to that list. It blows my mind that a medical professional treating a player of his caliber would not realize this drug is banned.”
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