OAKLAND, Calif. — Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy becomes uneasy each time he is called to the bathroom for a random drug test, even though he's confident he's completely clean.
McCarthy can't help but be slightly paranoid when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, scared that one mistake could land him a suspension and alter his career path — if not end it altogether.
"You just live in fear," McCarthy said. "When we go in for a pee test, you're legitimately nervous knowing you're 100 percent clean. It's probably being overly worried, but it is still a concern, ‘What happens if I test positive?' Again, what happens if someone sabotaged you? There's a lot of extreme hypotheticals you can throw out there but they do play into your mind any time you talk about losing a career or a year."
McCarthy and his Oakland teammates talked in depth about Major League Baseball's drug testing program in the aftermath of pitcher Bartolo Colon's 50-game suspension for testosterone Wednesday, the second such penalty for a prominent Bay Area player in the span of a week. All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera of the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants was banned Aug. 15 after he, too, tested positive for testosterone.
"It's kind of, how dumb do you have to be?" Chicago White Sox slugger Adam Dunn said. "You guys see how many times the drug test guys are here. I feel like they're here at least once a homestand. I don't want to call you stupid, but you kind of look yourself in the mirror and it's pretty dumb."
Atlanta star Chipper Jones agrees.
"It's always surprising, especially nowadays. If you are going to try something, you're basically playing Russian roulette. They're going to get you at some point. It's always surprising to still see guys trying to get away with it. It's unfortunate," he said Thursday.
With performance-enhancing drugs suddenly making bigger headlines than pennant races as September nears, some are calling for even stiffer punishments.
Whoa, says McCarthy.
"Until there's actually more dialogue, plus the sensationalism with it, I don't think you can go to more," he said. "People this last week have talked about lifetime bans right away, year bans, it's not that I'd be opposed to that but I think you'd have to change the rules of the game — 50 games, for where we are right now, feels like it's enough.
"I think you're starting to see guys lose seasons, lose credibility. It now becomes its own thing. As opposed to a few years ago, there was enough floating around it just felt like it was rolling. Now, you hope there's more of a stigma attached to it — not just the 50 games or losing pay but basically falling out of favor."
McCarthy is open to rethinking his stance if there's an increase in positive tests in the near future.
Every player receives a urine and blood test upon reporting to spring training, and all players are selected for additional urine tests on a randomly selected date. The latest labor deal says there will be an additional 1,400 random tests from 2012-16, including up to 200 during the 2012-13 offseason, 225 during the 2013-14 offseason and up to 250 for remaining offseasons.