By Paul White
USA TODAY Sports
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- A growing number of major league players are getting increasingly fed up with revelations about performance-enhancing drugs in their sport.
The result could be increased penalties or other changes in the drug agreement with Major League Baseball.
"It's become a tiresome topic," 15-year veteran infielder Mark DeRosa told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday at the Toronto Blue Jays camp. "If guys are cheating the game, we want them caught and we want them subject to the harshest penalties they can be subject to. That's where we're at."
And that message is getting through to the leaders of the players' union.
"We're getting a lot of good feedback," says union executive director Michael Weiner, in the midst of his annual spring trip to each major league camp.
"We'll continue to gather information. If we have changes to propose for 2014, we will. If not, we won't."
The key issue could be what kind of changes.
"A lot of players think the current penalties are sufficient, but that the testing should be improved," Weiner says. "Other players want to increase the first-time penalties. Some believe there should be different penalties whether it's a negligent violation or deliberate. Some players think we should increase the penalty for intentional violations, or have a different penalty if it's determined it was negligence."
The sentiment for increased penalties comes after a 2012 season in which All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera tested positive for testosterone and received a 50-game suspension, as did Oakland Athletics starter Bartolo Colon.
But both players received pay raises in the offseason as free agents, Cabrera a two-year, $16 million deal from the Toronto Blue Jays and Bartolo Colon a $3 million deal to return to Oakland.
Cabrera and Colon were among 25 players linked in a Miami New Times report to the Biogenesis clinic -- whose owner, Anthony Bosch, allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.
"I'm a purist," says San Francisco Giants starter Barry Zito, a teammate of Cabrera's in 2012. "Obviously, we need a greater deterrent, because we're seeing clearly that it's not enough of a deterrent.
"Then again, if somebody wants to do this bad enough, and they're under the illusion or impression that they won't get caught, and that they have something that's totally foolproof, then there is no deterrent."
Stepping up penalties was a key talking point in clubhouses even before Weiner began his spring tour.
Infielder Darwin Barney, who became the Chicago Cubs' union representative this year, said he was speaking for his teammates when he said, "If it's a legitimate positive test, there's nothing wrong with making it tougher on guys. It can be life-changing.
"Fifty games isn't really going to ruin your career, so I think most guys are OK with making it stronger."
But some players warn against a one-penalty-fits-all approach.
"Some guys have made honest mistakes," says Toronto reliever Darren Oliver, entering his 20th major league season. "You'd hate to see a guy gone for 100 games because he bought the wrong thing. Second time, that's different. You get caught once, you'd better be drinking only water from then on."
Players say they're aware of -- and uncomfortable with -- the public perception created by reports of links to banned substances.
"I know the players have talked about it," says Jerry Hairston Jr. of the Cubs. "The biggest thing is we want to be beyond suspicion. I think we owe it to the fans, the players, we owe it to the game of baseball."
That's easier said than done.
"You don't know what to believe," DeRosa says. "Where there's smoke, there's usually fire. Everyone's denying everything. The problem is you don't know what to believe."
DeRosa was a teammate last season of Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was named in the Miami New Times report on the Biogenesis clinic, though Gonzalez was not directly linked to any illegal substances.
"To have to watch him answer questions, and what he's going through, I know it's eating him up mentally," DeRosa says. "That's the kind of person he is. But you don't know what to believe. That's the toughest thing. And you've got to read about it every day."
Players still point to baseball having pro sports' strictest drug policy -- and that's enough for some.
"I've always been for testing," says Toronto pitcher Mark Buehrle. "I'm not cheating so I want people who are to be held responsible. I'm not big on calling and making my opinions known. I guess if I had that big of a problem, I would. But they're doing a good job."
Players also realize completely eradicating violators might be impossible.
"No matter what you do in life, you're always going to have people try to beat the system," Hairston says. "If you get seven guys (who test positive) out of 750 major leaguers, that's a pretty good ratio. Nothing's going to be perfect."