What No American Knows About PED Use In Major League Baseball

What do these men have in common?

Antonio Bastardo
Everth Cabrera
Francisco Cervelli
Nelson Cruz
Fautino De Los Santos
Sergio Escalona
Fernando Martinez
Jesus Montero
Jordan Norberto
Jhonny Peralta
Cesar Puello
Alex Rodriguez
Jordany Valdespin

All thirteen were suspended this week by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs.

Twelve of these men have something else in common too: they were born into poverty. That’s no excuse for breaking the law but it is the context in which these men were willing to risk frightening health and legal consequences for a greater chance at success.

Antonio Bastardo – Dominican Republic
Everth Cabrera – Nicaragua
Francisco Cervelli – Venezuela
Nelson Cruz – Dominican Republic
Fautino De Los Santos – Dominican Republic
Sergio Escalona – Venezuela
Fernando Martinez – Dominican Republic
Jesus Montero – Venezuela
Jordan Norberto – Dominican Republic
Jhonny Peralta – Dominican Republic
Cesar Puello – Dominican Republic
Alex Rodriguez – United States Of America
Jordany Valdespin – Dominican Republic

Girl foraging for food at dump in Dominican Republic

U.S. Poverty Threshold

Poverty can be measured a few ways. The U.S. government declared “war on poverty” in 1964, and has set an “absolute poverty threshold” ever since. Those living below this threshold are “lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.”

According to Health And Human Services in 2012, a family of four in the contiguous United States is below the poverty threshold if earning less than $23,050. An individual is below the poverty threshold with an income of less than $11,170. Roughly 15% of America’s population (or 46.2 million people) live below the poverty threshold.


Extreme Poverty

The World Bank set the international poverty line at earning the equivalent of $1.25 (USD) per day in 2005. This is often used as the measure of “extreme poverty” around the world. According the World Bank, the percentage of Americans living under this global poverty or extreme poverty line is so small that it cannot be measured – statistically insignificant.

Meanwhile, 6.6% of people living in Venezuela, 2.2% in the Dominican Republic and 11.9% in Nicaragua “live” on less than the equivalent of $1.25 each day. The majority of residents in these countries – which have virtually no middle class – live below the U.S. poverty threshold.

No wonder Compassion International has a hard time keeping little boys across Latin America in school. Going to class will feed the family someday. Working in agriculture instead will feed the family today. And practicing baseball could rescue generations from poverty.


What Would You Do?

If I could swing a bat better and run faster than most, I would do it if I stood a good chance of getting paid and escaping malnutrition, violence and uncertainty. If taking an illegal drug made my swing and speed better and, therefore, my escape more probable? I know what I should do. But I don’t know what I would do. I can’t know.

No one in America knows.

And that’s no excuse for those who’ve broken the law. But it’s important context for their actions.