Drug use isn’t just for players in the MLB anymore, the league just fired an umpire for failing a drug test for the first time in league history. The ump was let go for what at first were unknown reasons on June 14, with the league only announcing that a Triple A ump had been promoted and that Brian Runge had been dismissed. After it was revealed to be the result of a failed drug test, it begs the question why was an umpire treated differently than a player who fails a drug test?
Reports from the Associated Press reveal that two sources close to the incident have spoken on the condition of anonymity that Runge failed a drug test, they are remaining anonymous due to the fact that the league has not released a statement saying this.
According to the source, Runge failed at least one drug test. After failing the test, the league and Brian Runge met together and came to terms on an agreement that would enable him to remain an MLB umpire. However these terms must not have been followed, as he has been relieved of his duties.
The AP was unable to uncover the exact drug that Runge tested positive for. The President of the American Umpires Association, Joe West, declined for comment on the issue.
43 year old Brian Runge was attempting to come off of a knee injury and return to the Major Leagues this season. He umped several games during spring training, but was yet to make it back for a regular season game. He had been umping since 1999. His resume included three playoff appearances and last year’s All-Star game.
Chris Conroy has been promoted from Triple-A to take his place. He has filled in for 267 games in his career that dates back to 2010. He will now have a permanent position in the majors.
The fact we don’t know what drug caused Umpire Brian Runge to be relieved of his duties is not really an issue. Had a player tested positive for whatever drug Runge had in his system, the player only would have been suspended. So why does the league treat umpires differently than players?
All players and umpires are subject to the same random drug tests throughout the season, however the treatment they receive as a result of failing a test is apparently vastly different.
This season alone, 26 players have been suspended as a result of testing positive for banned substances. All players who tested positive, regardless of how big or little a star they were, did not lose their job. These men are in a far larger spotlight than an umpire, and the league would make a much larger statement against drug use by letting go of a player who tested positive.
This year’s biggest names to serve suspensions as a result of failed drug tests include pitcher Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics, catcher Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies, and catcher Yasmani Grandal of the San Diego Padres. All were suspended, not fired, showing that the league treats the drug use of players and umpires differently.
Take the high profile investigation into Biogenesis of America that has recently has placed 20 major league players in the center of the performance enhancing drug spotlight. Two of the league’s superstars, Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, are at the center of the investigation and could face 100 game suspensions. However in no way are the careers of these two men in jeopardy. Yes, they would miss two-thirds of a season, but then they would be allowed to return to play as normal. Why would this be the case for players and not umpires?
Firing an umpire for failing a drug test is a move that showcases the preferential treatment athletes in the MLB receive over everyone else in an organization, why else would the league fire Runge while they only suspend star players such as Braun and A-Rod?
Is this right of the league to do? Let me know what you think in the poll below.
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Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express