Doping is has become a mainstay issue in the sports world, with the intense competition that has in turn underpinned the quest for improved performance. Equally, the multiyear contracts alongside the compensation that comes with them mean that athletes can go to great lengths to ensure high performance. Major league baseball (MLB) has over the years been fraught with doping, the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids or procedures such as injecting oxygenated blood in order to build up endurance.
Players that regulatory bodies suspect of doping often require the services of Public relations (PR) firms to maintain their image during proceedings. Players suspected of doping often contract PR firms to manage their image, particularly their representation in the media. However, PR firms have to establish a few parameters before taking up clients suspected of doping.
The first important question is whether the client has actually used any performance enhancement treatments in the recent past (Cisyk & Courty, 2017). Players that have a pattern of repeated doping can, once discovered, face career-ending bans. However, players that admit to infrequently doping, perhaps once or twice and that especially emphasize they were not complicit in the performance enhancement actions, are likely to have their careers reinstated after a temporary ban. The status of such a player is viable, meaning that PR firms can acquiesce to manage the concerned player’s image provided there is a likelihood that they do not face a life time ban.
In addition to frequency, the history of a player’s doping is also important. In particular, a PR firm would do well to establish how long ago or how recently a player has involved themselves in doping. Such information is useful in determining a player’s viability (Cisyk & Courty, 2017). Players with history of frequent doping are more likely to get lifetime bans compared to players that infrequently dope and whose last episode was recent. A recent doping incident means that a player’s previous performance remains intact and provided the player in question adheres to the penalties that regulatory bodies may impose, it is likely their bans will be limited.
Illustrating how the PR firm should approach the representation of the client is Miami Marlin’s Dee Gordon. MLB handed an 80 game suspension to Mr. Gordon after doping tests showed the player tested positive for a banned performance enhancing substance (Corcoran, 2016). Mr. Gordon’s contract with the Marlin remains active, which means that he likely will be reinstated provided he fulfills the anti-doping requirements as well as not getting a second strike after the first. The detection of Mr. Gordon, among other players in the league such as Colabello and Stumpf, was due to enhanced screening techniques (Corcoran, 2016). Consequently, it is imperative that the players PR firms wish to represent be straightforward with their banned substance use history in order for the firms to determine the best course of action in their representation.
Investigation timelines, particularly suspensions and fines, significantly influence the extent to which a public relations firm can take up image consulting work with the athletes whose conduct is under review. For instance, if the concerned athlete’s actions are likely to result in a lifetime’s ban, representing such an athlete may not be productive to the firm’s image. On the other hand, if the athlete’ ban only extends to a number of games and provided it is not a third strike, the firm can take up restoration of his image in media.
Cisyk, J., & Courty, P. (2017). Do fans care about compliance to doping regulations in sports? The impact of PED suspension in Baseball. Journal of Sports Economics, 18(4), 323-350. Corcoran, C. (2016). Gordon’s PED suspension proves we know nothing of steroid users. Sports Illustrated Retrieved from com/mlb/2016/04/29/dee-gordon-marlins-ped-steroids-suspension“>https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/04/29/dee-gordon-marlins-ped-steroids-suspension
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