Chris Davis' Adderall suspension raises serious questions for MLB

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By PATRICK LEARY
College Contributor Network

In 2013, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis led Major League Baseball in home runs with 53. He led MLB in RBIs with 138. He finished third in the AL MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout.

The 2014 season paints a much different picture for the left-handed slugger.

Davis leads the majors in one category: strikeouts, with 173. His batting average sits at .196 and he has less than 100 hits in 525 trips to the plate. His .704 OPS, 26 home runs and 72 RBIs have kept him in the lineup, but the batting average has created a huge hole in the Orioles' order.

Then on Friday, Davis was suspended 25 games for violating baseball's drug policy which effectively ended his season, unless the Orioles make the World Series.

As baseball fans, we have become desensitized to the "big slugger fails a drug test" storyline that marred an entire era of the sport. Recent examples like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera weren't as shocking as much as they were disappointing.

But something more is going on here with Davis. He tested positive for Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat ADHD -- a drug made famous by college students during finals week and the Seattle Seahawks defense.

The Baltimore Sun asked a local substance abuse expert, Mike Gimbel, to explain why Davis would use Adderall.

"This is not a muscle builder," Gimbel said. "This is an alert builder."

Davis has a diagnosed case of ADHD and until recently, perhaps as soon as last season, he had a therapeutic use exemption from Major League Baseball to use Adderall to sharpen his focus during games.

That use exemption is now gone and he has failed two drug tests since, which triggers the 25-game suspension. Baseball players must apply to use substances like Adderall annually and it appears that this year, Davis' request was for some reason rejected.

Yahoo Sports claimed that Davis did not have an exemption in 2013 or 2014. Davis said as much in his official statement on the suspension.

"I made a mistake by taking Adderall," he said. "I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year."

As Jayson Stark wrote in the wake of the suspension, the problem might not be Davis' mistake, but Adderall itself.

Baseball players using Adderall is not an uncommon occurrence. According to the Baltimore Sun, almost 10 percent of major league baseball players applied for an Adderall exemption in 2013, meaning more than 100 players relied on the drug throughout the season. The grind of the 162-game season is an obvious reason why.

As Time magazine reporter Meredith Melnick claimed in 2010, "Adderall may not make you smarter, but it makes you think you are." That advantage can be huge with a 100 MPH fastball bearing down at you.

That advantage can be addicting, but so can the drug itself. According to Dependency.Net, Adderall is classified as "a Schedule II drug because of the potential for abuse and dependence."

While Davis could have been looking for a performance boost, he could also possess a very real addiction to Adderall, considering he has a very real case of ADHD.

Ultimately, 2013's breakout slugger will probably not play another game in 2014. But calling him selfish for taking a drug he could desperately need misses the point.


Patrick Leary is a senior at Marquette University. He thinks Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher on God's green earth. Follow him on Twitter: @patrickkleary
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