M's Robinson Cano suspended 80 games for drug violation

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano watches from the dugout during a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Seattle. Cano has been suspended 80 games for violating baseball's joint drug agreement, the league announced Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

SEATTLE -- Seattle Mariners star second baseman Robinson Cano will be suspended 80 games without pay under Major League Baseball's joint drug agreement, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday.

The league says Cano tested positive for Furosemide, a diuretic, which is banned under baseball's drug treatment plan.

Cano says he has accepted the suspension, but contends the diuretic is not a Performance Enhancing Substance, but was taken to treat a medical ailment while in his native Dominican Republic.

"This substance was given to me by a licensed doctor in the Dominican Republic to treat a medical ailment," Cano wrote. "While I did not realize at the time I was given a medication that was banned, I obviously now wish I had been more careful."

Cano went on to point out he had never failed a drug test in his 15 year career "for the simple reason I have never taken (a Performance Enhancing Substance)" and "would never do anything to cheat the rules of the game I love."

Cano's positive resulted from an offseason test, a person familiar with the process said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement specifies such details remain confidential.

Because the substance involved was a diuretic, the next step was for Thomas Martin, the independent program administrator hired by the MLB and the players' association, to determine whether the use of Furosemide was an attempt to "to substitute, dilute, mask or adulterate a specimen or in any other manner alter a test," according to the joint drug program.

After Martin made that determination, the union filed a grievance last month. The case was scheduled to be heard starting Tuesday in Seattle before arbitrator Mark Irvings, but the union informed MLB last Friday that Cano wanted to drop the grievance and reach a settlement, the person said. MLB Senior Vice President Patrick Houlian and union deputy general counsel Matt Nussbaum then worked to reach the agreement to accept the discipline.

"Robinson made a mistake," the Mariners said in a statement. "He has explained to us what happened, accepted the punishment and has apologized to the fans, the organization and his teammates. We will support Robinson as he works through this challenge."

Dr. Virtaj Singh is Medical Director of Seattle Spine and Sports Medicine. He says athletes can use diuretics like Furosemide to dilute their urine and hide other banned substances they may be taking.

“We call it a masking agent,” Dr. Singh said. “You’re basically trying to make it so you don’t test positive. It’s not going to help you, performance enhancing in and of itself, but what it does is by increasing your urine volume, it dilutes out the banned substances.”

Dr. Singh says the drug can be used to treat high blood pressure or heart failure, but it’s unlikely an otherwise healthy individual would need it.

Both The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Hector Gomez with Deportivo Z 101 in the Dominican Republic were among the first to Tweet the news, citing sources.

The timing of the suspension comes on the heels of Cano suffering the first significant injury of his tenure in Seattle. Cano landed on the disabled list Monday after breaking a bone in his right hand after getting hit by a pitch during Sunday's game in Detroit. He was scheduled to meet with a hand specialist in Philadelphia early Tuesday.

Cano can serve his suspension while on the disabled list but is now ineligible for the postseason should the Mariners get there and end the longest playoff drought in the four major professional sports. He will also lose his salary during the suspension, expected to be around $11.8 million.

Even if the injury is on the shorter end of the recovery period, Cano's suspension will last until the middle of August. Since 2007, Cano has played at least 150 games each season.

Cano his hitting .287 with 4 home runs and 23 RBIs on the season. He's a career .304 hitter with 305 home runs and 1206 RBIs and is currently in the 5th year of a 10-year contract that will pay him $240 million.

Robinson Cano says he has never taken a performance-enhancing drug. Do you believe him? Answer the poll below or click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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