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Major League Baseball only in first inning of fight against cheating

After baseball announced the suspensions of Ryan Braun,  Alex Rodriguez and 12 others,  fans across the land have been left to sort it all out. 

They find themselves somewhere between lost and found. 

What they have found is what they suspected for a long time ... that some of the best baseball players of our generation are not playing on a level playing field. 

Sadly, an institution that has long held a special place in the hearts of Americans has let us down. Let’s call it for what it is: cheating. 

The mantra in many locker rooms across the nation is that if you're not cheating,  you're not trying.

Major League Baseball now joins a long list of established, trusted, stable fixtures in our country that no longer can be counted on to lead the way. 

Long known for honor and standards, baseball now regrettably has slipped along with the rest of society, in reflecting a steep decline in character and values. What these players have achieved was not obtained fairly. Be it wins,  statistics,  awards,  or money,  it has all come to them in a fraudulent manner.

What we don't have are the indisputable facts, or even a single positive drug test by any of those suspended. This only adds to the confusion.

How can it be that all of these people have cheated,  yet none have failed a drug test? 

It leaves us all to wonder ... how many more players are sitting out there are dirty, yet continue to play, because the testing system is still several steps behind catching those who are deliberately violating the rules.

Nine years ago at the White House, I asked former team owner and then-President George W Bush  if he believed that what he was seeing on the field was real. 

His response was that he wasn't sure, but he hoped so, and he wanted to give those playing the benefit of the doubt. 

Today,  it's clear they no longer deserve any benefit of any doubt.  

Those who have engaged in this dishonesty now unfairly indict a whole group of people who are trying to do it right. It takes the hundreds of players who are innocent, and lumps them together with the few who are guilty, or could be guilty.  

But there’s an even bigger question for the tens of millions of Americans who follow baseball:   If the game is no longer authentic, why care about the results?  

For some, this drug usage by players doesn't really concern them ... they simply shrug their shoulders when they hear about performance-enhancing drugs. 

Many believe it's just a part of our culture and a part of sports. And therein lies the danger.  

The mantra in many locker rooms across the nation -- and I've personally heard it uttered by many who play,  some kiddingly, some not -- is that if you're not cheating,  you're not trying. 

The “win at all cost” attitude is pervasive. It dominates the landscape – and this is not just about sports. 

With careers on the line, so much money to be made, so much glory to be achieved, so much fame to be had, those who initially sought to do it right, end up doing it wrong.

So are we witnessing amazing human athletic achievement and the pursuit of excellence, or are we simply seeing who has the best chemist and who is most proficient at being able to avoid detection?  

Today,  we really don’t know.       

For many years,  Major League Baseball looked the other way, putting profit ahead of principle, and turned a blind eye to what was going on. 

Now the tide may have finally turned. The message from the Commissioner’s office, finally,  is that this will no longer be tolerated. 

Perhaps it's late,  but it also appears that at long last the players are rising up against other players, the union that represents them is getting on board to put an end this, and even the fans are holding the players accountable.     

The problem is, how do you stop this physical cheating when the penalties for an infraction are so light? For the chance to lower your ERA or raise your batting average,  there’s still too great an incentive and too few consequences. 

Yes,  there will be a loss of credibility and reputation for those caught,  but the public – and the players -- move on.  

Now it appears that baseball finally sees that it is in peril if this cheating continues. If fans can not trust the outcome of what they are paying for, eventually they will stop turning over their hard earned dollars. 

So, forget the moral and ethical aspects, it’s simply about business. Everyone, on all sides understands that.  

Perhaps Former Commissioner Fay Vincent had it right when he said a few days ago that one drug strike and you should be out -- permanently -- banned from the game forever.  

Unfortunately,  we are a long way from that happening. As for really cleaning it up, it has taken almost two decades already. 

Yes, this was a step forward. But this is only the first inning. Baseball still has a long way to go.

Jim Gray is a sportscaster and Fox News contributor.