(WBEN) - There are numerous reason why baseball players can turn to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Tobias Moskowitz thinks he has identified the biggest.
Moskowitz, along with Jon Wertheim, co-authored the book Scorecasting, which uses data to find the "hidden influences" behind various different trends in sports. One of the subjects the book explores is the use of PEDs in professional baseball.
"We gathered all the data on PED use in the major and minor leagues, and what we noticed was if you come from a poor background where presumably your entire family, and maybe even your entire village, is banking on you hopefully making it, the incentive to do anything to give yourself any sort of advantage is immense" Moskowitz said. "Everyone talks about A-Rod and Ryan Braun, but the rampant performance enhancing drug use is really for the players you've never heard of, that are trying to make it to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues."
According to the research presented in Scorecasting, a majority of those players are from impoverished Latin American countries. Moskowitz says that for players coming from impoverished areas there is everything to gain, and the difference between being a minor league player and being a major league player on a larger contract is everything to many of them who are looking to provide for their families.
"The penalty just is trivially small compared to the potential benefit" Moskowitz said regarding many Latin American players. "Even a 50-game suspension, which is really what you only get for players you've heard of, is really not that big a deal to these guys who, if they don't take the drugs are probably not going to make it anyways."
What punishment would be severe enough to stop PED use? Moskowitz says it depends on what the goal is.
"Do they want to stop the A-Rods from using? If that's the case then a lifelong ban I think would have a big impact, but that's not going to effect where I think the biggest drug use and the biggest problem is, which is with the minor league players. They're not thinking about a lifetime ban from baseball because their view is that if they don't take the drugs they're not going to be in baseball anyway."
Instead, Moskowitz suggests something different than a suspension. "A better way to crack down on this, if you really wanted to enforce it, would be to nullify contracts" Moskowitz said. "Even A-Rod, if his $100 million contract was nullified, I think he would feel that. And certainly for the youngr players, if they make it but then have to forfeit all the money that they made if they get caught, I think that would have a huge impact."
Moskowitz added that although he sees it as a possible solution, he doesn't think Major League Baseball would be willing to nullify contracts.