WASHINGTON -- Dan Uggla believes Major League Baseball's drug-testing policies have made for a more level playing field. But the Braves' second baseman believes the only way to truly rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs is to make human growth hormone testing a year-round process and to issue lifetime bans to any player who tests positive for steroids or HGH.
"If you give somebody one chance to mess up and he takes that chance and messes up and the next thing you know he's done from baseball, then a lot of guys are going to think twice about it," Uggla said. "The guys that still think it's worth the risk, they'll get caught and be done. We won't have to worry about it anymore. The first offense now is obviously not enough.
"The game is still not going to be clean until there is year-round testing with blood work for everything and HGH as well. There is still a lot of HGH going around."
The testing policy was a hot topic on Monday, when MLB suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"We all knew this day was coming," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "We're all glad that it's happened. If there are guys that have cheated and Major League Baseball thinks they legit cheated the game, they need to be suspended. I think it's a great thing. Those guys made mistakes. They're going to serve their penalty and hopefully the game is better for it in the long run."
Uggla is among the Braves players who believe issuing a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders is not enough of a deterrent. After being suspended at the end of last year, former Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera landed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Blue Jays this year.
"I don't think the people that are taking a risk really care about it," Uggla said. "They're like, 'Oh, what is 50 games?' The risk-reward, the reward is way better than the penalty of the 50-game suspension."
Uggla and Braves player representative Brandon Beachy both agreed that simply testing players for HGH during Spring Training provides opportunities for players to beat the system.
"It needs to happen more often," Beachy said. "There are guys that are going to be tested just one time and it's in Spring Training and they know it. We obviously don't want to walk through the door and have our finger pricked every day. But we all want a clean game and a level playing field. Guys are willing to make some sacrifices to get there."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.