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Jeff Wilpon doesn't believe Robinson Cano is 'a drug cheat'

Robinson Cano is introduced by the Mets during

Robinson Cano is introduced by the Mets during a news conference at Citi Field on Tuesday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

At the start of the Citi Field news conference welcoming him back to New York, the Mets played a video that featured some of Robinson Cano’s impressive career highlights.

All of the plays showed Cano in a Seattle Mariners uniform. None were from the nine seasons he spent with the Yankees.

Poof! The Mets made Cano’s time with the Yankees disappear.

The Mets are trying to poof! another part of Cano’s past. The part in which he was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball last season for violating the game’s substance-abuse policy.

“I don’t think he’s a drug cheat,” team COO Jeff Wilpon said. "I could be proven wrong, but I don't think he's a drug cheat."

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who acquired Cano along with closer Edwin Diaz in a seven-player deal with the Mariners, is in the unusual position of having been Cano’s agent at the time of his suspension.

Cano was banned on May 15 after testing positive for the diuretic furosemide, which violates MLB's drug prevention and treatment program because it is often used as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs. After an appeal — a process Van Wagenen would have been intimately involved with — Cano accepted the suspension.

In a statement at the time through the players’ association, Cano pointed out that furosemide “is not a performance enhancing substance" and added that he “would never do anything to cheat the rules of the game that I love, and after undergoing dozens of drug tests over more than a decade, I have never tested positive for a performance enhancing substance for the simple reason that I have never taken one."

Still, the perception that Cano is — to use Wilpon’s phrase — “a drug cheat” will follow him for the rest of the career and will create questions as to whether he can continue to play at an All-Star level into his late 30s and early 40s. Cano, who is 36, still has five years left on the 10-year, $240-million contract he signed with Seattle when Van Wagenen was his agent.

“There are things that I can’t talk about under the Joint Drug Agreement,” Van Wagenen said. “Obviously, in my previous job I had privileged information. I’m not going to talk specifics about it. But suffice it say, if I had any concern about Robbie’s physical state or performance ability going forward, I would not have made the deal. And just to clarify, too — and I don’t want to get into semantics — but I do think it’s important remembering Robbie was not suspended for a PED. He was suspended for a diuretic. That’s all I’ll say about that.”

Cano had even less to say about that.

“I want to focus on positive things,” he said. “That’s a page I’ve turned already.”

Asked about being successful into his 40s, Cano cited three players who were still effective late in their careers: Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. He did not mention that Rodriguez was suspended for a year for PED violations and Ortiz was linked to a failed drug test in 2003 (Ortiz has always denied using PEDs).

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