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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Jenrry Mejia has same tired old story

Jenrry Mejia reacts after the final out of

Jenrry Mejia reacts after the final out of the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field on Friday, May 9, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

We know what you're thinking. After hearing of Jenrry Mejia's 80-game suspension Saturday for the performance-enhancer Stanozolol, you're looking at those darkening clouds above the Mets and shaking your head.

All that talk about how this year was going to be different, taking back the city from the Yankees, the boundless optimism . . . and now the Mets are being the Mets again, losing their closer for half the season -- and the playoffs, should they make it that far.

Stop right there. This has nothing to do with the Mets.

Sure, Mejia happened to be wearing their uniform when he tested positive for this particular PED, but that's where the relationship ends. Mejia is just another player gone astray, another bad decision, another career sidetracked by taking a shortcut. And once you go on that list, there's no coming off.

The suspension eventually ends, but the stigma remains. So whatever hard work it required to get back from Tommy John surgery, Mejia will be viewed differently -- justly or not. The feel-good story instead becomes a fairy tale too good to believe. The deception, the fraud, is the reason Major League Baseball got involved in this drug-testing business in the first place.

We do have one question: Why does it keep happening?

Of course it's a risk-reward thing. We get that part. Given the frequency of testing, maybe a player can time his dosage and roll the dice that the PED will be out of his system before his number comes up.

Look at A-Rod. The Biogenesis scam apparently lasted years before Bud Selig got a lucky bounce and Anthony Bosch's client list wound up in the hands of the Miami New Times, which lit the fuse that blew up the entire PED ring. Without that disgruntled Biogenesis employee, the past two years look a lot different and A-Rod is just another 39-year-old coming back from double hip surgery.

Mejia's situation, however, seems to be far less complicated -- and more puzzling as a result.

The drug he tested positive for, Stanozolol -- also known as Winstrol -- is an anabolic steroid that's been around since 1962 and easily attainable in pill form. It doesn't appear to be any cutting-edge technology. Mejia is the fourth MLB pitcher to test positive for Stanozolol in the past month, joining the Mariners' David Rollins, the Braves' Arodys Vizcaino and the Twins' Ervin Santana.

Mejia is not alone and his excuse is nothing new.

"I know the rules are the rules and I will accept my punishment," he said in a statement through the Players Association, "but I can honestly say I have no idea how a banned substance ended up in my system."

Seriously? Does this still fly in 2015? MLB players have been under the microscope since "survey" testing first began in 2003. From that point on, it's probably been a good idea to double-check the list of ingredients on the side of that supplement bottle. And if that bottle is not marked by an NSF certification, better to skip that protein shake or vitamin jar.

We're assuming players know not to accept performance-boosting concoctions from strangers. Maybe avoid any suspicious-looking Jamba Juice stands just to be safe. We realize the cheating labs tend to be one step ahead of the drug police, but MLB's program will keep evolving -- and they've been pretty successful at busting people. Mejia won't be the last, either.

Players seem to be most vulnerable when rehabbing from an injury. Mejia -- already a Tommy John veteran -- was rebounding from offseason hernia surgery as well as elbow inflammation this year. It's possible he wanted to prove that his breakthrough 2014 season was no fluke. But he didn't provide any explanation for the suspension. And despite pleading ignorance, Mejia didn't appeal MLB's ruling, which will cost him nearly half his $2.6-million salary.

That's a big price to pay. And it's also a huge blow to the Mets, who expected Mejia to be their closer again after he returned from a cortisone shot for his elbow. That won't be happening for a while -- if ever -- and that's on Mejia, a new face added to a tired, all-too-familiar story.

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